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Circles of Influence

Summer is at last upon us, and I don’t know about you, but every week simultaneously feels like an instant and a million years. There is so much going on all around us, and if you’re one of the lucky ones not feeling overwhelmed by it all, go out and buy yourself a lottery ticket, because it would seem you’re one of the very lucky ones!

I heard a brief talk recently that explained one way that a person could find peace in this extremely chaotic time. The idea wasn’t new per se (in fact, I think it was first referenced in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”) but helpful nonetheless. The speaker talked about two circles: the circle of influence, and the circle of concern. The circle of influence, he explained, was the circle of your immediate life: your self, your family, friends, neighbors, and so on. The circle of concern encapsulated all of the “big issue” things that concern us: our health, financial status, relationships, society at large, etc. It’s called that because those things concern us, and we are concerned by them. The trouble is, though, that a lot of those things that concern us are things that we ourselves have very little control over, and when we sort of blur those circles together, we tend to fall apart. His solution? If you want more peace in the chaos, focus your attention on your Circle of Influence more than your Circle of Concern.

Now, that makes very logical sense to me, but I can see the challenges with this that would easily pop up in my own life, mainly through social media  Because my news feeds and all of that content is shared by people I (mostly) know in real life, it can become overwhelming to sort through the things I can change vs. the thing I can’t.

Does this mean that we can’t affect change on a broader scale? I don’t think it does! I think that it means that the actions I choose to do will, I believe, work outward. I can’t “fix” (or my personal favorite, “control”) really large things that affect millions of people. But I can do my share. And I know that it sounds little, and small, and silly, but hey, something is better than just worrying about how terrible things are and how no one will ever be able to fix them. My effort, and yours, and everyone else’s, can grow and can change things.

But it’s really difficult. It’s not easy to look at our lives and figure out what we can change.  It’s really hard to think outside ourselves. But we can do it, even if we fall short.

I heard a story once about an American woman who read about Mother Teresa’s work in Calcutta, how she used to help the utterly poor and those near death, the ones that no one in society wanted anyone to do with. And, in her zeal and inspiration, this woman traveled to Calcutta, met up with the Sisters of Charity, saw with her own eyes the desperation and the pain and the degrading poverty, and…she just couldn’t do it. She couldn’t help. She had read about it and thought she knew what it was going to be like, but she saw it with her own eyes and just couldn’t move – she was too overwhelmed by it. One of the sisters who worked with Mother Teresa saw this woman’s struggle and didn’t kick her out, didn’t send her back to America. She just asked her to come with her and to help her do the work that needed to get done. Even that little help was enough.

Mother Teresa had that famous line, “Find your own Calcutta.” She knew that there are people in our own lives that suffer immensely, even if it’s not from material poverty. If we stayed home and did that, that would be enough.

It all feels so loud out there. So overwhelming. So in the next few days, try to figure out what your circles are – write them down or draw them out, if you would like to! And see what you can do for your own circle of influence. I hope some peace comes from that both for you and for those who will feel it coming from you!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Young girl on a swing in the park alone

Life Goes On

When my mother died in a January that’s been years ago now, I was surprised by how swiftly the rest of the world continued to operate. It moved forward unrelentingly, singly-focused, completely churning along as it always had. It didn’t skip a beat, not one: the sun still rose, the February weather was still frigid, waves of the oceans still approached and receded from the shorelines. I don’t know what I’d expected; of course the world would go on. My world, as I had known it, was so different, but the world at large had no idea. And I had resented it a little, at first – didn’t everyone understand what a big deal this was?

(My mother used to tell a similar story, in the opposite way, every year on my birthday: “When you were born, I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t on the front page of every newspaper. Didn’t everyone understand what a big deal this was?”)

Death, birth.  The world kept turning through both of those things.

I thought about this the other day when I saw a friend of mine. I was trying not to huff and puff too loudly as I walked up the hill of our street (a couple of months in isolation without strenuous exercise can make anyone winded pretty quickly these days), and I waved as I approached her driveway from the requisite six feet away.

“How’s it going?” I asked, the way I asked everybody who’s been under lockdown for weeks on end, in that tone that clearly implied that I knew exactly how it was going.

Only I didn’t know. My friend stood still in the driveway, her boys playing behind her, and told me the news as I stood across the street, six feet away.

“I found a lump.”

Aggressive breast cancer in a 36-year old mother of two little boys, a tremendous wave of uncertainty in a time that already feels like a tsunami. And still, the world rolls on.

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One of my favorite traditions around Mother’s Day is to watch the BBC version of “Little Women” that came out just a couple of years ago. Every time I watch it, I’m struck by how death and birth exist so closely to one another. When someone dies, two little ones are born. Bad things happen, but so do the good. There is War, and separation; but there are also weddings and reunions.  

It is not lost on me that the world, although it looks and feels very different than it did just a few months ago, is still home to not only terrible things, but good things, too. All of the precautions we are taking to combat the coronavirus are also shedding light on things that we really enjoyed and miss, and can’t wait to take part in again. We are, like it or not, learning that for all the things in our lives we can control, there are so many that we cannot.

There are plenty of terrible things to see in the world, but there are also beautiful things.  They may be harder to find than they used to be (in fact, I’m sure of it); but maybe it’s a comfort to you to know that they are there. Maybe we can seek them out more than we used to, now that we are beginning to understand the importance of seeking the beauty around us. And I totally understand how frustrating that exercise is if you’re stuck inside… but is there a way the light hits a table in a way that is beautiful to you, that you’ve never noticed before? Is there a curtain you could pull back, or a blind you could roll up, or a photo you could move to a more prominent place in your home space to look at that reminds you of love?

Think of the smallest thing you can, then try to find more because just as the world rolls on through sadness, it’ll roll on through joy, as well.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Mother with little daughter playing in a autumn field

Hold Things Loosely

There’s been a lot of talk about sacrifices these days, especially in comparison to the past. There’s the usual talk about how people today would never have been able to “hack it” back during times of real struggle, like during World Wars and Great Depressions; but there’s also some good discussion out there about how best to put the time we’re in right now to good use.  And what I’ve found most appealing so far hasn’t been pep talks like “Now’s the time to write that novel you’ve always wanted to!” (Which I think puts a ridiculous amount of pressure on an already unstable situation, but anyway) It’s been articles of historical value: “Here’s how people got through the really hard times.” It’s concrete history that’s shown us how resilient we’ve been as a species; and if you ask me, it’s helpful to remember that we’re just as resilient now, even if it looks a bit differently. 

In the face of all of this uncertainty (and who doesn’t see it everywhere they go these days?) I’ve found it’s best to “hold things loosely.” To think ahead and to hope, but to not put too much stock in what’s coming because it might be taken away more quickly than we think. Pennsylvania is operating on a tri-colored tier, and although it’s tempting to fix our eyes on the “green” phase of operations, it may be a good practice to realize that we could get kicked back to the “red” zone pretty quickly.

When the shutdowns first began, my kids’ school moved pretty quickly to shuffle everything online. They’ve done a wonderful job, and my kids do benefit from the one-on-one instruction that I cobble together to supplement their teachers’ videos. But I still find myself so thrilled by the PA Department of Education’s report that they expect students to be returning to their brick-and-mortar schools in the Fall. I dream of the day in just a few months when my kids can step on the school bus, fresh supplies in their bags, ready to start a new year, all crisply new amid the backdrop of all of that uncertainty.

But I’m learning not to hold on to even that so tightly because we just don’t know. We just don’t know what it will look like in even just those few months. And lest the disappointment be even worse than the hope, I’m finding it’s better for me to keep hoping, but also plan for things just in case.

We’re all in that boat, aren’t we? We’re all in this shared situation of having to wait, and I think it’s a sure bet that by now most of us have grown accustomed to disappointment. But before we go swimming into all of that despair, what are some ways we can find to balance out our disappointments? What are the small hopes we can believe in that can temper our temptations to believe that the world will be forever terrible? How can we hold things loosely in our lives and gain the freedom that comes with that flexibility?

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Boy holding a magnifying glass showing a big eye next to the door

Follow the clues

For all of the reasons I hate living with an anxiety disorder, there is one reason I’m glad for it – helping others through it. One of my children has a lot of anxiety too, and because I have lived with it for so long, I’m able to help guide him through his experience.  (Although, to be honest, sometimes it feels like the blind leading the blind!) I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for parents to help their children who do not themselves suffer from anxiety, because it is just an intricately difficult mindset to understand if you don’t already experience it.

One way I’ve been trying to help him, and this is a technique that I’ve found really helpful over the years, is to introduce the idea of being a detective. He’s just about at the age where the idea of detective work sounds so exciting. So for every anxiety-filled thought he has that causes him a lot of trouble, we “investigate” it: look at it from every angle, trying to inject as much logic as we can into it to see if the anxious thoughts will hold or if they’ll fall apart.

Most times, it works relatively quickly, but it does take some effort, particularly because his body is hyped up from the fight-or-flight response that accompanies the worries too.  (We’ve found that it’s best to wait until his body is calmer to help him take in the questions better.) We’ll try to sit down and ask questions of his worry:

  • What worry are you feeling right now?
  • Where in your body do you feel the worry?
  • What really happened? (We’re looking for objectivity here.)
  • What evidence do we have that makes your worry true?
  • What would someone else think about what happened?

And we go from there. The more we talk it out, the better.  Of course, as a parent, it gets tiresome because I don’t always feel like stopping everything I’m doing in the moment (making dinner, or cleaning up, or helping with a school assignment) to sit down and address these worries with him. More often than not, I brush off his worries with a “It’s fine” or “Don’t worry about it.” But as someone who struggles daily with anxiety and worry, I know statements like that do nothing to help the situation. It really is worth the time it takes to untangle his worry and help him back on the path to a good day and, if it can wait, some time right before bed is also helpful, when our attention can fully be focused on him and his needs.

Being a detective can also work for you! What worry do you have that keeps popping up, robbing you of your peace and your happiness? Where in your body do you feel it? What is really happening, and what evidence do you have for what you’re perceiving to be happening? What would a trusted friend think about what happened? Give yourself time to think about it, write it down/type it out in a journal, and talk to a therapist or friend if you need outside affirmation and guidance.

This is just one tool that we can find useful in our supplies to help us rise above and conquer the anxieties in our day, and can help us see more clearly as we go about our daily lives.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Woman enjoying a cup of coffee during healthy breakfast at home. Writing on notebook. Adorable golden retriever dog besides.

It’s Okay To Be Okay

A writer/comedienne that I follow on social media, Jennifer Fulweiler, shared an Instagram stories post recently that expressed her shock at the reaction of a friend of hers to the current quarantine.  “How are you?” Jennifer asked her friend. “Never better!” was the reply.

“Never better?” At first, I had the same reaction to Jennifer’s: pure shock. How in the world could that be possible? And yet, it was, at least for this woman. And you know what? I’m sure that it’s true for more folks than just her. And I think it’s perfectly fine!

You know the saying “It’s okay to not be okay?” Well it is also “okay to be okay!” It’s okay to realize that, all things considered, now that we’ve had over a month of self-isolation under our belts, maybe things aren’t as bad as you thought they might be. Maybe you’ve been able to find some bright spots and silver linings in between the disappointments and the sufferings. Maybe you’ve been able to play at some new hobbies: baking bread, learning to knit, trying your hand at poetry. Maybe you’ve been able to catch up on a few TV shows you’ve missed out on, or you’ve been walking around the block during the day and you’re watching Spring unfold in a new way for what seems like the first time.

Of course, I don’t think (even for the woman who is doing so well) that there’s anyone going through this that is all okay every minute of the day. Even when we didn’t have a pandemic going on around us, no day in our lives was completely wonderful for every single minute of it. And maybe the complete opposite of all of this is true, and you’re miserable. Maybe your days are filled with dread, or disappointment, or just plain old weariness. But just as things don’t have to be okay for every minute, they don’t have to be terrible for every minute either. If you do feel despair, fear and rising anxiety, please reach out – and if you can find a window, walk over to it, and look outside. Spring is here. The birds are singing, and the plants are growing. Plants are funny things. It seems like they’re completely bare one minute, and then the next, boom! Everything is in full bloom.  But they were growing all the time.

We’re growing too, in this time of quarantine. It may not feel that way – it still may feel a lot like winter to you, at least interiorly. But we are growing. We’re becoming more patient. We’re becoming more hopeful. When things are opened back up to us, we’ll be able to do things we love again, and maybe this time around, we’ll be better people for it.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Young sick woman in blanket with thermometer

Anxiety in the Age of COVID19

As human beings, we do not do very well with the unknown. Uncertainty and an undetermined future can create a level of constant worry that is often disproportionate and, at times, unmanageable. Anxiety manifests around that which we cannot control. What compounds this feeling is a sense that what is out of control should not be. When things feel uncertain, we don’t feel safe. However, it is okay to feel stressed or anxious, particularly when there is conflicting information around us.

Currently, most of us are worried about the Coronavirus (COVID-19). We may experience feelings ranging from helplessness to fear about what will happen in the weeks and months ahead. Again, it’s okay to feel this way. It may not feel good, but trying to push it away or act as if it doesn’t exist is the unhealthiest thing you can do.

In short, your mental health will likely suffer over the next several months.  You might feel on edge, nervous, angry, frustrated, helpless or sad. You might want to completely avoid any reminders of what is happening. “Normal” daily activities will alter drastically, and for those who already struggle with depression or anxiety the next few months will be quite challenging.

Remind yourself that you are in control to how you respond to any event (and anxiety thrives when you feel as though you have no choice). Yet, you are stronger than you may believe. Below are three basic things that can help you with your mental hygiene.

  1. You are not alone in this pandemic. Control what you can. Wash your hands. Remind others to do the same. Continue to exercise. Limit your exposure to the news. It’s healthy to update yourself once or twice a day, but over-consumption will have a negative effect. Checking your news feed every few minutes or every hour is not helping you stay informed, but it is helping you develop an unhealthy fixation. Also, limiting screen time is good practice regardless of the reason or situation.
  1. Social distancing does not mean hiding under a rock. Avoid crowds and close contact, but get outside. Exercise helps with both physical and mental health. Being in the sun and fresh air helps restore emotional balance and gives a boost to natural vitamin D levels. Stay grounded by being mindful to the world around you. Do this by noticing what your senses are telling you through sight, sound, taste, and touch. This will help you stay present and avoid projecting into an uncertain future. Remember, choice and change only occurs in the here-and-now.
  1. If you are feeling overwhelmed or need support, please talk to those you trust most. It’s okay to feel afraid or angry – it’s what you do with those feelings that matters. If needed, reach out for extra support or help. You don’t have to be alone, professional help is always available online with a therapist or counselor.

DUE TO THE FINANCIAL IMPACT OF CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19), eTALKTHERAPY IS NOW OFFERING LOWER PER SESSION RATES BASED ON YOUR FINANCIAL NEED.  Contact us today for further pricing details.

Be safe, be healthy, be well,
Don

 

Young girl and mother playing hide and seek

Seeking

“Mom, can you hide like this?” My four year old asked me, as she covered her eyes and started to walk through the room, counting “One…two…three…”

“Oh, you mean like hide and seek?”

“Yeah!”

I watched her walk, still counting aloud, with her tiny hands over her closed eyes. I put an arm out so she wouldn’t walk into the wall. “It’s not a good idea to walk when you’re counting,” I told her.  It’s best to keep your eyes open when you’re seeking.”

I thought about that last phrase for a while, after she uncovered her eyes and wandered over to start another game, this time with her dolls.

It is best to keep your eyes open when you’re seeking.  

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It’s such an interesting time in the world right now. We’re shown images – constantly, everywhere we look – of how we could (or, really, “should”) be. We’re also, in almost equal amounts, shown images and told words of how important it is to accept ourselves as we are. And we’re caught in the middle, staggering from one side to the other, trying to “be all we can be” while simultaneously trying to be perfectly satisfied with where we’re at now.

But are we satisfied? And can we ever be perfect?

The answer to both is probably no. We know we can never be perfect, because we know that perfect is an illusion. The person with one Instagram follower wishes for more just as the Instagram owner with one million followers does. The grass is always greener; the horizon is always just beyond; the kids could always be just that more well behaved; the dog could be better about shedding its fur all over the house.

So we know perfect doesn’t exist. But we could know that truth, understand it, and still not be happy with where we are today. We’re not satisfied, and that’s fair. Things may not be perfect but they could be better, and we can have a large part in attaining that for ourselves.

But we won’t, if we don’t seek it out for ourselves. And we can’t seek with our eyes closed.

It’s okay to look at ourselves objectively and work on ways to make ourselves kinder, more efficient, more punctual, less gossipy, whatever it is. It’s okay to say to ourselves, “You know, I love you and there are so many good things about you, but maybe we can start to work on this area of our lives so that not only others in the world will have an easier time of it, but it will help us too.” It won’t be a detriment to us to be more patient, or more loving, or more generous. It will, of course, in the short term. It’s not easy to be more generous, even though we want to be. It’s not easy to be kind, and it’s certainly not easy to be patient.  But we can be, even just a little bit more than yesterday.

In this season of Spring that will be here right before you know it, this time of renewal, what can we find within ourselves that can be cultivated, grown, tendered? How can we change for the better, and still love ourselves in the process?

How can we open our eyes?

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Woman puts roses in vase. Housewife taking care of coziness on kitchen decorating with flowers.

Flowers in Bloom

The vase needs water; at this rate, the flowers won’t last much longer. So I pick up the glass vase, still full of greens, reds, purples and yellows, and bring it to the sink. I lift up the stems, trying to avoid the thorny ones, and stream some fresh water in from the tap. I bring it back to its spot on the wide, flat windowsill, and admire the way it is a lively contrast to the bare, winter-naked trees just outside.

I only have one vase, at least that’s the way it seems. I’ve gotten a few over the years but they’re scattered somewhere, surely full of dust, and one full of old palms that have become crispy over time. I didn’t want to risk a pile of palms crumbling all over my living room floor, so all of the flowers have gone in the one remaining vase.

The red roses are the freshest, just a few days old. Lovely and plump for Valentine’s Day, straight from the grocery store (my unironic favorite – seriously, grocery store flowers last a long time!) along with armfuls of goodies for the kids. Then come the baby’s breath, then bunched in the middle is the wildflower bouquet from the neighbor, marking the four years it’s been since my mother died. She’s so sweet to remember, every year, without fail – one of the only ones who doesn’t need a Facebook post to be reminded.  This year was harder than the last, I think, for reasons I am not entirely sure of, and so this year the flowers (and their lovely colors, both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time) were especially welcome.

Such a simple thing, flowers in a vase, sitting on a windowsill. But it does not escape me that the roses, given to me on a day that signifies love, surround the flowers that remind me of loss. In this vase, love and loss do not exist without the other. I didn’t plan that arrangement. I really just pushed the flowers in where they fit, but there it is just the same; and it is because of this particular mix of flowers that I feel especially grateful today: that I am on all sides cared for and loved during the moments of my life that are the hardest.

My wish and hope for you is the same: may you always be surrounded by love and beauty, even in the most difficult of times.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

woman in red hat, sunglasses and suit of 90s with VHS cassette

The Things That Stay

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I went to the movies to see the new remake of Little Women. (I love the story, and the adaptation was pretty enjoyable! I’d recommend it.) On the way there, the song “No Scrubs” by TLC came on the radio, and although it’s rare to hear it, the station had decided to include the rap solo that usually gets cut out of radio edits. The rap mentioned the word “Filas,” which most members of the late Gen-X (of which I am a member) and the early Millennials will recognize as a shoe brand. They were the brand that everyone wanted when I was in high school. The most popular kids wore them, great pains were taken to make sure they were kept clean, and plenty of famous people sported them when they went out.

I do not intend any disrespect to the company, which is still around and I am sure continues to make fantastic products, but I had not thought about Filas in a solid twenty years before that car ride. That led me to wonder about the things that last, not only fads that have had their time in the sun, but the things that last for us personally. What are the things that you were so invested in decades ago that you’ve completely forgotten now? What personal claims did you stake? What were the biggest issues that consumed you and eventually fell away with time?

And for that matter – what things stayed?

Little Women was first published in the late 1860s and has been remade several times for a reason – its themes of sisterhood, young love, feminism and sacrifice have resonated with each generation that have come after it. Those things have all withstood the test of time. Plenty of books and movies have come and gone and will never be heard from again. (Although I did just hear that there’s another installment of the “National Treasure” movies in the works, so maybe not all is lost.)

It’s kind of funny to think about the things that stay. How the things we worry about so much only stay because we hold onto them so tightly. What are the things in your life that you’ve held on to – for better or for worse? We all have things we should let go of but we just can’t, no matter how hard we try; and maybe it’ll be years before we finally let them go. But there are things that we hope will be around a good long time more than we will, the invisible laws that are written on our hearts. Love. Kindness. Mercy.

If you have a few seconds, take some time to think about the things you want to keep in your life. What do you want to pass on to the next generation? What things matter the most, and which are just a flash in the pan? Maybe it would do you good, and all of us, really to orient ourselves and put our energies into those things, the lasting things. All the rest, as they say, can be history.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Attitude of Gratitude

Confession time: I don’t like writing thank you notes. I am thankful, of course, for the things I receive; and I very much appreciate the people I receive these things from but as a parent with very little extra time in my day, it’s hard to find the energy to sit down, pull out a stack of cards, and think of all I want to say to thank someone for a gift. And because I am of the unfortunate generation that grew up writing things by hand but transitioned to mostly typing on a computer, just the sheer effort of physically writing the words gets tedious a lot earlier than it used to. (I know exactly how absurd this all sounds, by the way. But it’s true!)

Although I don’t like actually writing them, I do very much love the idea behind writing them, because I understand that buying things – and especially making things – for someone else takes time, and effort, and thought; and it’s something that needs recognition and my appreciation! So this year, after dutifully writing down who gave what gift to each of my family members, I’m sitting down to write my Christmas thank yous; and doing so gave me the chance to think about the idea of gratitude and what it means to be thankful every day of the year, not just on Thanksgiving or after a birthday or when someone does something nice for you.

What does it mean to be thankful when it’s an ordinary day, when there’s work to go to and bills to pay and a family to cook and clean for? What does gratitude look like for you when it doesn’t appear that you have anything to be thankful for? How can we start living lives that are thankful even when there’s no extra reason to be?

Well, one way may be to look beyond the obvious. Sure, it’s easy to be thankful when someone shows up at your door with a gift or when someone helps you out; but we can start much smaller than that: by looking at ourselves. We’re not perfect, and not all of us have perfect bodies, but there’s plenty of things about our bodies we can be thankful for right now. Sure, you may have a bad haircut; but if you’re reading this right now, you have eyes (at least one) that can see this and a brain that can understand it. We can be thankful for that! If you can’t see and someone is reading this to you, then you have ears to hear it! We tend to be fixated on the parts of our bodies that we don’t like, but we can celebrate the ones that do. We can be thankful for our educations, our abilities, and the tiniest things that bring us joy.

We can even take it outside ourselves: there’s our families, our relationships, our cities, our communities. And even if those bring you pain, keep breaking it down to the point where you can find one thing to be thankful for about them. Sooner or later, you’ll find something and when you find one thing, you’re bound to find more.

Everyone knows someone who has been so beaten down by what life’s given them that they can’t see any of the good. If you know someone like that, please, please encourage them. Find something that you like about them and let them know about it because it can make all of the difference in the world. And if that someone is you, try – even just the smallest effort is something to celebrate – to find the closest thing to you that you can be thankful for. Even if it’s not joyful, it will help you learn to look for the good around you instead of constantly turning toward the bad. Slowly, slowly, little by little, we’ll begin to adopt the kind of lives that bring joy to others and to ourselves, so much so, that maybe we won’t just save all the giving thanks for holidays. We can really, truly live it all year.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.