Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Acting As If: A Plan for Change or Self-Delusion

Several years ago I was watching Oprah and one of her guests (I can't remember which one for sure, so I won't give a name) said that if you want your life to be a certain way you should behave as if your life already was that way. I was intrigued by the idea, but a little part of me thought it sounded more than a tad unrealistic. At the time, I'd never heard of the idea. Of course, now it's part of the common vernacular.

So, I started thinking about it. I could see how acting as if could lead one to take action to change one's life. For example, if one wanted a promotion, one might start dressing for the job, taking initiative to learn the requirements for the job, practice the skills necessary for the job, and take initiative to show one has the skills and knowledge to do the job. Perhaps that would even attract the attention of the person with the power to give the promotion. Maybe one would even get the promotion.

But, me having a writer's mind, also had to take things the other direction. Writers are experts at the what if game. You can't change other people's behavior and attitude though there are times you can change someone else's mood. So let's assume one had a boss who was verbally abusive and insecure. One could come in dressed for the job one wants, take initiative, practice the skills for the desired job, display one's knowledge and skill set. Perhaps attract the attention of the boss... However, an abusive and insecure boss is going to see someone overdressed, trying to overstep boundaries, and usurp authority. The acting as if behavior is going to backfire. No promotion and perhaps a firing.

The idea of acting as if could even be dangerous. Take a person in a physically abusive relationship who decides to act as if the abuser isn't abusive. They approach the abuser as if the abuser is a nice, rational, reasonable person. Abusers don't respond well to that kind of attitude. It tends to inflame the situation. Now the person ignoring reality while acting as if ends up injured or worse, dead. Some situations really don't respond well to acting as if.

We cannot control other people's behavior. We can act as if, but acting as if is essentially pretending. If problems exist, acting as if they're resolved only allows them to be ignored perhaps creating a sense of resolution that will never be met. Acting as if someone is meeting our needs when they're not only sets us up to be unhappy without the other person even knowing. Acting as if we have financial stability when we don't only leads us to debt we can't handle. Acting as if things are what we want them to be may lead us in that diretion, but it is just as likely to set us up to create a reality that doesn't exist.

I practiced the idea of acting as if for quite a while in many aspects of my life.

Acting as if can even be helpful in projecting an image of success. When I chaired Murder in the Grove, I didn't tolerate the committee voicing concerns over the conference's finances or attendance in public. In public, I insisted we adopt a positive attitude because people like to jump on something that is successful and that is projecting positive energy. We discussed our doubts in private, and some members didn't understand my insistence that we keep our concerns within the committee. I knew that if people thought there was a chance the conference wouldn't happen, they would wait to register. If they waited to register, it put our conference more at risk. So I insisted the public line be one that didn't lie but didn't give specifics. You keep people interested by sharing the excitement of the event not by sharing your worries about the event. So, in a way, one could say I encouraged my committee to act as if; however, even in moments when things looked iffy, I never doubted we would make it work. My committee's commitment to the conference gave me faith in our ability to put forth a product people would enjoy and would look forward to attending again. In the years I chaired the conference, we had our share of issues, but we always managed to pull off a successful event.

However, when I applied acting as if to other parts of my life, it lead me to be willfully blind to anything that didn't fit my idea of the life I desired. I didn't hear things I should have heard because they didn't support the life I desired. I didn't understand things that should've been clear because they didn't fit with the life I desired. I didn't see things right in front of my face because they didn't create the life I desired. I convinced myself that acting as if was creating what I wanted when it reality it was masking what needed attention. Acting as if has the potential to have the people involved inhabiting different realities that cannot intersect without imploding.

Acting as if can lead to some really fun fantasies. It is also a great way to brainstorm ideas for achieving one's goals, but living one's life based on acting as if is simply self deception. Self deception might be fun and interesting, but it doesn't help us find true happiness.

My books of poetry contain poems that address the idea of acting as if. To mention a few, Willful Blindness and You Believed are in Reflections in Silhouette: Poems, and As If is in Love in Silhouette.

I think perhaps instead of acting as if, it might make more sense to accept reality, make a plan based on what we want to achieve, and then excecute that plan. A portion of that plan may involve adopting a postive attitude, learning to feel more confident, or displaying skills formerly kept hidden. In some instances, this may even feel like acting as if, such as exhibiting more confidence than one feels or reminding one's self of one's abilities when exercising them, especially if those skills have atrophied from lack of use.

When we pretend to have confidence, skills, or attitudes that we don't, we come across as inauthentic, even to ourselves. When we aren't genuine, we lose the respect of those around us as well as ourselves. So let's not fake it until we make it. Let's figure out a way to actually make it. Then we'll never have to act as if in any situation be it a professional endeavour or a personal relationship.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Power of Gratitude

This morning I grabbed a pillow from my couch, tossed it on the bamboo floor, picked up the remote, and turned on the fireplace that hardly ever gets used. I stared into the flames for a moment and knew what the impulse was telling me. I sat cross legged on the pillow, placed my upturned hands on my knees and touched my index finger to my thumbs. I took a deep breath. I thought "Gratitude! Gratitude! Gratitude!"

Last year I did two to six minute gratitude meditations every morning. Sometimes I did them before I even got out of bed. Other times I did them sitting at my computer, petting Meme, and just breathing. Still other times I actually meditated on gratitude as I did some rote chore I'd done a million times. Sometimes I just found a quiet place to sit and sat. On a couple of mornings, my feelings of gratitude appeared without a conscious meditation. Each morning (okay sometimes it was afternoon) I posted one thing from that gratitude meditation as my Facebook status. I stopped posting a gratitude statement daily when the new year started even though I still meditated on gratitude every morning and wrote in my gratitude journal every night before I slept.

Last night as I sat staring at the television not comprehending the show playing, I realized I hadn't started my morning with a gratitude meditation in several days. It wasn't intentional. I have a host of excuses. My sleep pattern has been off. My routine has been interrupted. I have some personal issues I'm trying to resolve. I've struggled to focus on my writing. Chores have gone undone. I've had a couple of disappointments. So my frame of mind hasn't been particularly grateful or even positive.

Interestingly, one of the projects I need to be working on is a book on how spending a year focused on gratitude changed my life. It's hard to write about gratitude when you feel like all the changes you thought you'd encountered are taking a beating. You can imagine how well work on that particular project progressed this week. Yet, I sense that immersing myself in it will actually bring a whole new set of lessons to my life.

I sat there staring into the flames watching them change shape and just thinking "Gratitude" over and over until I actually started to realize I have things for which I am grateful. I was mesmerized as the flames almost seemed to spike with each moment of gratitude I felt and die down with each negative thought that presented a "yeah, but..." and spike again with each positive thought. This may have been my imagination, but I don't care, it took me where I needed to go. I felt my body surrender to the idea that if I open my heart and my mind, the answers will present themselves when the time is right. Of course, this doesn't absolve me of doing the work I need to do to find those answers, but it does remind me that there's only so much I can control.

One of the things I can control is my outlook. I can focus on the problem, or I can focus on the solution. I can focus on the negative, or I can focus on the positive. I can feel gratitude for the good, or wallow in misery over the bad. I can accept reality, or I can practice willful blindness. I can take action, or I can do nothing. I have the power within to do my part, but I can't do someone else's part. I can bring my best, or I can give up. I can give in, or I can fight for what's right. In the end, all I can control is how I handle each moment.

And, for that I am grateful.

That is the power of gratitude, my friends!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What If I Could Never Write Again?

"He could keep on living and still be dead." - A Gifted Mind

This statement made by the wife of a patient whose brain tumor had heightened his artistic ability on A Gifted Mind hit me hard. It's how I feel about writing. I would go through pretty much anything to write. If someone told me I could never write another word, I would feel as if I died. I know this about myself. One of my greatest fears is never being able to write another word.

I used to fear I didn't have enough talent, but I'm over that. I'm confident in my talent now. While I wish every word I wrote could be brilliant, I'm okay with knowing that that is an unrealistic goal. I can only write as well as I can write on any given day and trust that my best will be good enough.

I used to fear I would run out of ideas, but I no longer fear that either. On days when the ideas don't come my way, I feel confident it's just my brain's way of taking a rest, so it can give me something better later.

I used to fear that using my life to inspire my work might reveal things about me that would make people not like me. Letting go of that fear is on ongoing struggle. I find it sometimes interferes with my willingness to share my work. At times, it probably also causes me to hesitate when I try to write certain things. Yet, often the written word is the place where I feel the safest exploring that which makes me feel vulnerable. The idea of being vulnerable is never easy for me though I am working on it.

I've been writing my whole life. I tell myself stories to amuse myself as I go about most of life's activities. Somtimes these stories are good enough to make it to paper, but sometimes they just amuse me. I can't stop doing it. It's in me. It's who I am. I am a writer. I am an author. My biggest fear is that something will happen that prevents me from ever writing again. What would happen to me if some unseen hand or some unknown monster suddenly appeared to rip writing out of my life? For me never writing again would be a living death...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Standing Tall in Truth

I planned to write about equality today in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but instead I'm going to write about truth. Or, to be more specific, I'm going to write about the truth contained in each of us.

Martin Luther King Jr. never shied away from speaking the truth as he saw it. He never questioned whether or not others would agree with the truth as he saw it. He stood up confidently and spoke. He didn't shy away from acclaim when it was given him. He was a strong man. He knew the truth of who he was, who he wanted to be, and what he wanted for the world.

When I researched Martin Luther King Jr. while writing my novel, All She Ever Wanted, I was surprised to find that he often struggled with his own personal doubts, insecurities, and faults in private. This discovery gave me hope. It reminded me that greatness isn't perfection. In history, we often like to put a veil of perfection on those who do great things, and we forget that being human is what makes their achievements remarkable.

In All She Ever Wanted, the protagonist, Victoria, finds her ancestors' journals dating back to pre-Civil War days, and she reads them. They chronicle her ancestors involvement with the Underground Railroad helping slaves escape to freedom as well as the beliefs of her female ancestors on her father's side of the family. Victoria reads these with interest often feeling the internal conflict that fueled the actions described and sometimes feeling intense anger and embarrassment when her ancestors didn't live according the truth they knew. She also felt pride in having an ancestry filled with strong women who did live their truths even when they had to disguise those truths in order to live them effectively. Two entries in Victoria's grandmother's journal serve to remind us sometimes living one's truth isn't quite as simple as it sounds.

Excerpt from All She Ever Wanted:

It’s been an interesting week.  I mailed money, cash, secretly to Martin Luther King, Jr.  My husband would have fits if he knew.  He’s of the school that thinks the colored people should never have been freed.  He certainly doesn’t believe they should have the same rights as the rest of us.  I don’t really understand that.  After all, they’re people, too.  Anyway, there are rumors, Dr. King may be in a city near here soon.  If he comes, I’m going to lie and say I’m going shopping there, so I can go and hear him speak.  I have to keep my plans and my thoughts quiet though.  My lovely son can’t even know what I’m doing.  He would tell his father for sure.  My own father and mother wouldn’t be pleased if they knew, but they won’t know.  I’ll just have to be sure and buy a pretty dress before I come home.
            Victoria was impressed with her grandmother’s planning.  She was also proud of her grandmother’s convictions even if she hadn’t been able to make them public.  She stretched and sipped her water as she continued.
            I did it!  I’ll never be caught now.  I went and heard Dr. King speak.  What a wonderful speaker!  What a thrill!  To be there, to not get caught, to see this history maker in the flesh.  What a day!
Often we know the truth, but we're too afraid to take action. We hide behind our busy lives or we believe what the pundit on television tells us without ever stopping to think the pundit has his/her own agenda to push. We don't stop to think about the strength it took people like Martin Luther King Jr. to stand in his truth every single day of his life. We don't stop to think that if we all stood in our truths more often, we could affect the world for the better. We don't stop to think that if we just acknowledged that sometimes the truth is that confusion we feel as we learn what we've been taught by someone we respect is based on falsehoods rather than facts. When we accept that truth and look forward, we can begin to live for what we believe is right. We can stand in our own truths even on the days we have doubts or feel insecure about expressing our truth.

When we look at those we admire, such as Dr. King, sometimes it's important that we see them as humans first and heroes second. When we see them as heroes first, we lose sight of their humanity. That's when we drop a veil of perfection around them shutting out exactly what made their work so effective and so important. It's also how we excuse our own inaction when we know the truth. We use our delusion of their perfection to convince ourselves we can't be effective because we're not good enough.

In reality, we each make our own contribution to society. We have the power to create change in our lives, our families, our communities, our cities, our states, our world. It's up to us to use that power effectively and wisely. It's up to each of us to stand tall in our truth and strive to make the world just a little bit better even if it seems the change we're making is too small for anyone to notice.

When we strive to improve ourselves, we make the world a better place. Change must always start within, but it must be shared with others to impact the world. It may seem selfish to work on being one's best self, but I've learned that we can only offer our best to the world when we're willing to do the work to discover our best. I write about my journey to find my best self in my book of poetry, Reflections in Silhouette: Poems, in hopes that my journey will help someone else on theirs. Our truth ripples through those closest to us and spreads out to those who know them and then to their circle of friends and then theirs and then theirs and... pretty soon some small gesture you made has changed the life of someone you've never met and who you will never know you affected. That is the glory of standing in one's own truth. It's isn't about accolades or recognition. It's all about making the world a better place.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sorry, Laughter, Strength Stole Your Invitation!!

I thought 2012 was going to be my year focused on laughter... Turns out, my inner strength has decided it's her turn to shine. I thought I let her out last year, but she informed me last night our work isn't finished... Just like my vulnerability popped up the other day when I found myself trying to express something to a friend that I just can't express yet and reminded me that our work isn't quite finished either...

The past few weeks I've been having some revelations that I'm not quite sure what to do with. What I do know about them is they are screaming that if I start denying my strength again, I'm going to regret it!

See I've been tempted to deny my strength again for many of the same reasons I pushed into into a dark corner years ago. I can keep the peace. I can maintain the status quo. Certain people like me better when I'm not so strong. Certain people really don't like it when I live in my strength. Sometimes being strong costs you...

Yesterday revelations were hitting me like I was their own personal speedbag. I couldn't keep up. I tried to roll with the punches, but I soon became overwhelmed. I still don't know exactly what all that means, but I do know I need to listen to my life.

With all those punches coming one right after the other, I didn't know what I was going to do to get myself in the right frame of mind for my evening plans. A distraction presented itself and I latched on to it. It worked. My frame of mind changed. I smiled. I laughed. I joked. I played. By the time I pulled out of my garage, I knew I would be okay for the evening.

I drove to Salem for the Willamette Writers Salem Chapter meeting with my mind focused on music, possibilities, and just being my best self. Before the meeting, I met with author and friend, Jennifer Fields for a little chat. Then we went to the meeting together. Christina Katz was the presenter for the evening. While Christina's message wasn't exactly new to me, it was exactly what I needed to hear. Some times reminders can be as important as new information. In a scary way her presentation lined up with several of the revelations that had been punching me all day. A couple of the things she talked about perfectionism getting the way of progress and the importance of surrounding one's self with positive people and letting negative people go. Her presentation didn't lead me to any direct answers, but I did walk away from it with the realization that my revelations may not be paranoia or irrational or unfounded after all. I'm not sure that's the message I wanted, but perhaps it's what I needed to hear.

I drove home with my thoughts racing but concluding that no matter what has happened in my life, I have survived. That is strength. I haven't always thrived, but I have always survived long enough to find my way back to thriving. Even at times when I've felt weak and trapped, my strength has bubbled under the surface fighting to break free. And perhaps that's what's at the core at all of those revelations using me as a speedbag yesterday.

So when my life screams at me that I can't force laughter, I have to let it find me, and it won't until I'm willing to embrace that I'm strong enough to let it live with me, I have to listen. If I don't, life will keep punching me until I do. So, Laughter, I'm not rescinding my invitation, I'm just saying I won't be begging, pleading, cajoling, or bribing you... You are always welcome, so come at your leisure.

In the meantime, Strength, it looks like you and I are best friends forever! Welcome! Let's play, let's grow, let's learn, let's reflect, let's laugh, let's love, let's LIVE!!!!

Laughter: Please Stop By For a Cup of Hot Cocoa...

Last month I wrote an email to a friend that got a little too serious. It was unavoidable but not where I wanted to go. I ended it by saying that I thought I might focus on bringing more laughter and fun into my life in 2012...

I now realize that's one of those things that might be easier said than done, but I've never been one to shy away from a challenge!

In 2010, I focused on making myself more vulnerable. While that may sound nuts, it was something I really needed. I learned a lot from it. If you want you can read about the results of my experience making myself more vulnerable. Vulnerability, I Once Considered You a Curse Word.

In 2011, I focused my life on gratitude. I've blogged about that a few times, and I'm working on a book about the experience.

Now that I've decided to focus on laughter in 2012, I've realized something. Laughter can't be forced. It can be invited in. It can be discovered. It can be cherished. It can be searched for. It can be found. But it can never be forced. Well, genuine laughter can never be forced. Of course that fake crap can.

So I'm inviting laughter to visit me on a regular basis. I'm allowing myself to laugh easily. I'm giving myself permission to enjoy laughter. I'm ready to seek out people, events, and activities that encourage me to laugh. I'm opening myself to living a life that puts as much importance on laughter as on the serious stuff because I've realized just how much I enjoy laughter. And, how much I enjoy people who make me laugh.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Good Little Girls, Don't Let Anyone Steal Your Strength

I love the people in my life who help me feel my own strength. I'm not talking about those who make me fight them to demonstrate my own strength though they do serve a purpose as well. For the purposes of this post though we're going to focus on those whose mere presence in your life make you feel, understand, and embrace your inner strength without a moment of shame or the need to downplay it.

In the song What It Feels Like for a Girl, Madonna sings "Strong inside but you don't know it. Good little girls they never show it. When you open up your mouth to speak could you be a little weak." and later "Hurt that's not supposed to show and tears that fall when no one knows. When you're trying hard to be your best, could you be a little less."

I love this song. I'll concede that the video is weird, and the decision to leave out the lyrics wasn't one of her smartest because the lyrics to this song are awesome! They do such an incredible job defining the experience of so many women and girls. They describe the inner strength women often feel they have to hide or temper in order not to be seen as bitchy or emasculating. Actually, I would define Madonna's decision to allow her husband at the time to influence the video so much a demonstration of her trying to temper her strength so as to not emasculate him, but that's conjecture on my part.

I learned to downplay my inner strength to keep the peace many years ago. Eventually, not practicing my strength lead to me not knowing how to access it when I needed it. I knew it was still there. I felt it rumble and push its way to the surface from time to time. I found it easier to access when I knew it didn't threaten other people, especially the men in my life. I just wanted peace in my life even if achieving that peace suppressed my inner strength and eroded my self-confidence in the process. I had truly learned to be a little weak when I spoke and to be a little less when trying hard to be my best. I hadn't just learned it, I had embraced it. I began to avoid my eyes in the mirror. This wasn't the woman I wanted to be.

For a long time, I didn't even admit to myself I had allowed this to happen. I went about my days pretending I was still the strong woman I'd been before, but that I'd made choices to channel that strength in a different direction. I convinced myself that when others criticized my strength, they were right to do so. I convinced myself that my strength was "bad" "wrong" "too much" "bitchiness" or whatever other words my critics deemed it. After all, my critics knew better than I did, right? If they said my strength was hurtful to them, who was I to argue? I even convinced myself that when I felt weakened or less than my best, it was growth.

One day I could no longer avoid looking in my own eyes and seeing the woman I was meant to be struggling to get out. I could no longer stand being told my strength was unacceptable. I'm not sure what the final straw was, but a series of conversations with people who knew me before I suppressed my inner strength contributed to it. There were those who bluntly commented on the weakness they heard in my voice/words or saw in my actions. There were those who simply alluded to it. But, in the end, it was the look I saw in my eyes, the weakness I heard in my voice, the feeling of holding back for fear my best would offend someone else, the denial of my work and my potential for success to keep from being perceived as emasculating that propelled me to stand in my own strength and let what would happen happen.

I discovered shortly after reaching the decision to embrace my own strength again that I really liked being around people who appreciated my strength and loved me for it. The people who never asked me to be weaker than I was, directly or indirectly, were the people who truly deserved a place in my life. It took a while for me to find my footing in my own strength, but each stumble proved to me that strong was better than weak. Trying my best and failing was preferrable to being less than my best. Being great was better than being perfect. Being me was preferrable to molding myself to meet someone else's image.

Of course, not everyone liked me stepping into my strength. It meant relationships were redefined. It meant I no longer took every criticism to heart. It meant I stood up for myself when criticized unfairly. It meant I didn't allow words meant to weaken me to do so. It meant I set new boundaries. It meant I no longer conformed just to keep the peace. It meant I realized I could stand on my own without being defined by someone else. It meant I was no longer controllable. It meant I embraced me as I saw me rather than as someone else saw me.

Every day I realize more and more that I want people in my life who are strong enough to appreciate me as I am, a strong woman who loves herself and isn't afraid to admit it.

If you haven't found your own inner strength yet, I hope you will begin looking for it. It is waiting inside you ready to burst forth creating your best self!!

My book of poetry, Reflections in Silhouette, is filled with poems about the journey to grow into one's best self including The Mirror, a poem about the experience of looking at myself in the mirror described above, and Sound, about embracing my love for myself.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Change: Embrace It or Be Held Hostage By It

Every year, people make resolutions and vow to change that about their lives which they don't like whether it be behaviors, personality quirks, or lifestyle changes. They make these vows as if somehow when the clock strikes midnight signifying the beginning of new year, they experience a rebirth that allows them to become someone different.

The truth is change happens to us every day of our lives in miniscule ways that add up to major changes. This is part of life. We can choose to embrace change, or we can fight it. When we embrace it, we give ourselves power to use the change we experience to grow toward becoming the individuals we most want to be. When we fight change, we stunt our growth and may even become stagnant in our lives.

The thing about change is that if you change because it's what you want for your own personal wellbeing, it's likely to stick. That's called growth. If you change to please someone else or because it's what's expected, it just isn't going to last. It may feel good for a while, and you may even enjoy it while the person you're trying to please is praising you. In the end though, changing for someone else breeds resentment and lots of it. That's called subjugation.

Every year I make a point of saying I don't do resolutions, and it's true I don't. I make an effort to invite and embrace helpful change into my life on a daily basis. I don't need a new year to start working out or write more or pursue some goal I've abandoned or improve my relationships or well whatever else isn't quite working. So I don't do resolutions.

I do, however, reassess my life from time to time - actually a few times a year - to see how I'm progressing with my overall plans. I do set yearly goals and set up a plan to meet those goals. I do make use of the yearly calendar for my project plans. I do look at what changes are taking place in my life and figure out if they're in my best interests, if there's something I can do to make them work toward my overall life goals, if there's a lesson I'm missing, or if there's something I need to do to better embrace the inevitable change in front of me. I just don't feel I need a new year to do any of these things.

Change isn't easy, and yet it is easy. We can't stop change, yet we often struggle to accept change. Sometimes the change we seek isn't the change we need. Sometimes we aren't really ready for the change we think we want. Sometimes we try to force change to bend to our will.

We have to be willing to understand ourselves and the change presented before it can be incorporated into our lives. This isn't always easy, and it's one of the reasons resolutions fail. We aren't listening to ourselves and the universe around us. We're so busy thinking that because it's a new year, it's the right time. But, when it comes to living and changing, a new year is really as arbitrary as any other day of the year for change. The time for change is when it feels right in our souls, our hearts, our minds, and our bodies. In other words, it's when life tells us to pay attention and take action.

Look at the change already occurring in your life. See if there's something you can do with that. Embrace it. Understand it. Guide it. Accept it. Use it to achieve your goals. Just think about it.

Ask yourself a very important question. Is that change you see the product of your desire to be a better your or your desire to please someone else?

Regardless of the answer, three more things to think about. Is there a lesson in this change that will help you be your best self as you travel life's journey? Is this change inevitable? Do you have any control over this change?

Then set about making a plan to embrace the invitable and use it to your advantage.

My book of poetry, Reflection in Silhouette, is all about change along life's journey to find one's self!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Year in Gratitude... Complete?

Yesterday completed my year in gratitude. This morning I woke up and started my gratitude meditation without hesitation. It was short but still... I logged on to Facebook and had to restrain myself from typing "is grateful for..." as my first status of the day. I know I can still post a gratitude statement if I so choose, and perhaps I will but I don't have to. And, I'm not sure how I feel about that.

I will continue beginning and ending my day with gratitude, but I likely won't do a daily Facebook gratitude statement. I like what focusing on gratitude brings to my life. It makes me feel better. It brings me in touch with love. It reminds me of my inner power. It shows me what's good in my life and what could use improvement. This leads me to realize what I truly want from life.

Embracing gratitude doesn't dethorn the roses, but it does help one decide which roses are worth risking the thorns.

I begin a new writing project this month as I take my year in gratitude project and turn it into a book! I'm excited to embark on this project and hope I continue to learn about gratitude as I delve into my gratitude meditations from last year. And, I hope sharing my lessons from my year in gratitude will help you embrace all the reasons in your life you have to be grateful.

My year in gratitude is just the beginning...