Tag Archives: learning

G is for Gratitude

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” –Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some.” –Charles Dickens

It’s difficult to maintain a positive attitude when we are constantly bombarded by negativity. Just watch the evening news. It’s enough to make anyone depressed. Social media isn’t much better. Since I’ve been trying to adopt “an attitude of gratitude,” I now limit the viewing of both of these sources. Appreciating the gifts we’ve been given isn’t always easy, but creating a gratitude list is an effective way to develop and sustain a positive outlook on life.

I’ve started a “30 Days to Happiness” challenge, and the first thing that’s required is to list three things I’m grateful for every day. By day five, I’m finding it harder to do. I trudge on. My brain benefits from searching for the good in life.

So today, I’ve decided to give thanks for my five senses, which are so often taken for granted. The older I get, the more I realize how lost I would be without the ability to see, hear, feel, smell  or taste.

My eyesight isn’t as sharp as it used to be. I no longer have 20/20 vision. I need reading glasses for fine print. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without being able to read a book, watch the next season of Game of Thrones, or immerse myself in nature’s vibrant colors and beauty.

I’m grateful I still have my hearing, even if it is a bit damaged from listening to loud rock-n-roll during my youth. I need music to lift my spirits, to energize me or lull me to sleep. I would be as frustrated as my father without his hearing aids if I could not follow a conversation or hear birds singing in the distance.

I recently became a grandmother, and let me tell you, there is nothing sweeter than the feel of a baby in your arms. I just want to kiss all over her soft, smooth skin, rub her baby Buddha belly, massage her little legs, and caress her tiny fingers and toes. Doing so calms my nervous energy. There’s also something soothing in petting a puppy or kitten, or curling up with a silky blanket or lounging on cool bed sheets.

My sense of smell has always been strong. I can spot a foul odor a mile away. If it’s coming from within my house, I hunt it down to eradicate it. Before I leave town, I clean my house so that upon my return I will be greeted by fresh scents. I use essential oils, incense, and scented candles to cheer me.

As for the sense of taste, mine has never been overly picky. I’ve always been a fast eater, never lingering on what my taste buds might have to say. I know I need to slow down and savor each bite, but eating always seemed to be an inconvenience to me. I used to wish there were pills I could take to bypass the whole process. Now I know I’m missing out on what the French have always treasured: making mealtime a pleasurable indulgence. A glass of red wine with cheese or chocolate are some of the few treats I truly cherish.

Yes, I am thankful for these gifts. Not everyone has use of all five senses. As a child, I was fascinated by Helen Keller. I read every book I could find about her. For a woman who was deaf and blind, she accomplished more than many of us and appreciated what life had to offer her. I would like to be more like her. By acknowledging my blessings every day, I hope to shift my mental state and respond to life from a place of strength and sensibility.

Be grateful for the good in your life.

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Star Island Summer Camp

“Life may not be the party we hoped for but while we are here we might as well dance.”

–Anonymous

As I was growing up in the dry heat of West Texas I never went to summer camp; my parents couldn’t afford it.  While I remained at home, swimming in an above ground plastic swimming pool and blasting neighbors with water balloons, I heard of other kids packing large trunks in preparation of spending the entire summer off on one big adventure after another: archery, canoeing, macramé.  What an ideal way to get rid of your kids for a while!  So when many Southern New Hampshire University MFA students said Star Island was like camp, I had an opportunity to discover what I had missed as a child.

People stand on the pier greeting the new arrivals with the chant, “Oceanic, Oceanic, rah, rah, rah.  You will come back, you will come back.”  A bit corny, right?  But as I gazed on the wrinkled faces of the senior citizens I glimpsed a glow of time remembered.  They were reliving their childhood and, for a moment, it made them happy.  They were able to forget the morning face in the mirror awakening them with a start.  On the island their achy joints and sadness of a lost era were put on the back shelf of their vast memory.

Clichés come to mind: “youth is wasted on the young” and “you never know what you got until it’s gone.”  They’re clichés because they are so true.  The Pelicans, the young hired help on the island, were a constant reminder of what was lost and could never be found again.  They were the ghosts of Christmases past haunting the halls of the clapboard white buildings of the Oceanic Hotel.  They were as threatening as the sea gulls protecting their nests.  I began to comprehend why some of the elder islanders were so crotchety.  They rode emotional foamy waves on the glittering Atlantic, knowing their surface beauty had set sail off the face of the earth.  They felt cheated, robbed, and bitter.  They deserved more respect, more reverence, or they were invisible, ignored, forgotten.  They might as well be dead, merely echoing footsteps on the narrow wooden planked floors.

Sandwiched between these two generations, as I am with my parents and my children, I found myself scrutinizing my middle-aged body, forgetting its strength and the miracles it has performed by giving birth to two beautiful girls who are now beautiful, wise women.  Gazing on the smooth sculpted skin of youngsters, I wished I had spent more time relishing my own sleek body while I still had it all.  I felt sadly determined.  Though I wasted my youth, I won’t waste the time I have left on this planet.  I made plans to shed twenty pounds and considered plastic surgery.

Okay, I know it shouldn’t be all about physical attractiveness, but more intellectual growth and wisdom.  I want to grow old gracefully, filled with love and compassion, not nagging and complaining about the rambunctious noise-makers all full of life.  But I feel left behind after sixteen years of teaching kindergarteners and second graders, followed by ESL young adults.  I gave up writing and read only children’s books.  I raised a family during that time; that’s something to be proud of.  I can’t help the hormones, or lack of, that twist my soul inside out.  I miss those long-forgotten years and fear what’s ahead.  What’s a girl supposed to do?  Ride the waves of life and thank my lucky stars I’ve made it this far.  I am blessed and need to remember that.  So among the many lessons I learned at summer camp on Star Island is I can catch up by devoting the last half of my life to reading and writing.  Forget about plastic surgery.

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