An Alphabet of Gratitude

Today, I happened upon a post of Ashley’s about the A to Z challenge of gratitude. It’s easy enough, you just name something from each letter of the alphabet you’re grateful for. Well, I said it was easy, but it was actually kind of tough! Especially at the less common letters, I felt like I was playing scrabble.

Here’s my list!

  • A – Animals. Dogs. Cats. Bunnies. I want about 10 of each. No matter what, petting an animal or laughing at a funny animal video always raises my spirits.
  • B – Babysitting. H & S are the sunshine of my day, despite all the kid-size offenses that require me to play the disciplinarian. There’s nothing quite like one of their hugs, the sound of that laughter, or playing a silly game together.
  • C – Comfort. Whether from a friend or my fuzzy bed blankets.
  • D – DVR. A little silly, but catches all of my favorite television shows that I’d for sure miss otherwise. With a busy schedule like mine, I’m grateful to be able to watch at my own pace!
  • E – Education. I was lucky to be able to have any many years of school and training as I did. While school work is never fun, I always really enjoyed learning new concepts and connecting them to my experiences.
  • F – Football. For years I was not a sports fan. Now, my love of the Green Bay Packers gives me an outlet for my pent-up feelings as I yell and scream at the TV.
  • G – Grandpa. After a really difficult year following his heart attack, he turned 86 this week. How blessed I am for him and his silly and cranky ways.
  • H – Holidays. Christmas, Halloween, Easter, you name it. . The more I can decorate for it and the more excitement surrounding the holiday, the happier I am.
  • I – ImprovementThe little steps I’ve taken to better my life. It takes time. It takes patience with myself, but I’m getting there.
  • J – Jewelry. Specifically, a necklace given to me by my grandmother and some earrings that are my Nana’s. Accessorizing helps me feel more confident and wearing my grandmothers’ things connects me to them.
  • K – Karma. Specifically, good karma. I believe you get back what you put into this world.
  • L – Leaves. Fall is my favorite time of the year, and these gorgeous colors make every afternoon drive a sight to see.
  • M – Macaroni and cheese. My ultimate comfort food.
  • N – Naps. Enough said.
  • O – Organization. It keeps me on track to get everything done and as a result, relieve some stress!
  • P – Playlists. Music feeds my soul. I’m almost always listening to it. My carefully curated playlists, made for to satisfy whatever emotion my mind is currently housing, are always something I can rely on to calm me down or charge me up.
  • Q – Quiet time. I need my breaks as much as anyone else. Sometimes its nice to just sit without needing to meet anyone else’s expectations or needs.
  • R – Reading. I wish I had more time to settle down with a book, because I love getting engrossed in a good story.
  • S – Sunny days and sunsets. Little compares to the beauty of it, especially those colors in the sky as the day leaves us behind.
  • T – Therapy. Event though J and I are in the middle of a rough patch, I wouldn’t have made quite the growth I have without our work together.
  • U – Understanding. Those moments of support, encouragement, validation from others.
  • V – Vacation. The ones I’ve taken and the many many I plan to take. Or even just a four-day weekend from work.
  • W – WordPress. I stole this one from Ashley, but who wouldn’t be thankful for this community? I love each and every one of you.
  • X – Xenopus. It’s a clawed frog. The word is fun to say. Honestly, I was having trouble coming up with one for this, so I picked at random. But I’m happy this little guy is part of our world!
  • Y – Yearning. For love. For friendship. For independence. Sometimes, it’s what keeps me fighting.
  • Z – Zones of Regulation. A counseling program I’m working on with my students at school, but also learning a lot from. All about the strategies you use for different color-coded emotions.

If you’re reading this, I challenge you to try it too. The more creative your answers, the better.

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Gratitude Log: Strength

In a recent session, I asked J to provide me with a writing prompt. She assigned me another list. Lists are her speciality, if you didn’t know. This one was about gratitude. Why am I grateful for my positive qualities? How have they served me? My goal is to use this prompt as a new self-love challenge, by creating a post for as many of the reasons I listed in this post as possible.  

This is going to be the final post of my gratitude log. At this point, I feel like I’ve hit all the most important reasons from my original list and I’m comfortable leaving it at this. I’ve got so much written, so many examples of the good stored within me. So much evidence of how the person I am has served me in positive ways. I hope that being able to go back and read these will give me strength when it’s more difficult to see the good.

Fittingly, that’s what this post is all about. Strength.

I’m a strong person. Maybe not so much physically, but emotionally. Sometimes it’s difficult to give myself credit for that. I assume the presence of extremely intense negative emotions means I’m not strong, that strength would mean the ability to avoid them. But maybe strength just means the ability to withstand them. I’m grateful for my strength in that it helps me sail my ship through the storms, of which there are so many.

I’m grateful for my strength because it helps me set my pain aside sometimes to help others or to just be kind to them. It helps me focus on something I can control and fix, someone whose day I can change if only by a fraction. When H has a bad day at school, when my friend is having boy troubles, or when I see another blogger struggling, I can put my emotions on a shelf and be a comfort for them, a source of support.

I’m strong. Strong enough to push through pain. Strong enough to take a simple prompt given to me by my therapist and write 13 posts on it as a means of fighting back against minions who only have negative things to say. I’m grateful for my strength because it gives me those words to use as ammunition. It has helped me write so many posts of self-love.

I’m grateful for my strength because it helps me find joy even amidst the trying days. To laugh at a funny movie. To admire a beautiful day. To smile at a stranger and strike up a conversation. It’s what makes me willing to even try looking for the sunshine beyond the clouds. I’m having deja vu, so perhaps I’ve discussed joy before, in relation to another positive quality of mine, but it feels important to address here as well.

I’m grateful for my strength because it keeps me here. Despite every awful feeling that courses through my veins, despite every mistake of the past, I’m still here. Still alive.

I’m grateful. Period. For so much more than I ever realized until now.

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Gratitude Log: Learning from Mistakes

In a recent session, I asked J to provide me with a writing prompt. She assigned me another list. Lists are her speciality, if you didn’t know. This one was about gratitude. Why am I grateful for my positive qualities? How have they served me? My goal is to use this prompt as a new self-love challenge, by creating a post for as many of the reasons I listed in this post as possible.  

Mistakes. We all make them, or at least that’s what J likes to tell me all the time. I am quite the perfectionist, so I don’t sit well with the knowledge that I’ve messed up. That’s a work in progress for me. What I am really good at is being accountable for the mistake and then learning my lesson.

I’m grateful for my ability to learn from my mistakes because it expands and reaffirms my skill base. For every error I made on a report at my internship, I learned a better way to phrase a sentence or to frame the information. From my recent fight with a friend, the lesson I learned was not to make assumptions about other people’s actions. In my most recent conflict with J, my lesson was that I communicate best given space to let my intense emotions deflate. None of these things were new to me, they’d all been a discussion with my supervisor or a friend or my therapist before. But I needed the experience of failing to really drive the lesson home.

I’m grateful for the ability to learn from my mistakes because it keeps my relationships solid. If you call me out on something and I’m actually guilty of it, I’m very likely to genuinely apologize for what I’ve done. I’ll even seek you out on my own to try to rectify the situation. Then I will do my best not to repeat the mistake. Just about this time last year, I really screwed up. While out for a friend’s birthday, I got way too drunk, almost blacked out, and then lost it on my very good friend when she tried to get me home safely. This was not the first time these drunk antics had occurred, but when I sobered up I realized that I wanted it to be the last.  I sent her a long, honest message with an apology and a note that I’d really try to do better. And I have; I haven’t had that happen since. This was also right around the time I’d been diagnosed with BPD, so I finally understood the root of why I’d acted the way I had and was able to work on fixing it. As much as my friend is a great person, I could tell this was nearly the last straw. Me being able to learn from that mistake gave us the opportunity to rebuild and now we’re in a good place.

I’m grateful for the ability to learn from my mistakes because it helps me teach others how to effectively learn from theirs. Like I said, I’ve made lots of mistakes. I’m kind of a mistake connoisseur at this point, and I have a lot of practice admitting to my error and working to resolve it. Since I work with kids, who seem to recoil at the thought of taking responsibility for an error because of the associated discomfort, it’s important that I can convey this skill. Whether it’s teaching a child how to apologize effectively or asking for something in a more polite way, I have the power to help them manage a difficult situation in a tolerable way.  Just recently, I was driving H & S home from the pool when chaos erupted in the back seat. S hadn’t been listening to a story H was excited to tell, so H retaliated by taking the exact thing S wanted to play with. Calmly, I helped S see how her actions hurt her sister’s feelings and we discussed how she could practice being a better listener (eyes on H, asking relevant questions). Once she’d done this to H’s satisfaction, I was able to coax H to share the toy. It was all done in a matter of about five minutes, but that skill took me years to learn. I’m thankful for it, because it taught both girls a worthwhile lesson and saved me a headache.

You can’t get through life without messing up hear and there, it simply isn’t possible. It’s whether or not you can develop insight from your mistakes to avoid them in the future that’s important. Learning about my mistakes has made be a better person. Mistakes keep me humble. because I know there are others around me to learn from. They keep me motivated to be better, because I know there’s always room to improve. They keep me thinking, in search of a more effective way to live.

So as much as I despise them, I’m grateful for them for keeping me in the process of going forward.

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Gratitude Log: Running Towards Fear

In a recent session, I asked J to provide me with a writing prompt. She assigned me another list. Lists are her speciality, if you didn’t know. This one was about gratitude. Why am I grateful for my positive qualities? How have they served me? My goal is to use this prompt as a new self-love challenge, by creating a post for as many of the reasons I listed in this post as possible.  

Related image Image result for pee into the wind friends

I used these .gifs in my first post because well, I love Friends and also it was completely relevant.

Ever been afraid of doing something? I’m sure you have! We all are afraid of things. For me, a lot of tasks in daily living that others approach with ease are tainted with a layer of fear. Being with a group of friends, making a phone call, going to a certain meeting at work. My heart races, my blood pulsing, and I feel ridden with anxiety. Yet for all of this fear, you rarely see me wrapped up in a blanket avoiding the world. I get up each day and run right into it.

I’m grateful for the ability to run towards fear. It shows me that I can tolerate difficult feelings. This is an affirmation that I repeat to myself all the time lately. I can tolerate fear. I can tolerate anxiety. Sometimes I have trouble believing the affirmation, but when I actually run towards that fear and survive it, it is concrete evidence that I can tolerate the difficult feeling. I was drowning in anxiety before my first job interview, but I did it and proved to myself I could survive it. I was overwhelmed with worry before sharing my issues with J the other day, but I  proved to myself I could get through it. There’s evidence all around me that I can handle myself even when anxiety takes hold.

My ability to run towards the things that scare me has given me a lot of the other positive qualities I’ve already discussed. It helps me be kind to myself, even when kindness feels scary because I don’t believe I deserve it. It helps me be responsible and complete even the scariest of tasks. It helps me keep moving toward, persisting in the face of every terrifying obstacle that has made me want to give up. It helps me advocate for myself, even when I fear what the response will be to my needs. Facing my fears has helped me obtain kindness, responsibility, persistence, self-advocacy, and hard work. I’m thankful for that.

I’m grateful for the ability to run towards fear because it has helped me heal. Everything that has seemed scary so far, I have overcome by charging right at it. If I couldn’t run towards fear, I wouldn’t be in therapy. I wouldn’t have a job. I wouldn’t be going on dates with people I’m meeting on line. I wouldn’t be trying to go to the beach by myself this week so that I can finally have a summer day by the ocean.

Running towards fear has also expanded my knowledge of the world. Some big things, some small. Externship was scary, but I learned how to case manage and ways to consider culture when interacting with parents. Relationships are scary but I discovered my favorite restaurant on a date. Being in therapy taught me about DBT and gave me insight about myself. Doing the frightening things keeps you learning about the world instead of sitting comfortably in a stagnant place.

I’m grateful that I can do things I’m afraid of because it helps me live my life and work towards my goals. It gives me hope that things like marriage and traveling and children are not beyond the realm of possible for me. If I’ve achieved everything scary before, I can weather the fear that’s standing in my path now.

I’ve just got to get a running start.

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Gratitude Log: Honesty

In a recent session, I asked J to provide me with a writing prompt. She assigned me another list. Lists are her speciality, if you didn’t know. This one was about gratitude. Why am I grateful for my positive qualities? How have they served me? My goal is to use this prompt as a new self-love challenge, by creating a post for as many of the reasons I listed in this post as possible.  

Honest to a fault. That’s the line I use in my dating profiles. I’m not sure where it came from, but I’ve always been a “whole truth and nothing but the truth” kind of person. Lying, or lying by omission, does not come very easily to me with anyone. Not my parents, teachers, or even my therapist. It pains me to do it, because I feel that strong moral code pressing back at me. My face contorts into this weird look and I pretty much give myself away immediately. It’s better off to just be up front.

I am grateful for my honesty because it helps me stay true to myself as a person. I’ve long struggled with what the ultimate “truth” is in any situation, but I typically know very firmly what my truth is. If something is bothering me, if I really like something, or if I don’t agree with someone, these are things that I will voice to those around me. For example, I recently admitted to a friend that I’d felt isolated when she and her friend kept talking about their mutual history that I knew nothing about around me. It doesn’t always work out for me, I usually make the choice to share my truth, because I don’t like concealing who I am as a person.

My need to be honest also teaches me to respect myself. As I said, my truths are not always received well, but the fact that I am willing to communicate my opinions and my values means that I respect myself enough to risk it. Because I know I deserve to be heard. Case in point, my grandfather and I often go back and forth on political opinions. I know it’s never going to be a harmonious conversation, because we just don’t agree, but I respect myself enough to keep sharing my perspective. Doing so has helped me see that I have as much right to being honest about how I feel as he does and that we can survive differing beliefs.

I am grateful for my honesty because it makes accountable. When I do screw up or make a mistake, I will usually own up to it pretty quickly. Once, I was working for a family and I dropped the iron on the floor. Of course, the light began to flicker and I worried that I’d broken it. No one was home, so I could have easily shoved in back on the shelf and pretended to be ignorant to what happened. But I had to be honest to the mother about it. My conscious wouldn’t accept anything else. It would have eaten away at me. As much as that sucks, I am grateful for the push to be honest, because it helps me maintain an integrity I’m proud of.

Finally, I am grateful for my honesty because it helps me make ethical decisions. At my job, I practice within the scope of my competence. I don’t use assessment tools I don’t know or give parents data I’m not confident about. Doing so would be dishonest, reflecting my role in the school in an inaccurate way. I stick to doing what I’m trained to do, using the information and skills at my disposal.

Share your truths, people. Honesty shows that you value yourself and others. It’s a pain in the ass, and sometimes requires a lot of effort, but it pays off for you in the long run.

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Gratitude Log: Enthusiasm

In a recent session, I asked J to provide me with a writing prompt. She assigned me another list. Lists are her speciality, if you didn’t know. This one was about gratitude. Why am I grateful for my positive qualities? How have they served me? My goal is to use this prompt as a new self-love challenge, by creating a post for as many of the reasons I listed in this post as possible.  

There are a lot of beautiful things in life, a lot of things that create wonder. Things to enjoy as you cross paths with them. Things to look forward to.

Although you might not know it, I can be an incredibly enthusiastic person. As I often do before I start one of these posts, I looked up the definition of enthusiasm. Intense and eager enjoyment. Intense. Well, of course. I do everything with intensity. I feel it all at the deepest parts of my soul. It’s not always a bad thing, sometimes it’s a healing thing.

I am grateful for my enthusiasm because I believe it is what makes me dive head first into any project I take on. My new job. Therapy. The initiative I discussed in my last post is a piece in the puzzle; it guides me towards that project, but being excitable and eager it what makes me take the leap. My enthusiasm, when it strikes just right, can temporarily suppress the anxiety I feel about a challenge. Like the first time I counseled a group of kids. It was terrifying and I wondered if I could do it, but I also got lost in the process of selecting activities for them. Because in that moment, being a counselor felt exciting and rewarding and think of all the possibilities. 

I am grateful for my enthusiasm because one day it will make me a good parent. The parent who goes all in to every holiday and birthday with a Christmas tree that’s perhaps overdecorated or a balloon avalanche greeting them in the morning. In fact, it makes me a fun person for kids to be around now, because I am very careful to try to find as many reasons to laugh with them. I’m super grateful for that one, considering that’s a huge part of my job is working with kids.

I am grateful to be an enthusiastic individual because it brings joy, to me and to others. For me, it really takes very little. A particularly sunny day. A dog that I see when I’m out on a walk. Stopping at the bakery for a cookie. The newest episode of my favorite show. These things bring me bursts of happiness, a feeling that is unmatched by most others I experience. I love that it does not take very much to bring that feeling on. And I’m grateful for it, because the reminder that it can exist is what keeps me going when the bad feelings come on.

My joy can flood to others too. The other day, when I was out on a date, we went to a nearby farm. There was a patch of rabbits hopping about and I just about lost my shit. I was so excited to see those little furballs. I giggled and talked to them and even threatened to steal them (they were unimpressed by my threat). No matter where on the farm we went, I kept straying back to the bunnies. It brought me joy, but my date seemed to perk up too. He was enjoying how much I was loving the rabbits. Laughing and smiling. Enthusiasm is contagious in that way and I’m grateful I have it to spread.

I am grateful that I am enthusiastic because it can help me really appreciate a beautiful moment when it’s in front of me. I think that it’s because I’ve struggled so much that I hang on so hard to the good when it appears, I try so hard to absorb that feeling. When I’m in the middle of an experience that I’ve yearned for, sometimes I struggle to exist in that moment. But not always, and lately I’ve been working at being more present. Recently, I went with a friend to the hot air balloon festival that’s held annually. We stood and watched as each balloon lifted off and pass overhead. It was breathtaking. So much so that I was bouncing up and down, pointing and calling out as each new one left the ground. I felt like a little kid, but I just couldn’t contain how excited I felt. It was a really nice moment and I was completely aware of it. I thank my enthusiasm for helping me store that feeling in the memory bank.

Life is painful. I know that beyond the shadow of a doubt. Yet all around me there are moments that overpower the pain, even if it’s just for a little while. Beautiful moments of laughter and excitement so great that I’m literally bouncing in place. I’m grateful that I have that ability. It keeps me sane.

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Gratitude Log: Initiative

In a recent session, I asked J to provide me with a writing prompt. She assigned me another list. Lists are her speciality, if you didn’t know. This one was about gratitude. Why am I grateful for my positive qualities? How have they served me? My goal is to use this prompt as a new self-love challenge, by creating a post for as many of the reasons I listed in this post as possible.  

Yesterday, I posted about the importance of hard work. Today’s piece of gratitude lies on a parallel road: initiative. We can all work hard, and many of us do. But there’s an extra step you can add in there that will put you ahead of everyone else who works.

It’s called taking initiative. It’s an area I excel in. I work hard, I’m responsible, I’m reliable, and persistent. These are all good things that I’ve discussed. But I usually go the extra step and that is something to be grateful for in it’s own way.

Taking initiative has brought me many positive relationships. I struggle hard with relationships, I have for a long time. But I think that the tendency I have to go the extra step is what kept people around amid difficult times.

In high school and college, I’m thankful for the friends that being a person who went the extra mile got for me. I remember that I made homemade cards for my close friends on their birthdays in the shape of Spongebob and cars and whatever they liked most. I remember staying on the phone with a friend who was upset until she fell asleep. I made my friend a slideshow for her birthday one year with pictures that I’d gotten by reaching out to her mom and scanning them while she was away. I remember trying so hard to help a friend who was cutting, even from miles away at college. Nothing was ever too much. I wanted them to know that I cared, I wanted to show it however I could. I think it’s why I always had friends and positive connections at different points in my life, even if they ultimately faded out. So I’m grateful for my initiative, because I think it gave me the gift of those friendships even when I didn’t know how to exist within them.

I’m thankful for my initiative because it’s helped me cultivate the relationship I have with the girls I babysit and their family. My initiative isn’t the only thing, and I’ve mentioned babysitting numerous times already, but I think it played a huge part. A lot of babysitters don’t plan scavenger hunts or make photo books to surprise the kids they babysit for. They won’t spend hours on Pinterest looking for and testing out ideas to use with the kids. I do, and because of it those girls know without fail how much they are loved and cherished. And they love me back, saying things like “you” when I ask them what good things in life they have to be grateful for.

I’m grateful for being a person who takes initiative because it gave me a good relationship with the people I worked with during my internship. It was never enough to do what was merely expected of me. I wanted to do more. I’d ask people besides my supervisor what I could do for them, whether it be an observation or testing. They respected that and it made them want to help me and teach me in return. I tried to learn as many assessment tools as I could. And I read as much as I could, literature on legal cases and the administrative code. I rewrote it in my own words to make sure I understood it. How much I cared about my work and wanted to be good showed, and I hope that will be repeated in my relationships at the new district

This whole gratitude log represents initiative. J gave me a prompt for one post. In fact, I asked her for the prompt. I wanted another way to try to grow and then wasn’t content to leave it at just one post. I had to turn it into more love, more kindness than I could even think to project at myself.

So thank you initiative, for giving me a record of all the good things and how they’ve served me. The gift that keeps on giving.

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