Writing Memoir

Starting the #365grateful challenge

You’ve seen these kinds of things before #365grateful, gratitude journals, how to be more grateful articles, etc. And while I think it’s a good idea, especially if the practice is new to you, I’ve refrained from participating publically. But for my 43rd birthday, I’ve decided that the time is right, the timing is now.

Noticing things is something that I feel I’ve been aware of for many years simply due to the way my life has unraveled. My father’s untimely death when I was a child jolted me out of childhood dreaminess and brought to consciousness one parent versus two parent households.

In junior high, we moved from tropical Hawaii to the desert of California and I went from having an outdoor playground to finding escape indoors. It was also my first time being a minority. Mililani Hawaii is primarily an Asian population and Barstow California was not.

At this time, I can’t say I was mature enough to understand the concept of gratitude, but these big changes created the kind of inner earthquakes that brought me to my knees.

In high school, a couple of my good friends had close family members (a mother and a sister) in wheelchairs. It was a little strange to walk into a home built for a woman who functioned in a wheelchair. My friend’s sister was not so fortunate to be functioning, her family caring for her every need and as best as I could I mentally held M’s hand during sad moments.

High school was also the time we returned to Thailand after 10 years away. I saw the kind of poverty and neglect that most Americans are never faced with, my 15 year old mind wrestling with the limbless beggars on the street, children asking for money, and the fact that my Thai family received their first refrigerator because my mom just bought one for them. It was green and they still have it.

So, high school was the time when being grateful started to come into focus. I remember feeling grateful for my limbs, walking, eyesight, nice clothes and hot showers especially after experiencing ‘bucket baths’ at my Thai family’s house – and what the heck, even toilets that didn’t require me to squat over a hole in the ground.

During my senior year, I remember having a breakdown of sorts outside my drama classroom. My teacher listened to me as I tried to tell her that I could no longer complain about my problems when there were greater ones. She reassured me that my problems were just as important as others because they were important to me, and that this didn’t make other people’s problems less important. We were out there for a long time, it seemed, and I felt like a baby for crying in the first place, but she was kind and patient.

It’s funny, recently I taught a reading lesson about luck and I asked my Khmer students if they considered themselves lucky. Not one of them raised their hands. I was surprised and then launched into a short speech, “What!? Of course, you’re lucky. You’re in an air-conditioned classroom learning English. You have 10 fingers and 10 toes. You have a house and enough food to eat. You are lucky.”

Closeup of tree (photo by EW).
Beautiful colors of a tree’s bark.

During my 20s and 30s, I went through self-help, self-development books like candies in a sweet shop. I prayed, read mantras, did guided meditations, had gratitude journals and basically tried to be a more forgiving and enlightened person. But during my really hard days of being a Waldorf teacher, I made the mistake of writing a gratitude journal to counteract the hell I was living through.

It was a kind of denial, really. I mean, yes, I knew there were things I needed to address and even accept, but I foolishly thought if I focused on the positive, then things would get better. I’d have a better attitude. I’d be doing the work. But I stopped writing, I had stopped pouring myself on paper and my gratitude list was just another way of living in dysfunction. It had become the equivalent of writing “I’m happy” over and over again – when I was clearly not happy.

So, I’m a bit cautious of these kinds of things now. Being grateful is easy, especially if you’ve been massaging the message for as long as I have. But feeling the punch behind those words, well, that’s a whole other thing entirely.

I have to confess Cambodia is not an easy place for me to live especially after the ease, convenience and years of living in Thailand. There are regular and frequent power outages here. I know this is something that other places struggle with, my Nepalese American friend said power outages in Katmandu were every day at scheduled times. But in Siem Reap, we are often caught off guard, left literally in the dark wondering how long this one will be.

Expats joke about tubs of ice cream melting, food spoiling and of course, we complain about the insufferable heat when you can even turn on a fan to cut through the humidity. We’ve had 100+ degree days and we’re in the middle of a horrible drought. Folks in the countryside are without water and the expat community has been rallying water trucks and donations to get water to them. Now there is talk about rotating scheduled water cuts in the city.

Blogger Jenni in Chiang Mai recently posted on FB that she feels like she is at ground zero for climate change and I have to agree. All we’ve been experiencing seems apocalyptic. So if I haven’t been online then you now know it’s because of the power cuts and/or the fickle Internet. It’s been hard to be grateful these days and I don’t feel any better knowing that I’m experiencing what many around the world endure silently. Privilege is so relative.

I’ve been on a complaining campaign lately and I don’t like myself when I feel like there is nothing I can do, but wait and endure. I’ve also been getting sick a lot, leading up to my last one that was particularly lasting and horrible. Yeah, so, let’s just say it’s been as challenging as peeling off wet jeans, giving a presentation, and heading to the gym, to be positive, grateful and pleasant behind closed doors.

I didn’t want to do another gratitude list. Although, I do write down something awesome that happened yesterday in my journal (Thanks Tim Ferriss!) everyday. It takes no time and has easily become part of the morning routine.

Then while I was doing my pathetic yoga stretches, I remembered seeing my friends posting their gratitude posts on FB and thought, hey that might be a nice idea for Instagram. It’s not part of the New Year resolutions rush, the holidays, and life is challenging enough where I’ll need to dig in.

I think remembering to be grateful helps you to be in the moment and appreciate what you have. This is especially important in a consumer world and where it is so easy to compare ourselves to other people through the Internet. But honestly, I’m just going to give this a go and see where it takes me. I’ve felt gratitude on an intellectual level, maybe even on a spiritual one, but I’d like to experience it on an emotional level, too.

I mean, can you imagine if you wrote down something shitty that had happened to you for 365 days, how you would feel by the end of that project?

So, everyday (at least I’ll try) I’m going to post a photo with #365grateful in an attempt to honor friends who didn’t make it to see another birthday and in my endeavor to restore balance in my life.

Would you care to join me for this #365grateful project on Instagram? (Watch the #365grateful video here. Just found it through researching this idea.) After all, there is much to be grateful for.

flower
Flower power.

How do you practice being grateful?

Advertisements

44 thoughts on “Starting the #365grateful challenge

  1. I think you really hit on something in the middle of this post — the idea that gratitude can be one step away from fatalism and inaction. And, of course, as a Westerner, I abhor the idea that I am not in control of my fate. I am terrible at acceptance. Bring on the water trucks, the science, the technology, and the money and we will fix this thing!

    On the positive side, I think gratitude is also a facet of perspective, and when you travel, you gain perspective that the asshole in Starbucks screaming “But I wanted a SOY latte!” will never have. So I am looking forward to your perspective posts! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Autumn. I can always count on you to either make me laugh or say something really meaningful. And of course, sometimes both!

      Travel does lend itself really well to gaining new perspectives and gratitude for what we have and what’s important to us.

      Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing your unique perspective. As someone also living at the ground zero of climate change, I get where you’re coming from. It’s perspective, Lani: when I realized my coworker lives with 5 other people in one room with one lightbulb and one electric fan, when my classmate in Uni admitted how thankful she was to be on scholarship so she could get away from her drug addict parents, when many people I know don’t have running water… Then we realize how thankful we are to be in this moment with what we have, even as we acknowledge things aren’t the best they could be.

    That project sounds like a fun IG series. Will see how I can incorporate your hashtag in my posts! Cheers, Lani!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It would be fun I think if other bloggers I knew participated 🙂 So I hope you do. It is a big commitment though and one that I’m a little fearful of.

      I know I have much to be grateful for, but damn it, sometimes I just want it all!

      Like

  3. I have a lot of thoughts on gratitude that you’ve reminded me about, so thank you. Interesting perspective on the gratitude = denial angle — I’ve never thought of it that way but I get it.

    And welcome to the world of 365 Instagram projects! I’m 136 days into mine and, damn, it’s hard. But definitely a great exercise.

    I love that pic of the tree bark!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t take credit for the tree bark. When I originally posted the photo I gave credit to my b/f. And this time, I didn’t even bother. Hahahaha. Ooops.

      Yeah, I knew you were doing some sort of project, but thanks for the reminder I’ll check out what you are doing.
      My fears exactly, I worry about the committment and wanting to quit midway though! Agggg!

      Like

  4. I love it. Happy Birthday. I’m 43 TOO, wahoo! We’re so awesome. I have a happiness journal where you’re supposed to write at least one thing that made you happy that day. Sometimes I use the space to vent, but it does help me realize gratefulness. I love the photo aspect of it. I think that would be harder, but also keeps you thinking about it (gratefulness) more throughout the day vs. just at bedtime.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OMG. We have the same first name, have roots in Hawaii AND we are the same age. My goodness, there is too much awesomeness going on here for sure 😉

      I think it will be harder, but your IG photos are so pretty and lend themselves to moments of gratitude rather easily, don’t you think? You take photos of what you love.

      Sooooo, I hope I can do it. Thanks for the well wishes, Lani! 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Just be kind to yourself, Lani. That’s all.
    I enjoyed this post because you revealed major personal earthquakes when you were a young teenager and onward. As an American child in Thailand, you saw poverty in ways many North Americans don’t see at all while in North America.

    ” I’ve felt gratitude on an intellectual level, maybe even on a spiritual one, but I’d like to experience it on an emotional level, too.

    I mean, can you imagine if you wrote down something shitty that had happened to you for 365 days, how you would feel by the end of that project?”

    While on one hand I agree that dwelling everyday on the negative is not helpful, blithely saying /thinking something positive that doesn’t address major personal upsets/problems doesn’t help either. I guess abit of both…personal gratitude over small daily things that actually are big pluses (ie. ability to walk) and a friendly listener who can help think through major life’s problems.

    I don’t blog daily so I won’t be joining you Lani 365 days. I’m just happy whenever you visit my blog world and hopefully, you are too when I visit. May we both be around for a long time, blogging away and visiting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. Having someone to listen to you and who truly cares about you is such an amazing treasure. And if we’re walking together, even better. How I love a good walk and talk!

      Oh, I won’t be blogging daily. I’ll be posting on Instagram. I can’t imagine blogging daily. I’d hate to bombard my readers w/ too much me.

      Yes, I appreciate your visits and I’m glad to hear that you feel the same way too. Hugs!

      Like

  6. Wow Lani, I really appreciate your perspective in this post. It’s amazing how having a difficult childhood (your father’s passing) inspired you to think positively. I faced a lot of difficulty as a child too (my father suffered brain damage) but to be honest I didn’t deal with it well – I was angry at everyone and full of self pity.

    It wasn’t until my early twenties I started to appreciate gratitude. Travelling and a book really helped change my perspective (The Poisionwood Bible btw – my fave book ever.) I don’t have an active gratitude practice, but I feel a bit like teenage you sometimes; on some days I’ll just break down and have a cry about all the horrible things in the world and how lucky I am that my life has turned out the way it has.

    I won’t join you on Insta (I’ve actually tried this before but I’m hopeless with daily updates) but I’ll give it a try in my journal (and I’ll definitely be following on IG!) Thanks for giving me something to think about 🙂

    PS: You’re 43!! From your photo I thought you were in your 20’s (which is why that comment you left on my blog the other day really confused me!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was actually rather melancholic when I was a child, but my experiences brought to my awareness ‘haves and have nots’ and being really thankful for at least having a mom.

      Yeah, I’m actually nervous about making the IG committment. I hope I can power through!

      20s – Hahahahhahahaa. What? OMG. Nutters. Yeah, I’m an old bird. I haven’t been mistaken for being that young since I was that young 😛 Thanks though!

      Like

  7. Yip, it is all about perspective, but I also think that growing older has helped a lot in how I embrace gratitude on a daily basis. Having lived long enough to experience difficult times, not only puts my blessings in perspective from a more global view, but a very personal one too. I try to express my gratitude not through outward symbolic actions, but simply living it. And a bad day never erase the deep knowledge of how lucky I am. I also believe that the more I focus on the things I am grateful for, the more I have to be grateful for. My husband and I daily remind ourselves and one another of the countless things we have that inspire gratitude. And those reminders are especially important on days of disgruntlement. That said, I view discontent as a valuable tool to gauge when change is necessary.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s nice that even on bad days you can remember to be grateful. I need more of that. Especially when I feel like the universe is consipring against me 🙂 It’s difficult though, not to feel guilty about complaining knowing all that we know about the injustices of the world.

      And yes, discontent is a great gauge re: when change is necessary. Thanks Jolandi!

      Like

  8. “It was a kind of denial, really. I mean, yes, I knew there were things I needed to address and even accept, but I foolishly thought if I focused on the positive, then things would get better. I’d have a better attitude. I’d be doing the work. But I stopped writing, I had stopped pouring myself on paper and my gratitude list was just another way of living in dysfunction. It had become the equivalent of writing “I’m happy” over and over again – when I was clearly not happy.”

    This is what put me off from officially putting down on paper/virtual paper my daily gratitudes. I felt like it could be hiding something that I shouldn’t be hiding. And to be truly healthy, mentally, I need to face those things that I’m hiding from. It’s really reassuring to know that it’s something that someone else has gone through 🙂

    At the beginning of this year I knew I had to make a change. Last year wasn’t bad as such, but i found myself focussing a lot on the negatives. The things I didn’t have. The things I failed to achieve. Especially looking negatively on the weekends – for some inane reason i was never happy with them. So i made a change at the beginning of this year. At the end of every weekend one of the last things I would tell my OH is what my favourite thing was on the weekend, and ask him his. Even if it was something as seemingly inconsequential as watching a film and having a beer. I wouldn’t say I forced myself to be happier or more grateful, but I’ve forced myself to realise that I’ve got a whole lot to be happy about. Like you said, I’ve got 10 fingers and 10 toes!

    Very tempted to join in with you on instagram with the #365grateful hashtag. It’ll definitely kickstart me into taking more photos too which I’ve been trying to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like the idea of giving IG some oomph, some meaning and focus, so combining this w/ #365grateful seems like a good idea – for me, and hopefully, you too 🙂

      It’s easy to fall into a ‘negative Nancy’ trap, but as long as well pull ourselves out of it, that’s important, in the end.

      I knew a parent who would ask her daughter, “What’s something good that happened today? And what’s something bad that happened today?” I thought it was the mom’s clever way to fish out information from her kid and I don’t mean that in a positive way.

      I think we have a tendency to dwell on the negative much more longer than the postitive so why not push a little more towards remembering the positive? As a species, we seem to need it.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. “the kind of inner earthquakes that brought me to my knees.” I really like this phrase a lot, and at the moment I can relate to it a lot 😛

    Gratitude. Luck. They lie in the simplest things. Like Autumn said, the part that resonated with me the most was in the middle of the post, when none of the students put up their hands. Maybe they were thinking deeply, or maybe they are a group that always wants more. I think that applies a lot to the younger generation these days.

    Sorry to hear you’ve been going through a rough patch. You seem so chirpy all the time – at least that is how I envision Lani 🙂 Good on you for doing the gratitude list and having a good sense of humour about it. I don’t think I’ll be able to do it since I’m a rather disorganised person by nature. Maybe I’ll do it in my head.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Doing it in your head works, too. I used to say a little gratitude mantra when I was driving to work in Thailand, or when I do yoga, it just naturally kicks in, I don’t have to think about it.

      My students probably don’t think they are lucky because they are bombarded with images of the super rich and successful. It’s hard to feel thankful when you long for so much more than what you have. I understand.

      I’m glad parts of my post resonated with you. Thanks Mabel!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Sounds like you’re peeling the onion, layers by layers. Been there, done it. It can be healing on different levels.

    When the world comes crashing around us, it can prompt us to be the best, one can be. I try to make the best out of the situation by giving the best of myself. It lightens the load and the reception can be awesome. There’re always sad people around. That’s life! If it makes them happy, enjoy!

    Big hugs. Stay strong, stand tall.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Lani,
    Happy birthday to you.
    You’re in the same age group as me!
    Hope you have many more happy years of blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. V stands for my middle name and Cox is truly my last name which I know is confusing because I’ve never been married and I’m not British 😛

        Long story short, my father took on his adopted father’s last name.

        Like

  12. An excellent post, Lani. I haven’t tried Instagram. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll look into it. Your pictures are wonderful. I like the idea of being grateful for the small things.

    Last Sunday was a so-so day, comfortable and cloudy. I had no opinion either way. Then I looked at the newspaper temps. Manila: 97 for a high, 79 for a low. I remember that heat and the long, unscheduled power interruptions, sometimes every day, sometimes for 5 or 6 hours. And I felt grateful for our 65 degrees. I’ve never done a gratitude journal, but most days I think about what I’m grateful for. Often it’s my last thought before I fall asleep.

    You mentioned luck. I read recently about a study that found richer people are the least likely to believe their success has anything to do with luck, when, of course, it often has everything to do with luck. They want to believe it’s all a result of their intelligence and hard work. The poor just didn’t try hard enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting bit about luck and I believe every word of it, especially as it pertains to the rich thinking poor people are to blame for their welfare. Makes me angry!

      I like how you think about something you are grateful for before bed. Nice.

      Right about now I’m missing ‘normal’ weather. We have been getting some rain, but we need more! Thanks for following along Nicki!

      Like

  13. I used to keep a gratitude journal but admit that I got lazy and stopped. I like the idea of the instagram journaling. It’s a visual remembrance which is so different and for some reason feels like the memories will be more vivid. I am gonna try it… Think I will start tomorrow! Thanks for sharing more about yourself and this cool new thing to do! Hope it’s starting to cool in SR, it just started raining here in Phuket (Thank goodness!). I am thouroughly enjoying the freshened air and cooler temps. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you’re hooked on the idea. Yeaaa! Another #grateful poster!

      It has started to rain here and we had a crazy storm the other night. So, temps have dropped, but the humidity has skyrocketed. Whaaaa. But I’m glad we are getting rain and I hope it keeps coming. NO more drought!

      Like

      1. It is interesting to read about your conversation with andthreetogo with regard the current weather in Phuket and Siem Reap. It does bring back memories of my time in Phuket (in 2010) and Siem Reap, few years back.
        By the way, I will be travelling to Bangkok this coming June. Hopefully, the weather will be fine.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Happy birthday Lani! A worthwhile project if you ask me.
    I say that gratitude is the cure for all that ails me, I like how you touched on denial of reality in the name of gratitude as it can become a mindless activity and an ‘escape’ route.

    I find that gratitude shifts my focus and lifts my spirits. It enables me believe in possibility in the face of impossibility. I remember how I pulled through difficult circumstances and as I’m grateful for those, I’m filled with hope and faith.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I needed to read your comment today, Timi as I’m feeling rather low spirited. Thanks for the reminder. And I love how you put it, ‘mindless activity and escape route’ – wished I had said it like that!

      Okay, I’m off to put on a more grateful mood and breathe. xxoo

      Liked by 1 person

  15. “Bucket baths”…He hee…Lots of homes here have those.

    I haven’t had lots of things to say thanks for myself these past years, especially not recently. But I just try to still remember to give thanks for the small things. We can never really learn to appreciate if we don’t notice the small blessings first.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, it’s nice to see you again. Are you getting back into blogging?

      And yes, I agree, gotta count those big and small blessings. 🙂 Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yep! I’ve been back blogging although still not as often as I wish. I have been writing on my notebook but usually have no time to type the words down. Ugh….Oh, and I added you to my links of fave bloggers (I call it Blogville), just so you know. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  16. I struggle with having gratitude too. I have been trying to write three things I’m grateful for every day on a sticky note on my laptop screen. However I have been ignoring it for about a week and a half now. But I’m going to resume starting it again today.
    Urghhh it’s so hard to be grateful when you grew up with the best or spoiled. But we must do it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a nice practice and there is a reason why it has caught on in mainstream culture. But like any new habit or change you are trying to create, don’t be too hard on yourself for not doing it everyday!

      I find myself writing down more than one thing. I think forcing yourself does help get you going, but eventually it has to be something you enjoy doing.

      Hope you keep with it. Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yep, starting a new habit is a hard thing, and I’m learning to not beat myself for it.
        I’m actually proud for doing the gratitude thing, since I have a hard time being grateful about things, but being grateful is something we can’t take for granted.

        Like

Comments create conversations. Let's talk.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s