Practicing Gratitude

It’s hard to believe just how much my anxiety has consumed my thoughts for the last few years. I am ever vigilant of it, making sure I’m feeling okay, anxious about becoming anxious. It is almost laughable if it weren’t so disturbing. I am constantly reminding myself that I’m okay. That nothing is wrong. I have so much to be happy about, to be grateful for. Why is it so hard to focus on the abundance all around me?

I feel as though I am continuously seeking something outside of myself to make me feel okay. There is an animalistic panic inside my chest as I desperately search. I don’t even know what I’m looking for. I’m always afraid of things not going the way I hope they will. I’m afraid I won’t be liked or that I’ll make a fool out of myself. But why do I even care? I have a hard time accepting that life doesn’t have to be so grim and serious all of the time. None of us even know why we are here or what any of this is about. But we get to choose how we spend our time here. We can choose to be distressed, fearful, even hateful, resisting what is laid out before us. Or we can choose to be open to whatever comes our way, to use this time to be joyful, to experience and share as much love as we possibly can, to stand in wonder at all that is before us, to be grateful that we are anything at all.

I don’t know how this sense of entitlement tends to develop inside of us. At what point did we decide that we were owed this life? That we are owed these experiences? That we won’t be okay if everything doesn’t go our way? I’m trying so hard to always remind myself that it is a true blessing just to breathe. I have been given this incredible gift of existing, yet all I seem to do is complain about the small issues I am able to find with it.

Even as I sit at my desk right now, there are hundreds of things that I could focus on and feel grateful for. My body feels good. I am warm and cozy with my heater on behind me and a soft sweater wrapped around me. I am using this amazing gift of sight to see beautiful forms and colors all around me. I have a magical ability to hear sweet sounds from this technology before me. I even have an endless selection of music to choose from. I am using strange squiggles on a virtual surface to express my thoughts and feelings to others. It is all just too miraculous to fathom! How am I so easily able to ignore these things most of the time? I have become so accustomed to having these comforts and small pleasures, that I forget just how incredible they all are. None of this was owed to me. It is all a gift. I could have been born blind or deaf. I could have never been taught how to read and write. I could have been born at any other time in history where many of these things I now take for granted didn’t even exist.

I want to be able to remember these truths in each moment. To keep them close to my heart. To allow all of this gratitude to flow freely from me always. What a different life that would be. How amazing it is that just a small change of perspective within me could alter my world entirely. The best part is, I know that this other life is possible. I have the power to make it a reality. I’ve just got to keep trying, keep reminding myself every day, keep practicing this gratitude, this deep undulating love that is the essence of my being.

It is not my fault that my brain becomes so easily fixated on perceived problems. It has simply been wired to do so by millions of years of evolution and by decades of my personal, unconscious reinforcement of that pattern of thinking. It is nothing to despair about, to feel ashamed of, or to become frustrated or angered by. It simply is. Once again, rather than focus on how upset and helpless I feel, I can focus on the fact that I have recognized this, that I am able to change it. I am able to craft myself into anything I want to be. Just because it won’t be easy doesn’t mean it won’t be possible, that it won’t be worth it.

I have been letting myself get discouraged because the results of this work aren’t rapid or readily visible. I’m sure I have already come a long way on this journey without realizing it. This type of change is incremental. It’s something that you have to keep working at every day. I may not feel any different an hour from now or even a week or a month from now, but that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. I may not feel different, but by following this intention and practicing it again and again, I will be different. Even if it’s hard to notice at first. And after all, what else have I got to do with all this time? I’m going to be here either way. What could be a better use of that time than trying to be mindful, trying to enjoy it? I don’t have to keep searching outside of myself to find ways to feel okay. I am already okay. I always am. I am complete. I have everything I need within myself. I just have to open my heart and let it carry me.

Photo by Jess Bailey Designs on

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