Lately, I have been listening to and reading a lot of Brene Brown’s work. Though I love her writing, its listening to her voice that really gets to me. She’s brilliant, challenging, funny…and affirming. If you aren’t familiar with her work, her website describes her as “a Research Professor…who spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.” I recommend watching her most popular Ted Talk here.
I want to share a few of her statements that have touched me this week, while sharing some photos I took at the beach the other night. Watching my daughter play, and exercising my creativity by using my camera, is a way that I am able to practice Gratitude, as Brené speaks about so eloquently.
Justine, for me, is a major gift from God. With Maki in New Zealand and school out for summer, she is always around, my little shadow, whether I’m willing to enjoy every moment of it or not. She’s demanding, but she keeps me from falling into the pity-party trap that would otherwise be so intoxicating. She is a living, breathing anti-depressant.
You’ll notice as you continue down that a little girl shows up in the photos (I did ask her parents permission…and am only posting the most discreet ones. But it was an extra treat to witness how children don’t even need words between them to strike up an instant friendship. Such is the power of play.
This is excerpted from The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown.*
“For years, I subscribed to the notion of an “attitude of gratitude.” I’ve since learned that an attitude is an orientation or a way of thinking and that “having an attitude” doesn’t always translate to a behavior. For example, it would be reasonable to say that I have a yoga attitude. The ideals and beliefs that guide my life are very in line with the ideas and beliefs that I associate with yoga. I value mindfulness, breathing, and the body-mind-spirit connection. I even have yoga outfits. But, let me assure you, my yoga attitude and outfits don’t mean jack if me on a yoga mat and ask me to stand on my head or strike a pose. Where it really matters—on the mat—my yoga attitude doesn’t count for much.
So, what does a gratitude practice look like? The folks I interviewed talked about keeping gratitude journals, doing daily gratitude meditations or prayers, creating gratitude art, and even stopping during their stressful, busy days to actually say these words out loud: “I am grateful for . . .” When the Wholehearted talk about gratitude, there are a whole bunch of verbs involved. It seems that gratitude without practice may be a little like faith without works—it’s not alive.”
And now from Daring Greatly**
1. Joy comes to us in moments—ordinary moments.
We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary. Scarcity culture may keep us afraid of living small, ordinary lives but when you talk to people who have survived great losses it is clear that the most profound joy we experience is in those small moments that are so easy to overlook.
2. Practice gratitude for what we have.
When I asked people who had survived tragedy how we can cultivate and show more compassion for people who are suffering, the answer was always the same: Don’t shrink away from the joy of your child because I’ve lost mine. Don’t take what you have for granted—celebrate it. Don’t apologize for your healthy parents or your great relationship. Be grateful and share your gratitude with others.
One quote that I heard over and over was simply: “When you honor what you have, you’re honoring what I’ve lost.”
3. Don’t squander joy.
We can’t prepare for tragedy and loss. When we turn every opportunity to feel joy into “I better not let my guard down and feel too happy – that’s inviting disaster” we actually diminish our resilience.
Yes, softening into joy is uncomfortable. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s vulnerable. But every time we allow ourselves to lean into joy and give in to those moments, we build resilience and we cultivate hope. The joy becomes part of who we are, and when bad things happen—and they do happen—we are stronger.
“We can spend our entire lives in scarcity . . . just waiting for for the other shoe to drop and wondering when it will all fall apart. Or, we can lean into the uncertainty and be thankful for what we have in that precious moment.”
“In everything give thanks. This is God’s will for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
*The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. Copyright © 2010 by Hazelden.
**Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. Copyright © 2012 by Gotham