Here is an unedited chapter from a book I wrote in November 2012. It’s so interesting to see how that book changed my life.
This writing was the genesis of my exploration into the power of gratitude. To continue this conversation please go to our online group: Our Gratitude Circle
November 24, 2012: Gratitude
In an effort to continue to write I have asked my friends to give me inspiration. I love questions. This one comes from Paul “The Ripples Guy” Wesselmann:
How can you be more grateful for the less enjoyable happenings of today?
In the past month I have experienced a lot. Gone through counseling, left a church, came out of the closet, had people speak evil of me, and even have people I thought highly of go and talk behind my back, kicking me out of the role I had in leadership in the church, and didn’t even give me the honor of telling me to my face. Am I a little bitter? Possibly. If all of that isn’t enough, I had a friend pass away, and I got to speak at her funeral today. I have cried, I am broken, I’m hurt, I am experiencing suffering.
So how do I remain grateful. I think a list would be in order so I will try that. I will give you my personal list of 5 ways I stay grateful during these less enjoyable happenings.
1. Tucker: My sister has this little bundle of joy named Noah Tucker. He is the most beautiful boy in existence. I make sure I spend time with him every week. He is eight months old, and already so smart.
During this past semester I have been taking a developmental psychology courses and getting to have firsthand experience with my nephew. It’s like the greatest homework ever. One of the things I have learned in class, is about the development of emotions. It is quite odd that one of the first emotions is “Curiosity.” Not hate, anger, fear, shame, guilt. All those things we learn from the people around us. But we are born with this operating system and it’s primary functioning style is “Curiosity.”
It is so much fun to watch this child be in his Curiosity. He plays, he explores, he tasts things, he manipulates them with his hands. He wants to do so much. I just sit back and get curios with him. We find out what things taste like. Like my step-dads hangers for his suit pants. They taste cool. And for a kid with no teeth, I bet they are amazing.
As I step away from this play time with him, I have to look at my own curiosity. Have I lost this sense of wonder? Have I stopped figuring the world out, have I stopped exploring? Maybe being ungrateful happens because I get use to my surroundings, that I never step outside of my box to explore something more. Maybe a key to unlocking gratitude is exploring the unknown.
Imagine what it would be like to get curious about your partner, your friends, your family, your church, your neighbor. What would it be like to get to know them more? There is so much we take for granted, and taken care of by just getting curious. You may find out some new things about them, and be grateful that they are in your life. Get Curious.
2. Legos: My sister called me up a couple days before my birthday and asked me, “what do you want for your birthday?” I thought about the keyboard I needed. The $300 I needed for tuition, and a bunch of other things that would make life easier. Then I had another thought, so I sent her a message, “LEGOS.”
I have been looking at this one set of Legos for about a year now. It’s just a box of like 650 Legos. No instructions, just blocks. I wouldn’t buy it, because it was $30 and I need that money for other things. But I wanted these Legos. I remember playing with them as a kid. Every time I got a new box I would spend the morning putting them all together. It was so much fun. But when they came with instructions I would build them and then leave them there. There wasn’t much else I could do with them.
Not my new box of Legos. I put them out in a basket. I run my hadns through them. I sit down with people and put things together, and there is a lot of fun things you can do with Legos.
Like there are a lot of fun things you can do with the leaves piling up in your yard. Sometimes we have to just have complete abandon, and play. Play is good for the soul. Play is so simple, and we learn so much in it. We get out of our thoughts, and find rapture that takes us away to the ability to be serene, and at peace with the world.
So bake a mud pie. Play with Legos. Color outside of the lines. Buy some Play-Doh. Have fun. You know you want to. Just Play
3. Friends: These are the true treasures that you get to collect through out time. I have heard people say, you only get one or two real close friends, but That isn’t true. I find that when I am an open loving friend, all of my friendships tend to be ones that are so close and connected. People love more, open up more, and there is a level of trust and sharing that can’t be found anywehere else.
When you chose friends to spend time with. Find the ones that listen to you. Find the ones that care. Find the ones that know how to give their opinion, and actually acknowledge that there opinion is just that. Find friends that know how to reconnect you with faith, reconnect you with living, reconnect you with who you are. I love Beth, Whitney, John, Corey, and there are so many other people that have been there for me in the past few weeks. I can call them up I can sit with them, and they don’t have a speech prepared about, “what I should do.” I love these people.
But to have friends you have to be a friend. I am so glad that I have spent the hours being there for people. It takes a lot of time to invest in friendships. And I never did it thinking that one day I would need them. But the moment I needed their friendship, I was able to just pull from the well that I had been depositing in. So I’m so thankful for being a friend. True gratitude happens when you can be a friend to everyone, even to your enemies. I had exes that came to me during my coming out experience and told me they were praying for me, and supporting me through it all. I have spent the time to be a friend. Be Friendly
4. Family: I have heard people say, “you choose your friends, you are given your family. “ Well I choose my family. My family is an amazing unit. We have come through so much, and they continue to call me into greatness. They are my biggest advocates, my biggest fans, they are my family.
When I am not myself my family sees it. For the past year my mom and sister could tell the hurt in my life and would ask me questions about my loneliness. They would have me share, and they had concern for me. They would call me up, spend time with me, and make sure I was there with them. They knew before I knew.
Staci (my sister-in-law) gave me the greatest gift this thanksgiving. She hugged me, and said, “I’m so glad I have my friend back.” How many times do we put up walls between family and not experience them. How often did she want to share with me but for some reason my ‘self-righteousness’ got in the way? How many times did me trying to be above it all put me in a place where my family couldn’t get close? I finally came back, and I’m so glad my family never left me.
Family is so much more than just blood. It is conversations along the way. It is the traditions, it is the fights, it is the times you went out to McDonald’s together. It is everything along the way. There is history, there is a story, and it needs to continue. Spend time with you family often, and never think of yourself too good to hang out with them. They are the ones who have been supporting you all along. They have believed in you, they have fought for you they love you. It hasn’t always been perfect and that’s why in family we can find forgiveness. Love your family
5. Words: We use them every day. We have been learning and manipulating them forever, but they can go by unnoticed and taken advantage of without any care for them. This past year I have learned to listen more and speak less. I have learned to choose my words wisely because I will eat them one day. I have learned to use my dictionary and understand the words that I’m saying.
I have taken apart the language of the mind, and seen where some words have been tearing me apart. I love words. I love new words, I love knowing words. I love the WORD. I love how the WORD contains thoughts, ideas, beliefs, intention, and so much more. Words can do more than describe, they can create, they can speak things into existence, and words can be so much more than just black letters grouped on to paper.
Words can inspire, can implore, can encourage, explore, and give new meaning to life. Yet we treat them as meaningless, and we say things we “don’t mean” and yet they hold so much meaning. We call someone dumb, retarded, a fagot, stupid, fat, ugly the list goes on, and we don’t realize the impact they have. I would rather be beaten with sticks and stones, cause words have the power to break you. I have had people speak evil of me, I have spoken evil of others, and today I value my words. I put great thought into the words I share. I make them clear, pointed, and loaded with intention.
I value a conversation where people know the power of words, and I look for people who want to know more about words. In a simple conversation you can explore a person’s minds by the words they use, and you can create a new person by showing them new words. We teach our nephew words, and it is amazing that at one year when he can only say one word “Mama” his understanding is at about 1000+ words. What words are you using? What words do you know? What words do you use to show you love? How have you used your words?” I remember teaching toddlers and when they would fight, scream, or throw a tantrum we engrained in them a mantra. Use your words.
So this is I am grateful during the less enjoyable happenings of today. I get curious, I take time to Play. I remain Friendly. Love my family, and carefully use my words. Times may not always be want we want. But we can choose what we will do with the time. Stay grateful. If you don’t know how to be grateful: Get curious about it. Play with being grateful. Be friendly to those people around you. Love on your family. And choose your words wisely. You never know. That experience alone might bring out the gratitude in you.
To continue a conversation for gratitude please join our online group : Our Gratitude Circle