Thanksgiving is the time of year we stop and reflect on all the things for which we are grateful. And while practicing gratitude is a year round job, let's take advantage of the opportunity to formally reflect on the people, things and experiences that bring joy, appreciation and love into our lives, our relationships, and our world.
This past week I've spent some time contemplating what kinds of things I want to add to this year's gratitude list. I thought about being funny. I thought about all the "duh" things I'm grateful for (good health, family, friends, etc.) and I thought about all those things that happen unexpectedly or unnoticed. I decided that since the obvious is the obvious and my sense of humor may work for some but not for others, I would go with number three. So here's my top ten list of unexpected surprises (and some taken for granted givens) that bring gratitude into my heart.
I am grateful for
- The times when my dogs snuck out of the backyard and some stranger noticed, caught them, called me and walked the dogs back to my home, safely securing them back into my yard. Neighbors like this are what make a neighborhood feel like family.
- Those unexpected thank you cards that arrive in person or by mail, those that are hand written and express gratitude for something I did or said that made a difference. A thank you goes a long way and knowing you made a positive difference in someone's life is gratifying. I know email is convenient but the written word on real paper sends a whole different message.
- The woman who sends me a smile and a "have a great run" every time I pass her on the strand. Her warmth and smile makes my day and I appreciate her salutations every time. She extends a greeting to everyone she passes and does so without expecting anything in return. We should all be a bit more like her.
- All the people in my life who graciously forgive me when I disappoint or hurt them in any way. Knowing that my intentions are good, being on the receiving end of understanding, compassion and forgiveness for those moments when I did not shine my best, is both humbling and healing. It is not taken for granted.
- All the people in my life who have graciously apologized for those times that they acted out in anger or irreverence to my feelings. It takes courage and integrity to take responsibility for your actions and their impact. An apology goes a long way and I know what it takes to extend one. Not always easy.
- All the moms out there that helped me as "second, third and fourth Moms" to my kids, carpooling them to soccer games, helping me out when a crisis emerged, and volunteering for PTA's and other extra-curriculum volunteer committees. As a single mother, there are simply times when you are unable to fulfill parenting duties (those goes for married Moms as well). It really does take a village and for all the Moms (and Dads) out there that help each other out, you are truly appreciated. I couldn't have done it without you.
- The person who will allow me to cross a lane even when I'm trying to do so at the last minute because I didn't plan in advance or notice I needed to be in another lane to execute a turn or exit. I know this one may sound silly or mundane but when you need to get over to the next lane and someone intentionally cuts you off, it sucks. On the other hand, when someone motions you to go ahead, you feel a part of a community that understands we all have someplace to go and we all make mistakes in navigating our way there. I'm grateful for those that have a cooperative commuter attitude.
- Those people who are willing to take on the "messy" jobs in life. When the need arises, I'm grateful for the workers that will fix the toilet, clean the sewers, pick up the trash, put out the fires, clean the wounds, and attend to the elderly that are no longer able to care for themselves. Some jobs are simply more demanding and messy than others and the people who take on those roles with professionalism and a caring attitude make the rest of our lives work better. Don't ever underestimate the value of the person who is willing to clean up after your mess or take care of a responsibility that you would rather not.
- The fact that my life is relatively easy. I have clean running water, electricity, a warm house, all the conveniences that modern life has to offer, a way to make a living, good friends, great parents that are still alive, two fantastic daughters, and a man that holds me close every night before I go to sleep. I'm lucky. Not everyone is and I know it. I'm grateful to have this life and hope that in my own way, I contribute to the betterment of others. I do my best although I'm sure my best is not enough.
- Those who have committed their life to helping others in need. While my work is directed toward this cause, there are many others that have dedicated their lives in much more significant ways to the betterment of humankind. Our problems are complex and vast here on planet earth. We have not been great stewards to the planet and our fellow living beings (and creatures alike). And while there are still millions that contribute to the problems every day, there are thousands that work to find solutions and alleviate immediate suffering. There are thousands that work tirelessly to protect those that cannot protect themselves. There are still more that advocate for other living creatures with which we share our planet and for the planet itself. I'm grateful for each and every one of you.
I wish all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday. Enjoy your feast and take the time to reflect on your gratitude list. I'd love to know what yours entail so feel free to share!
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P.S. If you or someone you know wants to create a transformational relationship with the person you love, please don't hesitate to contact me. I'm here to help. I provide personalized guidance and coaching. And if you want to start right now, go and purchase The Pathway to Love at-home program. You don’t need to wait. You can begin the process today. Take advantage of the opportunity receive the support and guidance you deserve.
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Julie Orlov, psychotherapist, speaker, and author of The Pathway to Love: Create Intimacy and Transform Your Relationships through Self-Discovery
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