Saturday, 3 January 2015

Gratitude as a Practice

I recently read Brené Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection, in which she said that gratitude is not an attitude (despite the catchy jingo); it's a practice. It's something we exercise and actively do. She points out that you can have a yoga attitude, but until you actually hit the mat, it doesn't do you any good. Gratitude is the same.

With this in mind, and remembering my goal to focus on gratitude this year, I thought I would spend today's blog just listing a few of the things that I am grateful for.

As I watch the snow coming down outside and as I hear that Thompson Manitoba (where my kids used to live) is at -48 today with the wind chill, my first thought is that I'm grateful to have a warm house, out of the weather, with central heating and a fireplace and a cozy blanket. I'm grateful to whoever supplies the heat I enjoy. I'm grateful for the joy of having good books to read while curled up in that blanket, and the ability to read them. And the time to read them. My boss phoned me on January 1 at home, to tell me she was sick and wouldn't be in to the office on Friday after all. So I was not to come in either. Seriously, she gave me a free day off (how often does that happen?), so I spent it catching up on some errands and, of course, reading.

Lying there with my book (I'm now on to Vertigo 42 by Martha Grimes), my hand rests gently on Brio's head, and I am filled with gratitude for the animals in my life. I have been blessed with the presence of animals since I can remember, not just all the dogs I've already mentioned, but the cat and rabbits and mice and hamsters and horses and frogs and fish and snakes and birds. My horse Shadow and Nick the Thoroughbred (on whom I took riding lessons) taught me courage. Kiai the German Shepherd gave me unwavering loyalty. Holding abandoned rabbit kits in my hand taught me about life and death. There was even a lesson to learn from my hamster, who got loose and reduced my only Barbie doll to a pile of chewed rubber bits under the bed: the impermanence of things, the role of my own responsibility, and the meaning of forbearance (I mean, how do you get mad at a creature the size of a dust bunny?).

I am grateful to have had parents who would allow so many animals for their children. I'm grateful for the grandfather who gave me my horse and the run of his farm, to follow hens and their chicks around and watch the pigs eating corncobs. He let me watch the goat feed the two orphaned calves (the goat had to stand on a table to be tall enough, but only looked rather bemused and didn't seem to mind nursing these gigantic foundlings). Grandpa let me ride on the wagon behind the massive draft horses and pitch hay off the back, while the other horses materialized out of the mist to follow along and eat. (That was a magical moment, never to be forgotten, watching those gigantic beasts appearing from all over the field, rising up out of the mist like mythical creatures.) I don't remember ever once being made to feel like a tag-along or a nuisance, though I'm sure I probably was.

I'm grateful to my father, who took the time---and had the know-how---to help me train Shadow to the reins and saddle. He also taught me math and how to carve soap and scythe cockleburs, how to build rabbit hutches and pitch a tent and make pancake syrup out of sugar water. He took the time to go sledding and hiking and biking with his children. He modeled service to others. He taught me what loving, righteous fatherhood involved and gave me a pattern and a type to look for when choosing my own husband. I'm grateful to a mother who taught me to crochet and sew (in spite of my protests) and how to bottle fruit and plant flowers. She let me experiment with her expensive oil paints and shared her love of books and the countryside with me. She taught me to care for my neighbours, to fulfill my callings at church, and she made sure I stuck to what I knew to be true. Most of all, she taught me faith and the importance of a gentle, loving home.

So many things to be grateful for! That hardly scratches the surface, but I suppose it's a good start. Now back to my blanket and book, while the ice pellets chime against the window.

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