Good morning and happy Monday, my friends. Its been a few days but I haven’t forgotten you. Just been busy living my words. It was barely moments after my last post that I started getting big, messy gifts from God. One thing after another, they were piling up faster than I could open them. Boy did I find myself having to remember everything I just wrote for you. There reaches a point where there is just nothing you can do but give it to God and trust that He will carry you, and that is where I found myself on Friday afternoon. One baby step at a time, I asked God to lead me through the solutions. We managed to tackle a pretty heavy load of messily wrapped packages this weekend, and here I sit, fresh, rejuvenated, and ready to start the week with a good attitude and full of hope. It left me feeling full of gratitude, and gratitude is one of the tools I feel is needed to have lasting joy, so lets talk about that today.

Giant burdensome blessings have a way of helping us grow our gratitude, but only if we choose it. I could sit around crying about the mountain of challenges that seemed to show up all at once. There was a time in my life that I had forgotten how to see the bright side, and that is exactly what I would have done. I would have cried, ranted, complained, whined, and basically had a pity party, to anyone who would listen. Once upon a time not so long ago. But, today I have tools. I have tools of choice, and one of those is gratitude. I can not tell you what a difference it makes to fight the pity with gratitude. You have something to be thankful for, of that I am sure. You are alive, breathing, and reading this right now, aren’t you? Finding gratitude has a lot to do with the little things. On days when things feel so hard, that you have to force yourself to find gratitude, this can be challenging, and that is why it is your choice. You can choose to feel sorry for yourself. Why me? Poor me? Oh life is always out to get me! Or, you can make the conscious choice to focus on other things. Is the sun shining today? Do you have clothes on your back? Did you have the luxury of coffee with your breakfast today? For that matter, did you have breakfast? Do you have a healthy child (even if they are attached to your hip when you just need a minute of quiet). Are you a comfortable temperature? If you answered yes to even one of these questions, and the thousands more just like it that I could ask, then you too are blessed, my dear. You just have to choose it. You may have to look hard, but you can find hundreds of blessings in your day, week, month and life.

Recognizing your blessings can be a real challenge, especially if you are already feeling defeated by life. Thankfully, this is one of those tools that, the more you use it, the sharper it gets. That may be one of the best things about preparing a good strong tool shed. All of the tools for joy are unique in that the more you use them, the sharper they get. And you can do things, simple things, to help you remember to choose gratitude. I am a big fan of “notes to self”. More than once I have recommended that clients write themselves reminders. Post it notes are cheap, but if you don’t have any, a simple piece of scratch paper will do. Maybe you have some scrapbook supplies and want to make them pretty. Whatever will motivate you to read them. Make yourself reminders, and stick them anywhere that you are apt to read them.  You have to start where you are at. My notes to self look much different than they did ten years ago. Back then, I had to remind myself simple things. To remember that I am loved. To be thankful that I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, food in my mouth, and a car to drive. Having spent some time with a two year old, couch surfing, I know what nothing looks like, but even in those times, I had friends who would let us sleep under their roof. I had this beautiful child to go through this journey with. I didn’t know how to appreciate it at the time, unfortunately. I often say that I try to live without regrets, but if there is one thing I would change about my life, it is the lack of gratitude and perspective when I was a young mother. I realize that there is a point to growing and learning as you age, and that a young mother can’t expect to know all that, but boy would it have had a profound impact on the quality of life that I was able to provide for my child. Gratitude takes the focus off the negative. You really are what you think about. If you spend all day focused on the horrors in a negative light, you will always be a “poor me”. If you must focus on the negatives, then change how you see them. What can you do to change them? If you focus on the positives and the problem solving aspect of them, you will be the change you wish to see. We really do live where our mind dwells, and luckily, we do have a choice to dwell where we want to live. I read all kinds of articles about how anxiety and depression cannot be healed. How they can’t be controlled. How they are a result of chemical imbalance, and it frustrates the crap out of me. I lived with anxiety, bipolar disorder, severe depression. They are not life sentences and I am living proof. You are not doomed to a life of meds and fighting every day. You don’t have to be a survivor forever. At some point you can just live. There are other ways. You don’t have to resign yourself to a life of pharmaceutical care. Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti mental health meds. I used them, and if they are helping you stay above water, you should too. What I am saying is, use the opportunity. The blessing of access to pharmaceuticals, to help you get stronger. To help you take the edge off while you develop the tools. But don’t just rely on them. Use the time to get some healthy tools for choosing your happiness. Use the time to learn what people mean when they say happiness is your choice. Get a therapist. Read some self help books. Focus on the things that are blessings in your life. I had several different therapists over the years, and each taught me different skills. If you aren’t comfortable with your therapist, don’t feel bad admitting that it isn’t a good match, and finding a new one. Going to therapy doesn’t mean that you are crazy. Every single one of us has shame triggers, and it is my belief that every single one of us could benefit from some therapy in our lives. Some people need six months, some need six years, but every single one of us has hang ups. The ones who face them are the ones who will see change in their lives. I know that anyone who has been told that there is nothing they can do about their anxiety thinks I am unempathetic and don’t understand right now, but I promise you, I have been in those shoes. I too, was told I would take medication for the rest of my life to control my emotions. I had no choice but to pursue therapy with my child, and this is how I learned that wasn’t truth. It felt like the doctors were right when I was in the midst of it, but with perseverance, I learned that meds are not the only way to stay above water. In fact, there are much better ways. The meds just took the edge off long enough for me to find strength to fight. You are strong enough too! I know you are! I am happy to take the journey with you if you want a little help, or just someone else in your court cheering you on. You got this!

What do you want to change?  The easiest place to start is to write it down. Get yourself a little notebook and write down the things you want to change. The things you don’t love about yourself or your life, and lets get cracking at how to overcome them. Goals. Obstacles. Problem solving. It applies to every area of life. Think outside the box. Realize that your individuality is Gods plan and try to worry less about what others will think and find what is right for you. The other day I wore some fuzzy pants to the store. Far too thick to be pajamas yet not really public appropriate in that they look like house pants. I looked down at myself, and started checking out the other shoppers in the store to see if anyone else might be there with less than socially acceptable pants on. For about 30 seconds. Then I had a very loud thought. “I am covered. Since when do I care if society likes my pants? I am not here to fit the norms, I am here to get groceries”. I have been sick for months and getting myself to the store a half hour away was a huge blessing. I had to choose. Let anxiety about my pants distract me from my task, and probably be much less efficient about it, or let it go and get about my shopping. I don’t have time to be anxious about my clothes being acceptable for everyone else. It was my choice to let that anxiety go and get back to my grocery list. I promise, with practice, you can learn it too. It is a long, arduous road, but boy, when you get to the destination, you are so glad you didn’t wait another day to start the journey. Happiness, and sustainable peace, don’t happen overnight, but they can be yours if you are willing to put in the time and energy. Start by finding as many things as you can in your life to be thankful for, and lets move forward from there. Until next time, Godspeed my friends.

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