Sunday, January 16, 2011

Gratitude, and Other Things

While attempting to straighten out my library a few weeks ago, I stumbled across my ancient (ok, 1995) hard-cover edition of Sarah Ban Breathnach's book Simple Abundance. I had picked it up in Myopic Books, my favorite used bookstore in the world, while living in Chicago and feeling lonely and impoverished by my life and the choices I'd made.

I was in graduate school at the Art Institute of Chicago, and consequently perpetually broke. Like, scrounging under the futon for enough change to get on the El to get to class or to my poorly-paid adjunct job at Columbia College -broke. Chicago is a wonderful city if you're young and you have enough money (whatever "enough money" means) to enjoy it, but the stereotypical life of the grad student: ramen noodles and PB + J as staples of the weekly diet; the aforementioned scrounging; the poorly-paid teaching gig that sucks up time that should be spent on one's own work; and the constant wondering whether I was making a H U G E mistake by taking out $40,000 in student loans to pay for a degree I might never be able to use all combined to contribute to a depression spiral that I was having difficulty managing.

I picked up the book, and used it to start figuring out a different way to approach my life choices. I can't say that it always worked, but I suppose the fact that I'm sitting here writing this is at least partly because I tried to reprogram my brain to be grateful for what I had: a place to live, friends, enough money to eat and occasionally do my laundry, and schoolwork that I found challenging and rewarding. 

It's funny the way a lot of us think: we focus so hard on what we don't have, or how much others don't appreciate what we do, that we miss what we have that makes life enjoyable.

So in the spirit of the book, this is a gratitude entry.  In no particular order, these are the things I'm grateful for today:
w/Ziggy, Thanksgiving 2009
  • Hubby and Things One and Two: healthy and happy
  • a job I love because I get to help people become who they're going to be
  • a cute little house in the woods
  • my own washer and dryer 
  • my 3 cats
  • my sister, mom, and stepdad
  • my in-laws, who help us out whenever they can
  • my memories of Ziggy: may he run through heaven forever
  • my colleagues, who make every day a pleasure to be a part of this academic life
  • lavender, jasmine, orange flower
  • the smell of clean leather
  • good music
  • good food
  • naps (both for me and the Things)
  • three day weekends
  • lots of other things, but I'm going to stop now...
 I get tired of feeling small and shabby, shriveled and sorry, so today I am grateful to be healthy and loved and full--of life, love, kindness, and contentment. 

I wish the same for everyone.

The "other things": two poems ("After the Blast" and "Checked Out") have been accepted to Poetry Quarterly, for print publication. One more thing to be grateful for: work sent out into the world that finds a home.

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