This is my year of gratitude (among other things). Really, every year should be a year of gratitude. I’ll probably keep this particular theme around–a lifetime sounds good.
With just 17 days into the new year, I am finding ways to be grateful for things as small and simple as the sunset on a cold winter day–the way pastel pinks and muted oranges mix like an abstract painting in the deepening gray sky. I am also finding ways to be more grateful for bigger concepts like my overall health and the sturdy roof over my head.
I have found that by silently expressing gratitude throughout the day–a simple pause in thought here and there, nothing more formal or profound–that I am increasing my awareness to the abundance that is around me, even if the day might feel a bit colder, darker, and blurrier than others. Each new day has a surprise waiting for us if we only open our eyes, hearts, and minds to gratitude.
Deep shit right there–I know. But it’s true.
With more gratitude and deeper awareness comes more sound fulfillment and joy. It’s not superficial; rather, it’s long-lasting and powerful in ways that no material thing or experience can be. What I find most powerful about gratitude is that it gives you back your own power–you’re no longer putting your happiness into the hands of a job, class, friend, family member, or social norm. You’re taking back happiness and putting it where it’s lived all along–inside your heart and mind. With gratitude–that is, consistently practiced gratitude and an openness to present awareness–you have an ever-replenishing supply of joy. Some days the joy burns more brightly than other days, but it’s always there, saying, “Hey–remember me? I’m here for you. Forget me not.”
I was reminded of gratitude today as I was fighting off sleep at work. I got maybe six hours of rest the night before (and the night before that), and woke up a few times before my alarm officially went off (the worst). Thanks to my persistently playful and hungry morning lady cats and some strong Kroger-brand black tea, I was ready for work in no time. However, tiredness seeped in throughout the day. My face grew warm. My body moved slower. My mind was mush. All I wanted was sleep–something I never really thought of making a priority until more recently.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve found sleep to be instrumental in regulating my mood, appetite, and energy levels. Most of us know this–but I’ve forced myself to become very aware of it so that I truly understand the consequences. I’ve watched myself become sluggish and irritable when I’m low on sleep and grow energetic and level-headed when sleep is in plentiful supply. In sum, sleep is great. It’s wonderful. And I want more of it–or well, enough of it to not be so damn tired and drained during the day.
So what does sleep have to do with gratitude? Because I realized today as I was staring at my work computer and not typing that it is something to be grateful for–this miraculous, natural way we rejuvenate ourselves. I barely paid sleep much heed before–oh, I’ll get 8 hours this weekend, but tonight six is fine. Oh, another almost all-nighter…well, the weekend is coming. Nope. Enough is enough. The more I put sleep to the side, the more I push myself to the sideline. Without sleep my gratitude meter drops, my mood is all funky, and my energy goes from zoom to zilch in a few hours time.
I’d like to be awake and grateful for the things happening in the here and now. So I’m raising my glass to you, sleep–now, time for bed.
P.S. My monthly Inspiration Newsletter is getting a makeover. Check out the before here, and check out the after by subscribing today–you’ll get a copy to your inbox on the last Sunday of every month. Ca-ching!
(Note: The post below is not this post about beginning again…but if you read that too it will make me happy.)
To get where you want to go you have to begin. It’s that plain and it’s that simple. You don’t need some fancy formula or notable book to tell you that (although such things do serve as pretty little reminders).
You can begin anywhere at anytime and in anyplace but you just gotta do it. Start. Launch. Do. Initiate. Commence. Whatever synonym you want to pick from the bag, it’s there waiting for you to snatch it up and get going.
So what are you waiting for?
Oh yea, there’s that thing called fear…oh and there’s always “busyness” and some smattering of other options in-between. However, if we take the time to dig down into the trenches of our hearts we will find fear there, lying in wait like the fabled Boogie Man under the bed and covered up by all the other excuses we tell ourselves to make us feel just a tad better.
Just like so many folks around the globe, I too have struggled with beginning (and of course, fear as they often go hand-in-hand). My worst victim of not beginning is writing, which is why I finally said “f this shit, I’m starting this blog” so I did and here I am. But that’s not the story I want to tell today (since I kinda already did here).
I could tell many a story of all the things I began and kept on at, began and abandoned, and then those times in my life when I never began at all.
Today I want to share a story that encompasses all three of these, a story of my self-empowerment that has been propelled in large part by my physical training (and which still remains an anchor for me to this day).
Let’s dig in…
The Chubby Kid Who Doesn’t Run
I was the chubby kid. I was taller than most of my peers for the better part of my childhood (until everyone caught up and many surpassed me) and I weighed more than most. I wasn’t obese, not even fat, just a chubby little girl who didn’t like to run or do much physical activity aside from climbing on monkey bars (an area in which I somehow excelled on the playground).
My parents kindly enrolled me in various extracurricular physical activities (ballet, soccer, tennis, ice skating), many of which my older sister excelled in (since I wanted to do what she was doing).
Yet to probably no surprise nothing seemed to fit me as well as it fit her. So I quit these activities, but at least I began them–I tried, that counts for something and at the very least I am now left with less regret.
The Chubby Kid 2.0 Who Runs
Fast forward to my later childhood years, the confusing times of middle school. I was still chubby, although I had grown more into my skin so perhaps “average” was a more accurate description? Who knows. Doesn’t really matter.
Anyways, I was still pretty eh about the whole running thing…about sports in general. My physical fitness tests were close to laughable. Most of the time I didn’t even try because I knew it was the same old story: I wasn’t meant to be good at these things so why make an attempt?
But the truth was that I just hadn’t found the right thing to begin. Hence the repeated tries and later, lack of tries.I had somehow decided to give up on myself. (As I write this my grownup self is thinking–WTF, KP?!).
(Disclaimer: While pursuing physical fitness does not necessarily mean you will be more confident, compassionate and empowered, it can be a factor in your personal growth–it certainly has been for me. I encourage you to begin things that will bring you the growth you seek.)
I was an emotional mess. But then something inspired me (I can’t remember what for the life of me…) to join the middle school track team. Imade a decision to begin once more at something I was sure to fail at. And I did fail. Holy moly I failed and failed again.
I ran long distance and I was painfully slow. I was so far behind my teammates on our distance practice runs that they would lap me. And every time one particular eighth grade boy passed me, he threw out some rude remark about my slowness (or chubbiness…apparently both were synonymous). (Side note: please know that while I remember these comments, I don’t dwell on them as I once did. Today I remember him by the middle finger that is permanently glued on his head in my imagination…imagination is such a beautiful thing…)
Despite the rude comments and my slow times, I kept at this running thing that I was failing at because I saw that people could improve…and I saw that improvement in myself, however small. It was this realization–that you could begin something and actually get better (after much trial and error, of course)–that got me hooked on the power of physical fitness and it’s magical ways of breaking down my mental blocks.
(Another disclaimer: I’m no gym buff or expert. I’m just a person who found I liked fitness and kicking some butt.)
And so that takes us to…
The No-Longer-Chubby-Yet-Not-Super-Fit-Kid Who Runs, Lifts Weights and Throws
I continued with this running thing into high school where I really pushed myself to get better so that I could be good enough to run with the big kid distance team. I ran every day, lifted weights, did sit-ups and push-ups, and exercise cut-outs from Health magazine.
I never became super fit, but I was the most fit I had ever been in my life, and the hard work and perseverance paid off: I could run faster and do more sit-ups and push-ups than most of the freshmen boys on the team.
Beyond that, I felt empowered for the first time in a long time. I had shown myself that just by beginning and putting a little faith into myself that I could begin again the next day and push a little further until all the new-day-beginnings compounded and turned me into more of the person I needed to become (i.e. someone with increased self-confidence, compassion, etc.).
And while I never did end up running distance for the high school track team, I did join the field portion of the sport as a discus thrower who made varsity the first year and remained on the varsity team all four years.
But remember: I didn’t get to this sweet spot in my journey magically. I got there because I began and failed so many times I could no longer count and at some point my beginnings floated me in the right direction.
As Cheryl Strayed once wrote in her Dear Sugar column, “Let whatever mysterious starlight that guided you this far, guide you onward into whatever crazy beauty awaits.”
Which takes us to more recent times…
The Adult Who Runs and Kicks Butt
I still run today. Long-distance. I like 5Ks. I’m not super fast, but I’m not slow either. Occasionally I’ll practice sprinting but mainly to develop speed and agility, not because it’s my favorite.
I no longer throw, but I would LOVE to again some day (I’m a crazy technical throwing fanatic).
Nowadays, I train on punching bags and people. With my recent transition, I am at a MMA gym, polishing up my punching and kicking skills, getting into better shape, and learning entirely new techniques (woohoo!).
But I’ve just begun there and so my progress is TBD at the moment so let’s go back a couple years…
The Adult Who Came Before the Adult Who Runs and Kicks Butt
Two years ago, I changed jobs from a highly sedentary telecommute position (literally did not have to move to work aside from tapping my fingers on a keyboard) to one with an hour long commute to an office (still somewhat sedentary but at least I left the house).
During this particular transition period, I realized how badly out of shape I had gotten and how my mind kept telling me how I wasn’t good enough (among ten million other things).
So I picked up on my pattern of little activity = lower self-confidence and decided it was time to change it. Naturally, I went on the all-holy Groupon. There I found a deal at a local Krav Maga gym. I had always wanted to learn how to defend myself so I thought–why not? (Note: A perfect phrase to jump start your beginning–why not?)
For my first class I was the only participant. No one else had showed. I ran slowly, did push-ups from my knees, did painful sit-ups, and tried my hand at some basic techniques. I was decidedly horrible at everything at that point. Weak. Out of breath. Afraid. Highly self-conscious. Exhausted.
I left that first class not feeling so hot about myself (since I wanted immediate perfection not progress apparently), but I also left with an excited glow I hadn’t had in awhile.
I decided to try again.
I went to a second class, which was very similar to class #1 (i.e. weak, out of breath, afraid, etc. etc. you get the picture). And then I went to a third and fourth and eventually signed up for a year membership after seeing that this was something that was going to get me back in shape and also make me feel good about myself.
And wow–over the two years I trained, I grew into myself, becoming who I always knew I was deep inside but who was always hiding from the spotlight.
Krav Maga–and the people I shared classes with, instructors included–helped bring me into my own. My self-confidence, self-compassion and self-empowerment skyrocketed to levels they had never been at before. I finally felt really, really good being me.
This brings us to today–today I am not without faults, failures, hesitations or fears. But I am also not without dreams, inspirations, passion, values and dedication. I have all of these things in me, as do you.
And do you know what that means? It means that you can begin today what you keep putting off to pursue. It means you have the capacity to grow and learn and get better. YOU. Yep, you right here reading this.
So I’ll ask it again: what are you waiting for?
The world is waiting for you to begin so that you can guide yourself into becoming who you need yourself to be.
So begin, and begin again, and begin until it feels exhausting because at some point you’ll find a new beginning that will revitalize you in such a way that all your past failed beginnings won’t matter one bit.
I am raising my metaphoric glass to you and toasting to all your future beginnings. May they be glorious and meaningful, even if it will take you awhile to see them as the gifts they truly are. (And remember: you have to begin somewhere, somehow to gain access to these beautiful gifts.)
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