Thursday, December 12, 2013

#1 Guilt-Free Tip for Thawing a Thankless Spirit

I've read countless blogs focused on self-improvement and how to "be better" and "more grateful" and "live every day like it's your last." These blogs share perspective-encouraging, heart-wrenching stories meant to enlighten readers and help them see how blessed and beautiful their lives truly are. The intention is to uplift and shed light on the positive....but for me? For me these blogs just make me feel guilty.

I have a hard time with guilt. It follows me around, weighs me down like a stone.

I've been told I'm very self-aware. I can't argue with that - I always know the moment I start screwing up. When I yell at my kids. When I snap on my husband. When I overreact with friends or family....when I lose it because of an old man glaring at me on the street....when I start to say something really nasty about someone or something or some place. I know, in that moment, I'm totally messing up. I'm awesome at realizing my mistakes. Not so awesome at preventing them.

So for me, the self-aware reader, blog posts centering on self-improvement almost always affirm what I've known the entire time: I'm thankless. I am not nearly grateful enough. I don't dash around with a big enough smile, a joyful enough attitude, paying it forward enough. I'm certainly not living every day like it's my last.

Don't get me wrong, I have moments of thanks, and gratefulness, and free-spirited living...but overall, I tend to sweat the small stuff. I get real annoyed with bad drivers. I'm easily overwhelmed with stupid crap like housework and money and holiday dinners. When people asked me what I wanted for my last birthday I replied with, "to be left alone." Yea so there's Jen, the ungrateful. I know this about myself. It's painful to read words that further drive this point home.

So imagine my surprise when I receive a random email from a lady named Heather Von St. James:

Hi there!
I am reaching out today because of your blog! My name is Heather and I am an 8-year survivor of mesothelioma – a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure.  When I was diagnosed, I had just given birth to my little girl and was told I had 15 months to live.  Because I beat the odds and am one of few long-term survivors, I now am on a mission to spread awareness of mesothelioma by sharing my personal story.
If having cancer has taught me anything, it’s the value of life and the value of gratitude. My diagnosis was in November, and every year during the holiday season, I am reminded of this difficult time. Therefore, I have set out to acknowledge something in my life that I am thankful for every day throughout the month of December.
This year, I decided to take this idea to the blogosphere. I've been so lucky to meet some incredible bloggers who have helped me in my journey to spread awareness and I was wondering if you would do that same. This December, I’m asking bloggers to post about something that they are thankful for, along with sharing a little bit of my story with their readers.  I hope you are interested!
Here is the link to my blog page where you can learn more about my story:
Let me know what you think!


My first thoughts? Awesome. Another person who's struggling with more than I can even imagine, asking me to find something to be grateful for, while she's obviously trying to live her life to the fullest each and every day and I'm still grumbling about my cottage cheese being too watery (true story).

I didn't even know where to begin. I watched her incredible story on YouTube and just sat back, wondering how I could ever blog about something as inspirational and motivational as her story.

I'm the girl who blogs about being a royal B.

I'm the girl who told a coworker she'd rather have the $40 than some stinkin' ham from corporate leadership.

I'm the girl who literally just ate half a container of ice cream after complaining about her weight (again).

I'm the girl who decides to start a business, put her family through heck while working out the details, and then whines all the time about not having time to do anything.

I'm the girl who's close, dear friends have lost siblings to tragedy and yet still finds a way to get frustrated with her own family.

I feel I am the last person, at least at this point in my life, who should be trying to support a cancer survivor with my words. I'm not worthy of such a task. But she asked, so I will do my best to deliver.

Before I divulge what I am thankful for, however, I think it's important to share how I brainstormed my response. My number-one, guiltless tip for recovering your thankfulness?

Stop and think.

That's it. Just stop, focus, and think.

What are you thankful for?

BLAMMO ~ What's the first thing that pops into your head? Hold it.

Don't think beyond the gratitude. Don't think I should be more grateful. What if this goes away? I should do this more. Other people have this very thing ripped away from them all the time. I should think about this every single day, I can't believe I am too busy worrying about other crap. I should Facebook and Tweet this. I need to get my camera so I can take pictures of this thing I am so grateful for in case it goes away. Gosh what if it does go away? Will I have loved it and been grateful enough? I should be and do so much more, more, more. Stop.

Just focus on the object of your affection. Think about it. Picture it. Surround it with a halo of light if it helps....just don't stop focusing on that one thing, that one idea. The warmth will spread. Push away the fear of loss. Immerse yourself in the pleasant perfection of having something to truly be grateful for. 

My Thankful Thought to Share with Heather:

I am grateful for the winter. I know it's not a huge, inspirational thing. But it's my thing. My thing for today.

I live in the Midwest and absolutely love the change of the seasons. They promise hope, new life, a time to rest, and a consistent, cyclic, dependable rhythm. It will get dang cold. It will get dang hot. It will be dang miserable. It will be dang gorgeous. Then it gets dang cold again. See? Cyclic.

Some people despise the winter...but not me. Learning how to stay warm during life's coldest days is a passion of mine.

I love the restful, quiet, simple beauty of winter.

Yes, the driving sucks. Yes, I'm not too attractive in my huge coveralls and boots...but nothing compares to kids in the snow....horses in the snow.....trees covered in snow.....a snowy, frozen sunrise.....rolling down snow-covered hills.

One of my favorite sounds of all time? The absolutely, astoundingly quiet hum of a car engine as it passes over freshly-fallen snow. It's creepy and incredible all at the same time. The snow muffles even the most atrociously combustible human innovations.

So there you have it. I am thankful for the all of it's raging, freezing glory.

I may never get to a point where jerks on the highway and rude cashiers don't make me want to punch someone in the throat. I may never fully live each day like it's my last. But you know, I don't think that's really the point. Heather and I may not share much, especially when you take into account her extraordinary strength, determination, and passion for life. But we do have one thing in common....we want to share our struggles with the world with the intention to include, surround, and support.

So you won't find a guilt-inducing paragraph on what you should be grateful for on this blog, not now, not never. You won't feel terrible about yourself after reading and watching Heather's story, either. She exudes only warmth, an absolute drive for Mesothelioma awareness, and a completely guilt-free way to share a positive perspective.

I invite you, my dear readers, to join in discovering the simple, guiltless joys of your life and the lives of others. I've never met Heather yet I can feel her dedication through her words.... and it gets me all amped. I love to find passionate people. Have you ever looked at someone when they're all jacked up, rambling on about some crazy thing they love with every fiber in their being? It's the most beautiful sight in the world.

Enjoy the beauty this weekend, lovelies, and thank you, Heather, for sharing your story with the world.



  1. Thank you for this. I have many things I am grateful but I am like you and find myself worrying about the small stuff. There are things which drag me out of the small worrying.

    I am a Florida girl at heart. But even I will admit there is nothing more peaceful and calming than looking at a white world.

    Last year I was a new mom, a working mom struggling with counting minutes I had with my new daughter. So when one night my normally 10 minute drive was turned into a 2 hour drive. I was so upset. There I was crying, stopped in traffic. I looked to my left and there was the beautiful white peacefulness of winter. I took a picture, took a deep breath and enjoyed the rest of my drive home.

    1. I moved to New Mexico partly to escape winter, but the one day we had snow on the ground, I had to take pictures. Too many mishaps connected with winter for me to want to live in Illinois again, but I can appreciate the snow on my local mountains and the cactus with its crown of snow while it lasts.

    2. Isn't it incredible?? I love how peaceful it can be. I've also been in the same situation - driving home to my kids and turning my hour long commute into a three hour long commute. It can be so frustrating!! I feel like snow was created to give us a sense of peace.....probably to make it through those times of panic!

  2. Wonderful post! Thank you! I heard in a sermon once that guilt is the tool of the devil. I don't know about that but it has stifled my Forward Momentum on many occasions. Hum. Blast that illusive perfection. And winter..... We Nordics' Love our winters! Thanks again for the post and for sharing Heather's story.

    1. I never thought of it like that! It makes me feel better, actually, to think it is a tool of the devil - makes me want to fight against it more, as opposed to feel guilty for feeling guilty HAHA. Thanks so much for reading and YES I love me some snow!!!! :)

  3. Jennifer… This is perfect.. you "get" me.. I love what you wrote and am so grateful to you for your understanding, and mostly your help in raising awareness… THANK YOU for so selflessly sharing your blog space… I'm honored.
    ps.. I LOVE SNOW… you have to living in MinneSNOWta. ;)

    1. Thank you so much Heather, the honor was honestly all mine. Your story completely touched my heart and just the fact my post was enough to bring a smile to your face means the world to me. Stay strong and stunning and THANK YOU for sharing with us!