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!
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 winter....in 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.