“Life’s a dance, you learn as you go, sometimes you lead and sometimes you follow.”

As I sat here thinking about today’s blog post and browsing my friends’ Facebook posts for inspiration, one in particular caught my eye. In a re-post of one of Ernest Holmes’ inspirational writings, I found exactly what I was looking for. Mr. Holmes likened gratitude to learning to play the piano, in which both repetition and visualization play a part in mastering the craft. It immediately struck me that it is also like learning a new line dance. First, I go through the steps with a teacher, then I run it mentally over and over, then put on the music and connect music and footwork together. The more complicated the dance, the more repetition and visualization are required, but ultimately, the whole dance is committed to my muscle memory and the first bar or so of the music kicks that memory back in, even if my brain doesn’t completely engage. Sure, I’m thrown off a bit if a different piece of music is used for the same dance, but even then, once I’ve been challenged a few times, muscle memory overrides what I’m hearing and I simply move to the music in the prescribed steps.

And so, too, it is with gratitude. At first, I had to make a concerted effort to remember to be grateful, especially in the face of adversity. But with time and practice, those offerings of thanks; for a ready parking spot, for green lights, for things working out in spite of all indications they wouldn’t, for time spent with my daughter, for the safety of my son-in-law, and for the drive, commitment and inspiration to write thousands and thousands of words; the gratitude now rises in me unbidden, but merely an extension of the woman I have become.

Keep practicing as, no matter how good it looks, it can always be better.

Just as an author continues to fine tune her work, a dancer practices over and over, doing her best to eliminate any margin for error, a singer commits every nuance of her piece to the deepest of her memories…I could go on and on as this applies to everything anyone might choose to master, but it is the same for gratitude. No matter how well you think you’ve mastered it, to cease practicing gratitude is as practical as ceasing to breathe.

What is Thanksgiving, but a reminder to be grateful all the time?

We’re coming up rapidly on the time of year when we’re reminded to practice the “Christmas Spirit”; the spirit of kindness and giving. But what about the “Thanksgiving Spirit”? Like the Christmas Spirit, it isn’t really about engaging in the behavior once a year, but to practice it always. If I had to sum it up, I’d have to say that the secret to a truly happy life is: Be grateful, be kind, be compassionate and be generous…every single hour of every single day of every single month of every single year.

The toughest challenge I’m facing right now is in keeping up my spirits though I have not yet, a year after taking my infamous leap of faith, started generating a steady income for myself. But each time I find my mind falling down that path, I have to stop and remind myself of the many blessings that are in my life. Every time I find my eyes wandering to a job listing for an accountant, I have to remind myself how incredibly free I am and how fortunate I am to be able to make my own hours (even though many of those have been in the wee ones of the morning lately), to be unfettered by someone else’s seemingly unreasonable demands in the name of control, and to be able to feed my inner introvert by only being around people when I want to. In the case of the latter, my introverted self can tolerate people a whole lot better when the pointlessness of office politics is removed from my experience. I have also come to understand from my far distant vantage point that there are those who truly thrive on the drama and the intrigue.

Gratitude’s closest pal is Forgiveness

I carried around a lot of anger and blame for a major part of my life. It didn’t make my life better; it simply carried me through like a tsunami across a peaceful shore. I generated storms where they weren’t even needed much of the time. But in the last few years of focusing on Gratitude, I also learned to Forgive; not only those I had saddled with the responsibility for my own anger and hurt, but also myself, for allowing all of the crap to filter into my life unchecked. I learned to Accept that the choices others make are their choices and have no real impact on me (and here’s the big catch) Unless I allowed it.

The real change, the real breakthrough, the real light in my world instead of just at the end of some imaginary tunnel came when I took responsibility for my own reactions; when I accepted everyone’s right to choose their own path; when I realized that my opinion of someone else’s choice was just as unimportant to them as their opinion of my choice was to me; and when I started looking at nearly 40 years of baggage and started going through it piece by piece, forgiving myself and anyone else who had been involved in packing that particular bag. Once a bag was unpacked, it’s contents disposed of or stored in my happy memory place, as applicable, I didn’t need the box or carton in which it had been stored any more, so I let it go.

Sure, the process of unpacking boxes and boxes of old memories is a long process, but it gets easier, the more boxes you unpack. Just like practicing gratitude or dance moves, unpacking takes practice too. After awhile, you can glance into a box and know whether there’s anything inside worth keeping and if so, go right to that place and toss the rest. Where it might have taken days, weeks or months to sift through the contents of one of those mental file boxes at first, it soon becomes a matter of minutes or even less to clear another box from the stack.

My daughter and I have made a ton of happy memories surrounding Thanksgiving, and even the years when it didn’t seem like we had much to be thankful for have now been boiled down until we can either laugh about a Thanksgiving that blew up in our faces, finding the shining moments in the midst of the gloom, or we can actually laugh about what seemed so traumatic at the time. I realized my own childhood, and even young adult memories of Thanksgiving with my own mother didn’t fare so well. I haven’t yet pulled out the sweet memories of the holiday with my birth family, and, for just a moment, this made me sad. But I realize it was merely a reminder that there are boxes I have yet to unpack, and that the time has not yet come to sift through them. I’m reminded of a song which always struck a chord in me, even when I was young and self-involved.

To everything, turn, turn, turn
There is a season, turn, turn, turn.
And a time to every purpose under heaven.

We are not meant to connect with our Divine selves in one giant step. We are meant to experience life, then go through the letting go process one baby step at a time. My baby steps are getting bigger, my emotional response to all of the disparity in the world has quieted. It isn’t silent, but I’m slower to react and hurl anger and misery at the angry and miserable. Though my opinions are not always respected or understood, my goal is to one day send nothing but love and compassion to victims and victimizers (do you know that there is no good antonym for victim? I wonder why that is?). We all had choices to make and made them as a result of lessons we decided to learn while we were here. I cannot even imagine the pain and self-loathing a murderer or abuser must feel. It might not be on a conscious level, but their soul, their spirit is certainly suffering, and not just for the time in which the act is inflicted, but more and more for each compassionless act.

Have I perfected my ability to avoid anger in every situation? Of course not! Will I do so in this lifetime? That, too, is unlikely. You, me and everyone, everywhere, is a work in progress. Most of us still have a long way to travel on our soul journey, but would we have it any other way? Would we truly want to reach the destination without experiencing the journey; its highs, its lows, its miracles and its tragedies? Not me, my friends. Definitely not me.

My gratitudes today are:
1. I am grateful for my journey.
2. I am grateful for everyone who has ever been a part of my life, and given me an opportunity to learn or practice a lesson.
3. I am grateful for the easy comfort of spending a week with my daughter and grandpuppy.
4. I am grateful for tasks which are getting done without rushing, without stress, and with a lot of love and laughter.
5. I am grateful for everyone who has, does or will read my scribblings. I write for me, but without an audience, my words would simply lay in the bottom of a dusty, musty drawer.
6. I am grateful for abundance: love, hope, compassion, lessons, forgiveness, acceptance, gratitude, health, harmony, beauty, inspiration and prosperity.

Namaste

And now for some shameless self-promotion:
I’d love it if you’d visit my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SheriLevensteinConawayAuthor?ref=aymt_homepage_panel. I’ve created this page as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” it or leave a comment! Thank you!

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