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.

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Coming full circle, Part II

Yesterday’s post was the introduction to a poem that has given me so much to be grateful for. Today, we’ll travel over to the Emerald Isle and  meet, for the first time, the physical manifestation of all that gratitude. I hope you enjoy, and come back tomorrow for the final chapter (thus far).

It was raining when I arrived at the Shannon Airport. Water clouded the windows and made the idea of leaving the airport’s shelter anything but appealing. Gathering my bags and zipping up my light jacket, I stepped through the automatic doors and into the misty rain. The puddles in the parking lot soaked my jeans as I hunted for the bus that would take me to Galway. I finally found it and climbed into its warm, dry interior. I was in Ireland and I had no idea where to start my search for the Flaggy Shore.

“And some time, make the time to drive out west,

Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore…”

Seamus Heaney’s poem, “Postscript” had lured me away from sunny Spain where I was studying, to the cold, damp Emerald Isle. I had been in Europe a month, attending a Spanish language school and struggling with the difficulties of being a foreign exchange student. Before leaving the U.S., I booked my ticket to Ireland with only a vague idea of what I would do once I got there. It was now the end of September and I was doing my best to make the time, as the poem suggested, to go west to County Clare and find the Flaggy Shore where I was promised I would discover a wild, glittering ocean, swans flocking to quiet lakes, and have an experience that would catch my heart off guard and blow it open. In short, I was looking to be inspired. Instead, I was soaked with rainwater and wondering what I was doing in this place that was foreign to me in every sense of the word.

After reaching my hostel in Galway, I found a map and examined every crevice of the country, searching for a sign of the Flaggy Shore. I came up with nothing. Sighing, I contemplated my options. I could either hope that the Flaggy Shore magically appeared on its own, or I could go looking for it, via a tour bus that would take me along the coast of County Clare. I figured that somewhere along the day tour I would run into the elusive piece of shoreline I had followed to Ireland. I booked my trip that same day and awoke early the next morning to catch the bus.

One of our first stops along the tour was at the Burren, or “rocky place.” In admiring the Burren, I saw a different version of what Heaney wrote about. Rather than the wind and light working off one another, I saw rocks and plants doing the same thing, making the landscape more beautiful by its opposing elements blended so harmoniously. Thankfully, though, I did find one piece of the poem’s picture of the Flaggy Shore: the grey lakes created by the stones. The Burren provided the perfect setting for small ponds to form after heavy Irish rains.

But my reliving of the poem ended there. By the day’s end, I had moved on to resignation. Maybe the Flaggy Shore and the essence of “Postscript” would forever escape me.

I tried to put my energies into focusing on the positive aspects of the trip: I was experiencing a new country, I was drinking Guinness in its homeland, I was meeting interesting people, I was being an independent woman, traveling by myself for the first time in my life. Still, I was feeling disappointed and filled my new journal with what I considered to be superficial travel notes. I viewed the absence of the Flaggy Shore in the leather-bound pages as a failure.

The next day I booked a hostel in Kinvara, a small village located in County Clare, a half hour’s drive south of Galway. I figured I might as well see a little more of the country while I was there.

Kinvara from across the bay

Kinvara from across the bay

The bus pulled into its stop in Kinvara and I descended. Not seeing the hostel on the main street, I asked a woman sweeping the sidewalk in front of one of the many pubs if she knew where it was. She told me the only hostel she knew of was about three miles up the road. I glanced at the heavy overnight bag uncomfortably slung across my shoulder, and inwardly groaned at the idea of hauling it more than a block or two. I went to a café and sat drinking coffee, considering my options. I asked the two girls working there if they had any suggestions for me, and they recommended I go to the grocery store across the street and ask if anyone was going towards my destination. I followed their advice, and a man and his young daughter offered to take me all the way to the hostel.

In typical Irish fashion, the man immediately began talking and asking me questions. I told him I was from Montana and he guessed that, being from Montana, I liked to take walks. Translating “walks” to “hikes”, I said, yes, I liked to take walks very much. “Well then you should try to make it over to the Flaggy Shore,” he told me. “It’s only about seven miles from where you’re staying.” My breath caught in my throat and it took every ounce of self-control I had to keep myself from yelling with joy. As calmly as I possibly could, I told him why I had come to Ireland. “Oh Seamus Heaney, yes, I know him,” he replied. “I went to law school at Harvard while he was a professor there.” This time, an excited squeak escaped me. I could not believe it. After giving up any hope of reaching the Flaggy Shore, this man had given me directions straight to it, and had provided me with a story to tell. I thanked him profusely and jumped out of his SUV the second we reached the hostel’s doorstep. I spotted swans flocking to a bay across the field, and smiled.

I dropped my bag off at the hostel, grabbed my camera, and started walking. I walked and walked, until I ran upon a small grocery store. “Excuse me, could you tell me how to get to the Flaggy Shore, please?” I asked the old woman behind the counter. Her response, given in the thickest Irish accent I had heard yet, was nearly unintelligible. From what I understood, I had to go to the main road, then turn right. I did so, but after about another hour of walking, my anxiety over the doubtful directions and the darkening sky coaxed me to stick out my thumb. I had never hitchhiked before and was a bit hesitant at first. Luckily, a nice German woman picked me up and dropped me off about fifty yards from the shore. I shouted my thanks back to her and practically ran to the sign that read, “Flaggy Shore.”

Flaggy Shore

I stood there for a moment, taking everything in. The grin on my face refused to go away as I strolled along the footpath. An elderly man and a dog were walking just behind me, and I started a conversation with the man. Giddy, I rattled off my entire story while he smiled and nodded along. He introduced the dog, Bingo, and told me Bingo loved to take walks with new people. The man walked ahead and Bingo became my fellow traveler along the Flaggy Shore. We stepped off the path and onto the rocks. I sat down to eat my lunch of Irish soda bread and Dublin cheese while Bingo sniffed around. I took in the stark landscape, rocky and gray. The glittering waves crashed against the rust-colored rocks and I scanned the pools for swans. Finally, my image of this stretch of coastline had a physical manifestation. It was subtler than I had imagined, with its colors hiding in the water and in the periodic rays of sunshine. There was no hint of the Irish green that had dominated the landscape up until this point. It was quietly barren, so different from everything else I had seen. This I realized, was why it deserved to be the subject of a great poem. Rather than creating yet another ode to the green Irish hillsides that would certainly be thrown in with all the other praises already sung to such a stereotypical landscape, Heaney had found the extraordinary, understated as it was. Sitting there, I felt the most content and complete I had ever felt in my life.

The following evening, I found myself once again at the Shannon Airport. My plane was not scheduled to leave until the following morning, but, due to a college student’s traveling budget, I had planned on sleeping in the airport. Curled up in a hard, metal seat, I reflected on how I had changed since my last visit, just six days earlier, to this same spot. It was nothing glaringly obvious. No life-altering decisions had been made. But I had changed, undoubtedly so. I burrowed under my blanket and dozed off with the sound of an Irish breeze and glittering waves playing in my mind, lulling me to sleep.

Best Moment Award

I am so honored to receive the Best Moment Award today! 

Best Moment Award, web awards, blogging awards, winners, nominations

Awarding the people who live in the moment,
The noble who write and capture the best in life,
The bold who reminded us what really mattered –
Savoring the experience of quality time.

RULES:

Winners re-post this completely with their acceptance speech. This could be written or video recorded.

Winners have the privilege of awarding the next awardees! The re-post should include a NEW set of people/blogs worthy of the award; and winners notify them the great news.

Acceptance Speech

Humbled? Yeah, you could say that. You could most definitely say that. When I started this blog last month, I never dreamed people would actually read it. For them to not only read it, but to like it? Unfathomable. Yet here we are, thanks to tworedtornadoes, who, by the way, has an exquisite writing style. But before I move forward, I’d like to take a few steps back.

My mother made me a published author at age three. She still has the book, the only copy of my first “published” story. My first grade teachers were the next to invest a whole lot of time and effort into my writing. Each month, they allowed every student to submit a story for publication, to be completed with a typewriter and cardboard cover. I was hooked. I, I told everyone I met, was going to be a writer.

And then, slowly, I realized this wasn’t something I could say I was going to “be” when I grew up. It made people smile in a knowing way that communicated, “How adorable. She still has hopes and dreams.” And so I started saying I was going to be something a bit more mainstream: a journalist, a grant writer, a teacher. These responses earned me a respectable nod and a, “Oh you’ll make a great (insert writing-affiliated career here).”

Then one day I woke up and that career wasn’t enough anymore. It was confining, allowing for minimal creativity in my writing. So I joined all of you, the blogging world, and felt like I was back in the first grade. Today I’m grateful for all of you who have liked my posts, become my followers, and most of all, for those who have taken time to comment. You take me back to the first time I wrote a story and saw the words come to life. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Most of all, I want to thank tworedtornadoes for encouraging me and finding my work worthy of this award. Secondly, I want to thank Michelle at Play for her upbeat, happiness-ridden blog. Michelle at Play, you’re my pick for this award. Congrats!

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!

Writing into the unknown

I have a drawer in my bedside table that transports me to other worlds. Tucked under some old photos and notebooks are two stories waiting to be completed. One is stalled 90 pages into the plot, waiting for that stroke of brilliance that turns the antagonist in the right direction. The other is barely four pages long, waiting for any inspiration at all.

I’m suffering a dire case of writer’s block with these two other worlds I’ve created. Yet even as I hit my head against my desk, waiting for the narrative path to unfurl before me, I’m grateful for what I have looking back at me from the pages: potential. Each story is at the crossroads of either falling apart entirely, or becoming a vehicle to escape the mundane.

Which, naturally, is why I’m stuck. But rather than force the characters down a story line they and I might not be ready for, today I’ll just be grateful. I’ll be grateful for the imagination I have dreaming these worlds into existence, grateful for the infinite roads I could walk down with these stories. Grateful for the potential.

freedigitalphotos.net

freedigitalphotos.net