The res­o­lu­tion of grat­i­tude

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FEATURES - JEAN­NIE LAN­CASTER Visit our web­site: www.chick­en­soup.com.

The new year is an op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate a fresh start and make res­o­lu­tions that will lead us to a hap­pier and health­ier life. But as the weeks pass, our en­thu­si­asm of­ten wanes and, by Fe­bru­ary, many of us are back to our old habits.

Jean­nie Lan­caster grew tired of re­solv­ing year af­ter year to lose weight, eat health­ier and stop bit­ing her nails. One year, she de­cided to make a change she could stick with long term – a shift in fo­cus that would bring her greater hap­pi­ness. Here’s what she said in her story “Res­o­lu­tion Evo­lu­tion,” in our book about making res­o­lu­tions:

I am the mother of three adult chil­dren with spe­cial needs who are still liv­ing with us. I have also re­cently been di­ag­nosed with a neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­der that af­fects my abil­ity to do many of the things that I have en­joyed over the years. It is very easy to be­come mired in dis­cour­age­ment. I hate to ad­mit it, but I have held sev­eral “pity par­ties” and sadly in­vited many fam­ily mem­bers and friends to at­tend. That is where I found my­self last year at res­o­lu­tion-making time. I knew that I needed to do some­thing dif­fer­ent.

I started re­flect­ing about the time when my chil­dren were young. Dur­ing those years, my hus­band and I con­sciously made a point of re­mem­ber­ing what we called “golden mo­ments.” The day my son fi­nally learned to tie his shoes, at 17, was one of those times. It was definitely a golden mo­ment.

Dur­ing my chil­dren’s youth, I held tight to the mem­o­ries of spe­cial times, suc­cesses and joys. I tucked them away in my mind to be pulled out later dur­ing mo­ments of dis­cour­age­ment, when things were not go­ing well.

So as the new year be­gan, I re­solved to once again con­sciously look for golden mo­ments each day, for spe­cial bless­ings, for ev­ery­day oc­cur­rences that led me to a sense of grat­i­tude and won­der. The mar­velous thing was, they were every­where!

One day as I was out walk­ing down­town, I be­came dis­cour­aged about my dif­fi­cul­ties with walk­ing and my need to use a cane. As I was grum­bling to my­self, I looked across the street and saw a man in a wheel­chair with no legs. This may seem like an overused cliche, but it re­in­forced for me the fact that per­spec­tive plays a piv­otal role in my at­ti­tude and abil­ity to face ad­ver­sity. When I re­ceived in­vi­ta­tions to friends’ chil­dren’s col­lege grad­u­a­tions, wed­dings and baby show­ers, I felt sad that my chil­dren might not ex­pe­ri­ence those same things. But then I re­flected that they were all good and car­ing peo­ple who brought great joy to my days. Our life wasn’t bad; it was just dif­fer­ent.

As time went by, I re­al­ized more and more that it was the sim­ple things that were making the big­gest dif­fer­ence for me. I found my­self paus­ing to enjoy a beau­ti­ful sun­set or a mother bird build­ing a nest out­side my liv­ing room win­dow. I saw a per­son’s kind­ness as a dear gift.

I guess you could say that I made it my res­o­lu­tion to play the “Glad Game.” You know the one, from the movie “Pollyanna,” where in even the most dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions, Pollyanna finds some­thing to be glad about. There are prob­a­bly many peo­ple who would scoff and de­clare this a sac­cha­rine-coated way of deal­ing with life. My an­swer to them would be: “Why not? Why in this world of trou­ble and heartache should I not want to con­sciously choose to seek a bet­ter vi­sion, a more grate­ful heart?”

Am I good at it all the time? Definitely not! I still get dis­cour­aged from time to time. I still find the neg­a­tive creep­ing back. But the won­der­ful thing about this type of res­o­lu­tion is that even when I fal­ter or slip a lit­tle, I can eas­ily pick it back up again and go for­ward. All it takes is paus­ing for a mo­ment to look around me and rec­og­nize the sim­ple, pure plea­sures and bless­ings in each day.

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