You know those times when life just gets heavy?
When you’ve absorbed yourself SO deeply into something SO significant, you lose track of time and space and any responsible sense (gulp) of basic self-care? When you pause for a quick breath, only to realize that you’ve been SCRAMBLING forward, so fast and so frenetically, you haven’t even actually been breathing—really BREATHING—at all?
And you know how, when you give that momentary pause just the TINIEST bit of attention, you’re suddenly engulfed with a simultaneous craving for MORE of the breathing and LESS of the scrambling?
More pause. Less productivity.
More time. Less running out of it.
More space. Less claustrophobia.
More self-care. Less “I could care less”-ness.
Well girlfriends, that’s where I’m at today. My heart’s on a high, but my brain is FRIED from focusing on work, and my body is literally aching with the effort I’ve spent at my keyboard this week.
So tonight, it’s time for a gratitude break.
This won’t be the most poetic, most poignant, or most profound blog post in the history of blog posts. So don’t expect it to be. (She says, mostly to herself.) Because tonight, what I need, as a writer and as a woman in recovery, is to sit back and breathe, to let this unique gift of gratitude do its thing. This week, I’m writing my blog post for me, in the spirit of self-care. If anybody else gets anything out of it, I’ll chalk that up to an AWESOME accident, and add it to the top of my gratitude list.
READY. SET. RECITE.
Years ago, I stopped counting sheep and started reciting gratitudes. It sounds dorky, I know. But turns out, gratitude makes a pretty great sleep aid, especially on nights when my mind is RACING and I need an easy way to get calm and centered. I didn’t make this one up; it’s suggested somewhere in one of Al-Anon’s pocket-sized recovery books. The idea is to name one gratitude for every letter of the alphabet. Simple, right? I’ve found that this little “game” requires JUST ENOUGH attention to keep my mind from wandering, but not so much that I QUIT due to focus fatigue. It usually gets me drifting off sooner than later, and I rarely get to the “challenging letters” like X, Y and Z. 🙂
I know I can make these gratitude lists in my sleep… well almost, anyway. Now let’s see if I can materialize one while I’m awake…well almost, anyway!
A: I’m grateful for the gift of ACCEPTANCE. I’m grateful to know that some things are not mine to change, freeing me to spend my energy on those things that I actually CAN. I’m also grateful for art, for apples, and (people who know me will love this one) for every single one of my Apple electronics.
B: I’m grateful for BOUNDARIES. One of these days, boundaries will get their very own post here, because I believe so deeply that that boundaries are GOLDMINES of freedom for women in recovery. But for tonight, I’ll just pour my love for boundaries into one little sentence: my life is better because I have boundaries. I’m also grateful for beauty, for bread and for the beach.
C: I’m grateful for CHOICES. I’m grateful that, once upon a time, someone told me, “You can’t screw it up,” “There isn’t always one right answer,” and “You can always make a different decision next time.” I’m grateful that I now give myself TIME when facing change, while trying to make the hard-but-good choices. I’m grateful to now consider choices my friend, rather than my enemy. I’m also grateful for colors, for compassion and for Christmas.
D: I’m grateful for DIALOGUE. I am grateful for places in my world where I can actually engage in healthy, bilateral, multidimensional conversations about issues of substance and significance. With true dialogue partners, I’m grateful that agreement isn’t a requirement for friendship and fellowship. I’m also grateful for dogs, for darkness and for my doctor.
E: I’m grateful for EMPATHY. I’m grateful for the experience of understanding, in deep and dynamic and intimate ways, the emotional journeys of other women with whom I share my life and my recovery. I’m grateful for empathy between me and my husband, the result of an ever-evolving relationship. I’m grateful that empathy fast is becoming a more prolific part of popular culture and daily discourse. I’m also grateful for all things eloquent, elegant and eclectic.
F: I’m grateful for FRIDAYS. To me, Fridays are about wrapping up or pushing pause on whatever can wait—and in reality, with very few exceptions, it can ALL wait. To me, Fridays are about self-care, about putting a little bit of distance between my stress and my soul. Friday is my time to distinguish between being busy and just being. I’m also grateful for my family, for my faith and for [bon]fires.
G: I’m grateful for GRAYCE, for the shades of gray that bridge the gap (and provide beautiful nuance) between extremes of black and white. Grayce is a healthy and happy place for me live. I’m also grateful for God, for girlfriends and (duh) for gratitude.
H: I’m grateful for BEING HEARD. In my life and my recovery, few things have provided as much deep, dramatic, healing relief as ears (and souls) who hear the words I speak from my heart. I’m also grateful for my home, for hot showers and for hummingbirds.
I: I’m grateful for INTIMACY. I’m grateful for knowing others and being known by them. I’m also grateful for inspiration, for interaction and for the gifts (gulp) I glean from illness.
J: I’m grateful for JOY. I’m grateful the pure bliss I find in little things. And I’m grateful for awareness that those “little things” are actually big things. I’m grateful for jewelry, for jokes and for jellyfish.
K: I’m grateful for KIDDOS. I’m grateful that, even though I’m a “non-mom,” other beautiful women have allowed me to share in the lives of their incredible, delightful, happy-to-be-alive littles. I’m also grateful for kites, for kettle corn and for the Kindle that shall one day be mine.
L: I’m grateful to LOVE MY LIFE. I know that not everybody does, and that makes me value my experience even more dearly. I’m also grateful for lavender (the fragrance), for lime green (the color) and lilacs (the blossoms).
M: I’m grateful for MARRIAGE. I’m grateful that, despite knowing hundreds of couples shattered by the pain of infidelity, betrayal and addiction, I still believe in the beauty and potential of lasting marital friendship, partnership and relationship. I’m also grateful for music (it’s good for the soul), for Minneapolis (my forever hometown) and for massage therapists (three words: angels in disguise).
N: I’m grateful to know that I have NEEDS. I’m grateful to know what my needs are… most of the time. I’m grateful that when I don’t know what I need, I can gift myself with time, permission and resources to figure it out. I’m also grateful for my nephews, for Netflix, and for Nutzo (our very noisy and entertaining backyard squirrel).
O: I’m grateful for OPENNESS, open-mindedness and “open books.” I’m grateful for every woman who’s ever “spilled her guts” in my presence. I’m grateful for everyone who’s made it safe for me to share about my own mistakes, misadventures and misgivings. I’m grateful for souls that are more transparent than they are territorial. I’m grateful for the ocean, for October and for olive oil.
P: I’m grateful for a PROGRAM that promotes progress, not perfection. I’m grateful that practice is an acceptable part of my life in recovery, and that within this environment, progress can be made “in my own time, and in my own way.” I’m also grateful for passion, for perspective and for pajamas (because PJs are a girl’s best friend).
Q: I’m grateful to be QUIRKY. Better yet, I’m grateful that I no longer apologize about being quirky. Best of all, I’m grateful that being quirky is far more appealing to me than being… conventional. I’m also grateful for quilts, for quiet moments, and for well-timed quotes.
R: I’m grateful for REALITY, and I’m grateful to LIVE IN reality. I’m also greatful for Rummikub, Roundtable pizza and red velvet cake.
S: I’m grateful for SISTERS. Granted, I only have one flesh-and-blood sibling, and I wouldn’t trade him for the world. But by this stage in life, childhood is less important to me than adulthood and, I finally know what it’s like to have women who mean as much to me as family. I’m also grateful for snowflakes, for silk sheets and for social media.
T: I’m grateful for THERAPY—seriously. I’m grateful for therapists (in general) who are intelligent, sensitive, caring and committed. And I’m grateful (specifically) for the handful of therapists who’ve supported me personally, in unforgettable ways, throughout my deepest and darkest challenges. I honor and appreciate them, wherever they are in the world today. I’m also grateful for turkey, for tea and for Trader Joe’s.
U: I’m grateful for “UNLEARNING.” I’m grateful that I’m not “stuck” living by lessons or rules I learned once upon a time. I’m grateful for freedom to shed old identities, to release old stories, to retire old tools that no longer work. I’m also grateful for understanding, for unlocking and for unburdening.
V: I’m grateful for my VOICE. I’m grateful that I use it more circumspectly than I used to. I’m grateful to know that my voice is unique, that it’s worth using, and that it’s worth sharing. I’m grateful that sometimes, my voice is content to give itself (and others) a break. I’m also grateful for validation, for vitality, and for the color violet.
W: I’m grateful for WOMANHOOD. This, like boundaries, deserves it’s own post. But for now, let me leave it at this: being a woman, living among women, is one of the greatest joys of my existence. I’m also grateful for water, for winter and for warmth.
X: I’m grateful for my EXES: my ex-husband, my ex-in-laws, my ex-mentors, my ex-employers, my ex-environments, my ex-identities, my ex-behaviors, my ex-anything-and-everything-that-no-longer-serves-me. Years ago, at a crucial life crossroads, I heard a woman say, “The hardest thing in the world is to let go of a dream that no longer works, to open your hands and embrace the new dream that God wants to give you.” She was so right. But if it weren’t for my long list of WAS-isms, I would’t have an equally (and exponentially more awesome) list of IS-isms. I’m also grateful for Xperience, for Xcellence and for artistic Xpresssion.
Y: I’m grateful for YOU! I’m grateful that whomever you are, wherever you are, however we met (or haven’t met), you’re sharing my gratitude list tonight. Let me repeat this one, because I mean it SO DEEPLY: I am grateful for YOU. I’m also grateful for yarn, for yarn that’s on sale, and for hours spent browsing in specialty yarn boutiques.
Z: I’m grateful for ZZZs. (Yeah, I’m cheating. But it’s my list, so, whatever.) I’m grateful for every night I can fall asleep without guilt, conflict, anger, worry or fear. I’ll admit that sometimes, those things (and others) DO keep me awake (or wake me up), despite my best efforts to “let go and let God.” And when they do, I try not to beat myself up about it. I know that eventually, whatever discomfort I’m facing will pass. In the meantime, insomnia gives me a chance to make another gratitude list. And in my experience, exercising more gratitude has NEVER made anything worse. I’m also grateful for zoos, for zippers (because seriously, where would we be without them?) and for zebras (because I honestly can’t think of another Z word).
The. Grateful. End.
GAELYN RAE EMERSON
©2015–2019 | All Rights Reserved
GRATITUDE: GIVE ME A BREAK was written by Gaelyn Rae Emerson in 2015. It was originally written for Sisters of Sobriety and Serenity, a social media blog for recovering women, with special thanks to its creator, Katie Maslin. Republished by Women Ever After, with minor biographical edits pending.