Gay marriage inspiring me to live a more loving life

Today, I was going to write about the a-maz-ing concert my hubby and I just got back from. I was going to write about the crowd, the dancing and the pure showmanship of it all. And then I got on Facebook. There were hundreds of little red equal signs staring back at me. That’s when I realized my ode to Josh Ritter’s concert would have to wait–I was just too grateful for all the support that love was getting.

Human rights marriage equality sign

Human rights marriage equality sign

As we wait to hear the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA and Prop 8, I am grateful for how far we as a nation have come. When I was growing up (and remember, I haven’t even yet had my 10 year high school reunion), kids at my school used “gay” as a synonym for “stupid,” “bad,” “annoying.” My parents never allowed that sort of speech in our house, and would immediately correct my friends if they used the word in a derogatory way. I’m grateful I was raised in home that had no room for hate speech, but I’m even more grateful that an ever-increasing number of other homes are not allowing hate to reside in them. More and more parents are accepting their children for who they are, regardless of gender identification. I’m grateful that total love and equality are becoming the norm rather than the exception.

Most of all, I’m grateful that we recognize we still have a lot to do. Even if the Supreme Court does rule in favor of gay marriage, injustice and bigotry still exist. Hours after I changed my profile picture to the marriage equality sign, a former classmate of mine wrote, “If we start allowing gays to marry, who’s to say we can’t allow polygamy, incest, and bestiality? I mean, it’s all in the name of “love” right?”

To that person, let me say this: My definition of marriage is an equal agreement two people come to in love and respect for one another. In the slippery slope argument of allowing polygamy, incest and bestiality equating to permitting gay marriage, your definition of marriage must be an incredibly unhealthy one. Two men can love each other, treat each other with respect and have an wonderfully happy marriage. A polygamist, on the other hand, tells his wives that, while he may have sex with however many women he chooses to marry, they may only sleep with him. He has the control. He holds the power, thereby negating the equality.

So do all marriages fall into what I’ve described in my definition? I wish they did, but if that were true, domestic abuse wouldn’t be such a prevalent problem in our society. What I can say is that I have seen some beautiful relationships, healthy relationships, between two people of the same sex. And I’m grateful for that, because it gives me hope in marriage as an institution.

So today, I’d like to thank everyone I know who strives to live in love, rather than hate. Whether you’re gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, or still figuring it all out, thank you for choosing to live with respect. You inspire me.

48 hours of being grateful for gratitude

Oh-no-I-haven’t-written-in-two-days-and-I’m-so-sorry-and– Wait a minute. No I’m not.

How many of us have written this exact start to a post, only to realize that little break did a lot to refresh their writing and content? So today I’ll apologize for needing that break, for not being superhuman, because I really, really wish I were superhuman. What I won’t apologize for was taking that break, even though it did mean I missed engaging with my blogging community.

So what did I do in those two MIA days? I celebrated a coworker’s wedding, went out with friends, worked (a lot), and spent time with my parents and husband. These are all things to be grateful for, no question. Yet what I felt most grateful for during those 48 hours was the chance to approach life from a different perspective.

I’ve been in the gratitude mindset for over a month now, and believe me, it is an amazing mindset to be in. However, it’s pulled me away from my creativity mindset, my career mindset, and even my family mindset. Over the past two days I allowed myself to just be grateful. Gratitude was no longer an angle for a post, it just was

Tomorrow I’ll be back at my gratitude treasure hunt, but today, today I’ll just be grateful that I can feel gratitude.

Coming full circle, Part I

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, this weekend’s posts on gratitudeequation will tell a gratitude-filled story of how Ireland has given me my place in this world. I hope you’ll tune in for all three posts, and most of all I hope they inspire you to think about the places in your life that have given you more than you could have expected. Enjoy!

The room was hot and windowless and my British Literature professor’s voiced resembled the droning buzz of a bee. My eyes blinked, once, twice, over and over until I snapped myself to attention again.

I needed a distraction, and her lecture was not providing it. I wandered through my textbook, ignoring the section on Byron we were covering, flipping to the back. I turned the page and found this:

Image

 

I had never been a great lover of poetry until that moment. It woke me up, not just in the overheated classroom, but in life. I needed to read more of this poet, Seamus Heaney’s work. I needed to go to the Flaggy Shore in September or October. I wanted to feel something so strongly that it could blow my heart open.

That day, I was grateful for the poem because it awakened something in me that hadn’t been there before. It awakened some realization that I was a small, but vital piece, “neither here nor there, a hurry through which known and strange things pass,” to a much larger puzzle. That’s why I was grateful for the poem then, at the age of 20.

Today, seven years later, I have so many bigger, more earth-shattering reasons to be grateful for that poem. It gave me the only experience I will ever be able to say is truly my own. It gave me confidence that I had struggled to find prior. It gave me proof that all the little things really do come full circle in the form of something much, much bigger.

How, you ask? That’s a story for tomorrow, when we’ll cross an ocean, hitchhike our way along the coast, and meet a friend of a friend. I’m grateful for the chance to share it with you, and I hope you’ll come along.

The audacity of Gen Y

Kids these days. Who do they think they are? Pushing for equal rights, for equal pay, for the change they want to make in the world.

I’m grateful to be part of such a dynamic generation, but that isn’t the focus of my post today. The focus of my post is on those kids who are at the tail-end of Generation Y, the high schoolers and middle schoolers who impress me day in and day out.

I mentor a 13 year old girl at the local middle school once a week. The first time we met, we had a “get to know you” questionnaire to fill out together. After questions like, “What’s your favorite food?” What is your favorite thing to do on a Saturday?” we got to, “What is the most important thing you learned in the last year?”

“Um, it would probably be something that has to do with my job,” I said. “So… yeah. My job.” Wow, I can be so eloquent when the mood strikes me.

Without missing a beat, this little 13 year old beside me said, “I learned that it’s more important to have friends who really care about you than it is to be popular.”

Oh dear. I was way out of my depth here. This kid obviously knew a lot more about life than I did. Barely in her teens, she had grasped a concept I still struggled with. And her belief in that statement did not stop with her words. I saw her interact with classmates and friends, and it was clear she frankly did not give a damn about social status. Naturally, that made everyone like her that much more.

More recently, I became involved with a “gender equality club” at the high school. When I started my job last spring at a local non-profit, I was told this group of high schoolers loved volunteering for the organization. Subconsciously, I thought two things: 1. That’s great that they say they want to volunteer, but I bet I can’t count on them. They’re just high schoolers. 2. A high school club that promotes gender equality? It must be a bunch of girls.

They offered to volunteer at our fall fundraising event. Thirty of them had signed up, but I only assigned volunteer posts to fifteen, feeling certain that no more than half the teenagers would show up to volunteer at 6:30am on a Saturday. At 6:35, I had over thirty eager faces, both boys and girls, awaiting my instructions.

While I’m proud to be part of my generation, that’s not why I’m writing today. I’m writing because these kids floor me with their generosity and dedication. At this rate, the world’s problems will be solved within twenty years. I’d say that’s something to be grateful for.

Dear Mrs. Sperry: A letter to my past

Yesterday’s gratitude challenge was to write a letter to someone who has positively impacted your life. I figured I’d better put my pen where my post was, and started writing.

Dear Mrs. Sperry,

I paused. I hadn’t seen this woman since I was 17 years old. She, at the time, had been 82. She sent my parents a card very Christmas since we moved away from our neighborhood in Phoenix in 1989. She and her husband, Bill, had been our next door neighbors, our pseudo grandparents in my early years. We have countless family videos of me at age three, curly blonde ponytail sticking out, and Mrs. Sperry smiling in the background. In her mind, I was probably still a toddler with a squeaky little voice.

So I didn’t write much about the me of today; I wrote about the me she knew. I told her that every year at Christmas I still put out the little Santa doll she gave me, and that I still remembered her inviting us over to pick oranges from her backyard grove. I thanked her for staying in touch with my family for all these years and for keeping us in the loop on the old neighborhood. I told her I was sorry to hear Bill had passed away, but that I hoped her son was doing well and still lived nearby. I thanked her for the memories.

Putting the envelope in the mailbox, I said a silent prayer that she would receive it. It took me too long to realize a letter is always a welcome surprise, that I did have something worth writing to an old friend. So to all my friends, watch out. Your mailboxes are about to be flooded with letters from me, because I’m so very grateful for each and every one of you.

Who else has completed this week’s gratitude challenge? I’d love to hear all about your experience.

Gratitude Challenge #1 is waiting to bring you joy

We’re starting something new over here at gratitude equation. Every Sunday, I’ll be posting a gratitude challenge for everyone to take part in. It will help us get our week off to a very grateful start, and share the joy a bit! The first weekly challenge is below. Please feel free to comment on this post to share the results of meeting your gratitude challenge, because I would love to hear all about it! Then go ahead and challenge your friends and family to complete it as well. We’re starting a gratitude movement! I hope you all enjoy it:

Gratitude challenge #1

Sink or swim, it’s time we dive in

Many of my friends are artists on the side. They, like me, have some passion they work on nights and weekends when their 9-5 job is over for the day. We’re all a little shy about our projects, making light of them whenever anyone asks about how we’re progressing.

And then there’s my friend Meredith, an artist who dove straight in and within a couple of short years has quit that 9-5 job and is supporting her family solely through her art. We went out for beers at the new brewery in town last night, and her confidence made me grateful to know her. She doesn’t apologize for her artistic hopes and dreams, doesn’t downplay them. Instead, she proudly creates art like this:

Birdware Pottery

And then she sells it. For her, it’s just that easy. Her pride in her work made me question mine. My husband is the only person I know who is aware I have a blog and two unfinished novels hiding in my bedside drawer. The truth is, I’m terrified at failing as a writer, so prefer to let everyone think I’m, well, NOT a writer.

Instead of letting that fear dictate my actions, shouldn’t I instead be grateful there are at least 24 people out there (based off my last count of followers) that think my words are worth reading every now and then? Shouldn’t we all embrace gratitude and shun fear?

The answer is, of course, yes. But should and will are two different things. So I’ll continue to take my baby steps forward in my quest to be simply grateful for my talents and dreams. I hope you will too.

Oh, and be sure to check out Birdware Pottery!

Happiness is as easy as 1, 2, 3 (4, 5)

When seeking happiness, we have two choices: we can either chase after it, or sit back and realize it’s already sitting in the corner, waiting for us to notice. Happiness is in every laugh, every thought-provoking conversation, every good book, every hug, every day of sunshine. All we have to do is be grateful.

I’ve read a number of excellent posts today on the importance of contentedness. The theme of each was the same: enough already! It’s time to stop running after something we already have. That being said, we will all have those down days in which we don’t want to put any energy into being grateful. For those days, try this exercise and see if it doesn’t make you just a teensy bit happier:

Step 1: Write down one thing in your immediate vision that makes you grateful. It could be the couch your sitting on, the book on your bedside table, or the cup of coffee in your hand.

Step 2: Write down one person that makes you feel grateful. If it’s your spouse who is causing your sour mood, think of that friend who will listen to your complaints. If your boss is making life difficult, think of the coworker who has your back.

Step 3: Indulge in your surroundings. Surroundings are something we can’t easily change, so embrace yours. If it’s raining outside, curl up with a good movie and a cup of tea. If the sun is shining, go play frisbee with the dog. You’ll be surprised how your perspective can shift when you fully accept something you can’t control.

Step 4: Have one thing that always, always makes you laugh. For me, I nearly always bust up at The Daily Show’s “Moment of Zen.” Laughing will release the stress and give you instantaneous joy, right there in the moment.

Step 5: You should be feeling just a bit better now. All that’s left is for you to do something nice for someone else. It might just be shoveling your neighbor’s walk, or it might be calling up an old friend. Hey, it could even be reblogging a great post you read! My mantra remains, Want more? Give more.

Want more reminders of why we should be happy in the here and now? Check out these great posts: http://bepaulin.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/enough-already/, http://melissabear.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/gratitude-attitude-the-gratitude-journal/

So today, I’m grateful that happiness is waiting for me, inviting me to take a seat and stop chasing it. I think I’ll take it up on that.

A happy invitation