A little inspiration for a new year

My friend posted this sweet idea on Facebook over the New Year’s holiday weekend. It has stuck with me, so I’m borrowing it.

Every week this year, jot down something for which you are grateful onto a slip of paper and place it in a “gratitude jar.” Then at the end of this year, read through all the messages to re-live a year of wonderful memories.

I’m adding a few twists.

I resolve in 2018 to note my blessings and place them in a big, red glass jar on top of my desk, more than once a week.

I’ll pick one and tell a short, related story here on my Blessed & Grateful blog.

The details differ, but the reasons for a gratitude jar match the idea behind my blog: Practice focusing on the good stuff of life and express genuine gratitude. I’ve found it powerful and helpful.

I say practice because doing so — seeing beyond a disappointment, or sadness or anger — to find the goodness and grace in a situation can be a struggle and takes time.

Some of the biggies have taken me decades. Others I’m still working on. Your mileage may vary.

And I say practice because I’m not interested in preaching or sounding like a know-it-all. I’m just a writer, doing my work and sharing some stories.

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This idea is ancient. Focus on the light. Share the light. Spread the light. The holiday season is full of reminders to do so. Now comes the fresh year ahead, a new level of commitment, the day-to-day work.

Sarah Ban Breathnach put her own twist on this idea with her book, Simple Abundance. Oprah for many years has urged us all to keep a gratitude journal.

I read Sarah’s book a few times in my 20s, an essay a day, year after year. Her beloved book shares a wisdom bookshelf with work from Maya Angelou, Wendell Berry, Mitch Albom, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Marianne Williamson, and the Bible my grandparents gave me when I was confirmed in the 8th grade.

Anne Lamott and Elizabeth Gilbert deserve spots on that shelf full of wisdom. Shonda Rhimes, too.

In my 20s, I did and said many things that now make me wince. There were a few bad decisions on nights I survived, as they say, by the grace of God.

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As I reflect on that time, I now realize one of the wisest decisions of my life was to reconcile with my dad, starting with realizing and accepting that he’d done the best he could and that he loved me.

He didn’t — or couldn’t — always show it the way I thought “normal” dads did or should. To be clear, he was neither violent nor abusive. My hurt and anger came more from his absences and the strain of trying to connect when we were together.

But a lot can be forgiven of a parent who doesn’t give up and keeps saying “I love you” in his way. We began to heal it and rebuild and made up for lost time.

He is gone now. Five years ago this week, and I still miss him terribly.

I do have those many rich memories, made possible by my conscious choice more than two decades ago to let go of some stuff — and his refusal to let go of me.

So as my gratitude jar for the year ahead, I’m picking a big red glass jar my sister gave me as a Christmas gift several years ago. We have different moms, and the same dad. We both know what it’s like to be strong women, raised by our strong, single moms — and what it’s like to miss our one-of-a-kind Dad.

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This gratitude jar idea also struck me because of the particular friend who posted it. Her cancer is back. I’m afraid for her, and her family, and what this year ahead will bring for them.

Yet, none of us truly know what lies ahead. So, these days, I’m trying to live fully, without fear — and with frequent pauses to be thankful for just how much goodness colors and nourishes my day-to-day life.

Whatever comes our way in 2018, may we help each other face it with strength, gratitude and grace.

 

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