Growth and Gratitude

May 12, 2019

I’m currently sitting on my couch. In the house I’m renting from a friend. Sunlight is streaming in my western-facing kitchen window. My front door is open and I can hear a chainsaw and the kids running around across the street (as I read this back, this sentence sounds like kids are running with chainsaws, they are not.). I’m in the leggings I wore all day yesterday, my hair hasn’t been washed in two days, and I’m not wearing a lick of makeup. I spent half the afternoon reading, and the other half napping. This will be my third Saturday in a row that I will cook myself dinner, eat on my back patio, and be in bed before 10:30. How does this make me feel? Grateful. So stupid grateful.
One year ago, my life looked so different in so many ways. Different town, different friends, different fears and worries. I knew something wasn’t right in my life. I knew I was living small. I knew I needed change. I prayed and I surrendered and I did something I hadn’t done in a very long time: I chose myself.
In the time between choosing myself last May, and sitting on the couch today, there has been growth. More growth than I knew I was possible of, or knew I needed. There has been a lot of tears; tears of fear, tears of sadness, tears of loss, tears of relief, tears of hope, and so many tears of gratitude. There have been so many laughs, and so many realizations of my inner strength. There have been a-ha moments when I piece things about my life together and I see the patterns and repetitive behaviors I’ve exhibited on my journey. There have been times when I am in awe of how God put people in my life for a certain role, and I expected that person to serve a larger role. God then later made me see that my wishes for that person were so off-track, but what He used them for was so much greater.
Is this how I expected my life would go? Did I think I would be divorced, renting a house from a friend, rebuilding my life and my business in a different town, and all-around creating a new life for myself at 31? Absolutely not. Not in my wildest imagination. However, when I look back at everything that has happened in my life, all my ups, my downs, my days of despair and depression, my anxieties, my worries, my obstacles, and my challenges, I see they have all led me to this moment of gratitude with dirty hair and days-old clothes. 

I apologize, this post has been really abstract and vague, but I do want to share a couple lessons I’ve learned this year, and I don’t know how to do a proper segue to them so without further ado:
  •  Choose yourself: The airplane stewardess instructing you to put on your own oxygen mask before you help anyone else is one of the most underrated metaphorical pieces of advice I’ve ever heard. There were days in my life I was so concerned about others’ feelings and needs that I literally made sure every passenger on the plane had their masks before I did. No no. Not anymore. And to be clear, I am not saying do not be kind, do not do things with love, do not use your manners and open doors and donate your time and resources to those who are in need. Please, please, please, still do all those things. Those things are what make our lives so beautiful. Just don’t forget about you. Don’t forget your oxygen mask. Don’t forget to do things that bring you joy. Don’t forget to honor your boundaries. Don’t forget saying ‘no’ to something can mean saying ‘yes’ to yourself. Don’t forget to shy away from things that don’t honor what you stand for. Take care of you. Figure out what loving yourself means to you. Loving myself looks like lots of nights alone on my couch. Loving myself looks like eating foods that others would find weird, but I know my body best digests. Loving myself looks like going to bed early and waking up slowly to allow myself to prepare for the day instead of rushing into it. Loving myself means stepping away from people who don’t respect my growth and my change. Choosing oneself is not easy. But when you don’t do it, life is not easy.

  •  Choose Gratitude: This is not verbatim, but I know someone famous probably said something along these lines: “You will find whatever you’re looking for. If you’re looking for the negative you will find the negative, if you look for the positive, you will find the positive.” I felt like I was a pretty positive person. I felt like I looked on the bright side of every situation, but once I made the decision to consciously pursue gratitude each day, I realized I had the capacity to be thankful for so much more. Each morning, I wake up and think of at least three things to be thankful for. They are random: my comfortable bed, the house I’m living in, my courage to walk away from what no longer serves me, my roommate and her sweet dog, my job, the people I work with, the vintage pyrex my friend Ben snagged for me at his mom’s estate sale, my mom and dad, on and on and on and on. It’s true, once you begin to look for the positive, you do truly find it.

  •  Choose love: So this one seems so obvious. Everyone talks about doing all things with love. Love is the most used word in the Bible (I read that on the internet somewhere so I could be wrong, but it sounds right), but when we think about actually doing things with love, what does that look like? I have been hurt by people I’ve loved and cared for. They have said things to me that have caused me so much pain and have debilitated me. Like didn’t leave my house for a few days, didn’t eat, pain. But then I had a realization: no matter what others said of me, or to me, I knew my own truth. My truth is I love myself. I choose to love myself for who I am, not others’ perceptions of me. On the other side of the same token is my love for those who have hurt me. That’s a larger pill to swallow, but I chose to think “What is going on in that person’s life that has caused them to say what they have? What pain are they suffering through that no one is aware of?” I thought choosing to love instead of hold resentment would be hard, but it’s not. It’s freeing, it’s peaceful, it’s calming. Pursue love, exude love, and love will find you.

So that’s what I’ve got. I’m proud of myself for the work I did this year. I’m grateful for the people that stuck by me since May 12, 2018. I’m awed by the changes and growth I’ve surrendered to this year. I’m ready to take on more. I’m ready to stop living small and live as big a life as I am worthy of. I’m choosing myself, and gratitude and love every single day.

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