Isolation Log: Covid Date 4.b.20

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Jude playing in a box

Well I got friends

In isolation

Where quarantine

Jump starts

Their memories

 

Haven’t heard from

Them in ages

Now they’re texting me

With “hi”s and updates

 

Just checking

To see whose

Alive and kicking

 

Oh, I’ve got friends

In isolation

 

Yeah, yeah, the song “Friends in Low Places” was going through my mind yesterday.

In the past week, I have had six people reach out to me from whom I have not heard in years. Some of these people have been incommunicato for so long that they did not even know I bought a house 20 months ago. 

I am very happy to hear from them and that I have had the same cell number for about 20 years so people can reach me. It’s nice to know that in the heart of this pandemic, people are thinking of me. They must be too busy in everyday life to reach out, but now that everything is on PAUSE, we have nothing but time. 

The most positive thing for me with this crisis is that I get to be home with my cats. The second most positive thing for me with this crisis is the amount of people who are reaching out to me. I am hearing from people who I thought had dropped off the planet.

I regularly write people. Some of them I have sent a text message and received no response. I try not to be annoying. So I am pleasantly surprised to be hearing from people now. Most of these people are from out of state and are not local, so I blame the whole “out of sight, out of mind” concept.

It’s nice to know that coronavirus is bringing people together. 

 

 

Where We Left Off

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One of the joys of life are those friendships that you have for a decade or more, maybe several decades, where the depth is so strong that no matter what happens in life or how long its been since you have spoke, you always have the ability to pick right back up with that person where you left off. Maybe its your best friend from college that you rarely see because they live in a different state. Yet every time you get together, whether its once a year or even less frequent, things just naturally pick right back up again.

These are the friends that you know you can call in the middle of the night. They are the first number you’re dialing when anything major happens – a new baby, a death, a promotion. You want them to hear your news. You want their input for major decisions. They may not see you everyday, but you still think “omg, what would they think of my hair?” when you get a new do.

These are the people that you would drop everything to help. All those sappy country music songs about hopping into your car and taking off on an hours long road trip to help someone out when they call – those kind of ties are real. They may be a rarity, but they exist.

Sometimes you do all that to help someone with the big stuff. Sometimes you drop everything to rush to their side just to silently hold their hand. Silence in person is more comforting than silence by phone. You know that this person would not have called unless they really need something. You know that since they called, you really do need to drop everything to be there.

These are the people who sometimes know you better than you know yourself.

I have the privilege of having this type of relationship with a select handful of people in my life. Perhaps one of the most treasured is someone who I have known for over 30 years. Yes, I know, I’m showing my age. I recently tried describing this relationship into the 21st century by saying it’s my “ride or die.” While there are boundaries in this relationship, I will say that those boundaries are pretty much – I will – unless I absolutely can’t (physically, financially, emotionally, etc.)

I’m not saying that the word door mat should be on your forehead and it’s not on mine. This type of relationship goes two ways.

Life takes you different places and through different situations. Yet somehow, you keep coming back to this one person. It may have been years since you have spoken, and yet when you reconnect, everything is the same.

Some of these relationships can be unhealthy. Some are healthy relationships, yet simply a casualty of geography and circumstance. There have been moments when this particular relationship has been unhealthy for me, but as we have gotten older and life circumstances have changed, it is once again healthy. Sometimes you have to figure out if its toxic or just a phase of life.

Every time we pick up where we left off, I’m ecstatic. I don’t know how long it will last. That is the unhealthy part. The part when it ends and we have to go our seperate ways breaks my heart every time. But I also know that we will come together again and pick up where we left off. That part brings me hope. I also have hope that at some point geography won’t be an issue, and we won’t have to pick up where we left off anymore because we will just be fixtures in each other’s lives again.

Years go by and people change, but at the core, we’re still the same. It’s this consistency that keeps me going. No matter the circumstance, you know the person is the same. You know that’s the same person you fell in love with or first made friends with.

We never say goodbye because it never is goodbye. You may see someone only once every few years, but you still have other ways to communicate – by phone, by letter. It could be months between correspondence and yet you always just continue the conversation.

The relationship keeps going … from where we left off …

A few months ago, my local newspaper had a poetry page. I submitted two entries to the poetry page, one short and one long. The rules for the poetry page was that it had to be original work and that it had to be poems that had never been published. The work I submitted met the requirements; I had not even posted the poems ever to this blog, so they were truly unpublished pieces.

The longer poem that I submitted and was published was one that I had written about my “ride or die” person with whom I have this “where we left off” relationship. Since it was published in the newspaper’s poetry page a few months ago, this will be the second time it’s been published. I’m just going to leave you with this piece of original poetry here:

Innocence Lost

We were 8 years old

Out on the playground.

You asked me out.

I laughed and ran away.

 

10 years later,

I’m in college

And you’re fighting a war.

It’s like we don’t

Know each other anymore.

I’m still dreaming

While every boot print you’re leaving

Takes you further away

From the boy you once were.

 

10 years after that

And I’m not surprised

At the man you’ve become.

I always knew you would

Be someone great.

Too bad the hand of fate

Took the best of you

And left it in some cave

When you were off in that war.

 

We try again. And again.

I know you’re in there,

But things you’ve lived

And things you’ve seen

Well, the Army took

More from you

Than anyone would believe.

 

If life were simple

I would go back to

8 years old

On that playground

Waiting to be found.

Don’t Fill My Space

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Owning a home is the hardest thing I have ever done. It is overwhelming. I have finally come to the conclusion that I at least need help with the grass so that I can regain some sanity. Between trying to take care of everything inside and outside, I am losing my mind. I am constantly exhausted; falling asleep pretty much as soon as I sit down at the end of each day.

I am very fortunate in that I have many good friends who have been helping and supporting me in this process. Many people have lent their time to helping me. Some people have brought me practical items – wine (consumables always welcome), screen for my vents, hedge clippers, etc.

Most people know that I am a minimalist. As a new home owner, I am already overwhelmed, so the last thing you should do is bring me a car load of stuff to overwhelm me even more. Yes, I did move from a 600 square foot apartment to a 1,600 square foot house.

Don’t fill my space.

I have spent the past 14 years in stable housing. Except for the particulars necessary for home ownership (like lawn care items), I have what I need. In fact, I was surprised to find that I have things in every room. I was honestly expecting to have empty rooms when I moved into the house, but that was not the case.

I had to purchase three new towels when I moved into the house due to the water problem at the apartment. Normally, as a minimalist, I would have taken the three stained towels from the apartment and donated them to the animal shelter. However, as a new homeowner, I have actually kept those three stained towels in a bin in my basement – I have used them twice to clean up water in the basement due to washing machine mishaps. For the record, the washing machine issues have been addressed. The basement is completely dry now, and I am laundering loads of laundry with no issues.

One of the splurge purchases I made after I moved into the house was purchasing blue Adirondack chairs. I have always wanted blue Adirondack chairs. I got four of them for my front porch. I purchased four because people have been visiting me in groups of two or three people at a time. I have had more people visit me these first two weeks in my new house than visited me in all the 14 years I spent living in the apartment.

I figure that the four chairs are a good purchase, as they can also be used in the back yard for the fire pit when we have a housewarming bonfire. I have to figure out a date for this event when I am not feeling overwhelmed and if it finally stops raining.

The four chairs will be able to be moved indoors this winter so that I can have game night at home. I definitely have the space for them. By having open spaces in my home, I have the space available for what is most important in life – family, friends and fun.

So if you feel the need to bring me furniture or other indoor household items, please don’t. I have all that. I have been living independently. Being a minimalist in a larger space does not mean that I am going to start accumulating items. It means I finally have the space for the most important things in life. In my apartment, three people felt cramped. In the house, there have been four people here at a time, and the house still feels huge.

The cats have been settling in and  enjoy running and playing. They go upstairs and downstairs all the time. I have been finding their toys strewn about, so I know they feel comfortable here when they are home alone while I am at work.

At the end of the day, the only thing that needs to fill my space is love. I have that with my family and the presence of my friends. Don’t fill my space with things.

Hidden Gems

I was going to title this post “The Comeback Kid Runs Again,” but then I realized I would have to flashback to 2009 to explain that. To keep a long story short, Running Legend Bill Rodgers (4 time winner of the Boston Marathon AND 4 time winner of the New York Marathon) gave me the nickname of “The Comeback Kid” after hearing the story of how I ran a half marathon in Ottawa  only days after having my casts sawed off when I had broken both arms at the same time.

I overcame many challenges to run that race, and I have done it again. Only 10 months after being hospitalized for stroke, I finished another half marathon. It is my second worst half marathon time ever, but it was the sweetest finish line I’ve had in a long time.

This year I signed up for a small, local race trying to keep it real given the obstacles I have overcome in reaching the start line. All I wanted to do was prove to myself that I can still run distance and cross the finish line. I wasn’t expecting a medal and there was none advertised. But, surprise, surprise, not only was there a medal at the finish line, but friends too, and it was the best feeling!

So my math is all blown to hell. Remember in Going Local, I was gushing over the plan for Philly 2018 to be my 15th medal and blah, blah … well, I got my 15th medal this year. I couldn’t be happier. My math for the 2018 running season is totally screwed and I am completely fine with that. The medal I got for this 2017 race is one of my top 3 medals in terms of what it means to me. I was seriously facing a running career ending health condition last year when I could not drive or run after having my stroke. I cannot begin to describe how much this medal means to me.

When I got that medal in Ottawa, it was shaped like a maple leaf. The medal I got this year is shaped like a maple leaf also. Must be a theme with maple leaf medals when I make an epic comeback.

While I talk extensively about races I have ran, I have never outright endorsed a race. *spoiler alert* I’m going to do so now. Please note I was not asked to do this and am receiving nothing for doing so. I’m just that impressed with this race that I want everyone to know about it. If you’re ever in the Central New York area at the end of September, there is this tiny race called the Leaf Peeper Half Marathon that is put on by the Cortland YMCA in Cortland, NY. It’s amazing in so many ways.

The Leaf Peeper was my 15th race overall. It was also the smallest. It is extremely well planned. Arrive an hour early on race day to pick up your bib and t-shirt. There is plenty of parking, plenty of rest rooms, and super nice people. The race fee is a complete steal, especially for someone like me who is used to the big city races with 30,000+ runners. All the money benefits the local YMCA and is completely worth it. It doesn’t get any better than race for a good cause.

The course is well marked and there is plenty of support. The volunteers at the road crossings are friendly. There is not a lot of traffic on the route. The route is a very gorgeous run through the rolling hills of Central New York. You can, indeed, see the leaves peeping across farm fields and streams. The race is aptly named. The scenery is spectacular in the morning as the fog is burning off at the beginning of the race.

The volunteers at the water and Gatorade stations are so polite. Some aid stations even had real food like m&m’s and bananas. I will take a banana in a race over a gel any day! Leaf Peeper rocks for best volunteers at a half marathon. There was also bicycle support, which I was not expecting for such a small race (very impressed), and each mile was clearly marked!

At the finish line, there was great crowd support. There was plenty of water, Gatorade and snacks at the finish. The race was professionally timed with the timing chips built right into the bibs. This race is a hidden gem, and I highly recommend it to anyone. It’s great for a first half marathon. It’s also great for more experienced runners like myself.

I actually made a challenge for myself with this race – I ran without my iPod even though I knew there was minimal crowd support on the rolling country miles. I survived. I went into this race treating it like just another 13.1 mile run, but by the time I finished, I realized this is truly a race, and an excellent one at that. I completely underestimated the Leaf Peeper.

It’s too late for you to run this hidden gem in 2017. Now is the perfect time to put it on your bucket list for 2018. I will definitely be back to run the Leaf Peeper Half Marathon. Maybe not next year, as I already have a race planned, and my body is only capable of one long distance race per year, but I will be back for the Leaf Peeper again.

That was another huge plus – I finished the Leaf Peeper uninjured. After the significant injury to my hip in 2015, I was worried when I saw hills in the Leaf Peeper. I listened to my body and navigated them fine. My finish time may have been slower, but I ran a good race and finished uninjured. It was a great experience in my book.

I am officially in my off-season now for running, as my race is complete for the year. I am going to have a short rest. One day off for each mile raced, you know! Then, I’ll be back at it getting ready for 2018. If you are still in the planning stages for your 2018 race season, consider the Leaf Peeper Half Marathon. I highly recommend it!

A Year Without Facebook

It’s been a year since I completely deleted my facebook account, and I have no regrets. None. Aside from my medical challenges, the past year without facebook has been one of the best years of my life since before facebook was invented. My stress levels are significantly reduced, and I am actually enjoying life again.

It’s a great feeling to be able to spend time with someone and not constantly be thinking about taking a photo of something or a witty quip to make as a post. When you are not constantly documenting your life for the facebook world, you get to actually participate in and enjoy each moment. When I was on facebook, I felt like an observer to my own life. “Oh, I have to post …” Like everyone needed to know what I was doing every moment of my life. They don’t.

I do training classes where I work, and we have a no cell phone policy. When I train people about the no cell phone policy, I tell them that I believe they can do it. In a world where cell phones are practically an appendage, you can survive for 90 minutes without your phone. The internet will go on, facebook will survive, and your friendships will not end. It will be okay. Constantly checking your cell phone is a compulsion for most people. Not only have I broken my facebook habit, but my cell phone habit also.

I still have a cell phone. However, without a facebook, I use the phone for its intended use – mostly texting and *gasp talking on the phone. Yes, there are still people in this world who pick up a phone and dial numbers to make it ring to physically talk to a person on the other end instead of typing a text message. Plus, the people with whom I talk know I have a job and a life, and may not instantly reply.

In a world of instant gratification, I’m doing it old school. Sometimes people don’t answer the phone because they actually have a life. I’m too busy living mine to have a facebook or to respond right away. I will respond, but if I’m enjoying someone’s company, I’m not going to ruin the moment by being a slave to a chirping, palm-sized piece of technology.

I do not feel as though I have missed out on anything in the past year without a facebook. The only news I get is from the radio, so I managed to miss a large portion of election coverage. Even the political news I hear on the radio has been getting too much for me. I’ve been listening to my CDs and vinyl records more so that I don’t have to hear newscasts. But I’m pretty sure that if I had not deleted my facebook account last year and was online for the duration of the election season, that I would have lost my sanity by now and be in an asylum.

Most people have gotten the clue that I am no longer online and make the effort to either see me in person, write a letter (that’s when you use a pen to write on paper and put this little square on it called a stamp), call me, or text. My time now with family and friends is that much richer and precious to me. I actually have time to spend quality time with people and give them my full attention without the “ping” of social media constantly distracting me from the people who are right in front of me.

I have used my time without facebook to focus on what’s important to me. Mainly, the people in my life and the relationships I neglected not only from being online but also all the years I spent as a professional college student who was working multiple jobs. I may be paycheck to paycheck, but my year without facebook has made me richer in so many ways.

Now, I have the time to pay attention to my body and my health as I still struggle to recover from being in the hospital last fall. The past year without facebook has shown me that I need to pay attention to what is truly important, and one of those items is my health. Deleting my facebook has helped me retain my sanity in a tumultuous election year, and is now affording me the time to focus on my physical health as well.

I’m looking forward to entering year two without a facebook account. I can only imagine that life will continue to move in a positive direction, as I am able to spend more time with people I love and focus on things like health. So here is to a year without facebook, and looking forward to many more.

The Most Wonderful

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I have never understood why we need a holiday to be thankful. We should be thankful everyday. After witnessing some of the tragedies caused by the gluttony of capitalism today for Black Friday, I am thinking that perhaps the reason why we have Thanksgiving is that people so quickly forget to be thankful. They need a reminder. It’s a little sad that they so quickly forget the lesson the day after, but still. We need a Thanksgiving to remember to slow down and pay attention to what matters.

There is always something to be thankful for. Perhaps the most important are family and friends. That is the part I love most about the holiday season. The holidays are supposed to be that time of year when we hunker down amidst the falling snow to spend quality time with the ones we love. Holidays are not supposed to be about shopping and gifts and getting the best deals.

You can go out right now and max out some credit cards buying the best gifts. On Christmas, the recipients will squeal with delight, probably forget the gift in 5 minutes time once they open another, and then you spend the month of January and the first part of the new year working extra hours trying to pay off that credit card bill that brought only a few moments of fleeting happiness to your life on one day of the year. That is pretty much what every red-blooded American does this time of year.

Wouldn’t you most rather spend the time inside playing games with your children, drinking hot chocolate with your spouse and watching the snow? Children grow so quickly. The best gift you can give them is your time. Sure, that new 4-wheeler or other large ticket gift may be great, but it is more fun if they have time with you to enjoy. The holidays are supposed to be about peace and remembering to slow down to enjoy the people in your life. Instead, American consumerism has made it all about things.

I put up the Christmas tree today, and was a little sad that there are no gifts under it. All of the presents I am purchasing this year are either consumables (wine, chocolates, gourmet coffees, etc.) or experiences (movie theatre gift cards, rounds of golf, etc.). No presents kind of makes a Christmas tree a moot point. However, when I thought more, I remembered that the presents are not important. What is important is the fact that my cats love it when there are no presents under the tree because they enjoy curling up under it and sleeping. What matters is that I love turning off all the house lights to be able to view the tree lights while listening to holiday music from my youth, and enjoying someone’s company.

What makes this the most wonderful time of the year is the peace and joy that comes from having friends and family in our lives that make the world that much richer. People and experiences are the true measure of wealth, not how big of a TV you own, or how many vehicles are parked in the garage.

In the flurry of holiday activity, be sure to take some time between the parties and the shopping to remember the true meaning of the season. Be thankful for the people in your life and the limited amount of time that we have on this planet. The people around your tree this year may not be there next year. It is more important to enjoy the moments with those you love than it is to purchase the perfect gift. The gift will be set-aside in time, but memories will last a lifetime. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

36

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36 life lessons from 36 years of camping, running marathons, teaching preschool, and living life.

  1. As we get older, the quality of our friendships is more important than the quantity of them.
  1. Always pee downhill. Not only should you pee downhill, but also not too close to a tree in case some woodland creature decides to exit their home and accidentally gets a shower at the moment you decide to squat.
  1. If a child gives you a rock or some other small treasure, smile, say thank you, and keep it. Children do not have money to buy things. They do not have jobs. The rock/leaf/whatever is probably the only thing they have to give you of value to show that they like you.
  1. No matter how cute they may look, squirrels and chipmunks can be aggressive. This also goes for kittens, puppies, children and other things in small packages.
  1. Always take rain gear, even if there is no rain in the forecast.
  1. No matter which direction the wind is blowing, it will always send campfire smoke in your face, so do yourself a favor and remove your contacts first.
  1. Sneakers melt when kicking logs that are on fire.
  1. Always take time to look at the stars. They remind you of your place in the universe.
  1. A great radio station can totally make your trip.
  1. You can start a good fire with just wood and matches in about 15 minutes. Add empty toilet paper rolls filled with dryer lint, and you can decrease that time to about 5 minutes.
  1. Obtain wood within 50 miles of your campsite to avoid destroying ecosystems by introducing new predators.
  1. Pack light. The bears aren’t going to care if you wear the same pair of shorts two days in a row and it’s less stuff to haul.
  1. Nap time, time outs, and coloring are all for adults.
  1. While the first and last miles of a marathon are very exciting, its what happens in the middle that makes or breaks your race.
  1. Everything you ever wanted to know about yourself, you can learn in 26.2 miles.
  1. Baby wipes solve a lot of problems – even if you don’t have a baby. Keep a pack in the car – you will be amazed at what you use them for.
  1. The best friends are the ones with whom you can go days without talking to them, and then when you do reconnect, able to pick up exactly where you left off.
  1. If someone fails to communicate with you, and then accuses you of making a bad decision, it is not your fault! You made the best choice you could on the information available, and if the other party properly communicated, you would have made a better choice. Don’t beat yourself up for doing the best with what you have.
  1. Do not live like you are dying. We are all dying every day. Live like it is the first day of your life. You will not be this old or this young again.
  1. Always take time for your grandparents and those older than you. You may have “all the time in the world,” but they do not. Let them know how you feel before they are gone and remember that the greatest gift you can give is your time.
  1. Always ask before touching someone. Always. This goes for children, animals, pregnant women, senior citizens, everyone.
  1. The best times in your life are the moments where you were too busy to take a photo, post a status update, or write something down about it.
  1. “Please” and “thank you” never go out of style. They are timeless. Use them.
  1. If you always tell the truth, you don’t have to remember or worry about lies.
  1. At the end of the day, what matters most is that you are able to sleep at night, content in that your words and actions for the day were your best effort.
  1. It is okay to say “no.”
  1. Take time for you. You cannot pour juice from an empty pitcher. Refill your cup, and when it overflows, you are able to give.
  1. Batting averages are based on best 3 of 4. You don’t have to be perfect to be great.
  1. You may spend 40 hours a week working, but what you do with the other hours of your life is up to you.
  1. It is okay to distance yourself from toxic people, relationships, and situations.
  1. It is okay to sit and do nothing every once in awhile. Really.
  1. Run like you are 6 years old again. Rediscover joy.
  1. If you adopt a pet, remember that this is a commitment for life. Your pet may live for 18-20 years. It is like having a child. Are you ready for that type of responsibility? Do not be flippant with this decision.
  1. If you decide to downsize or minimize, you will not miss or remember the things you get rid of. There is too much clutter in our houses and lives. Let it go.
  1. If you love someone, tell them. Tell them before it’s too late. Tell them because people are not mind readers and they may not know. Tell them. Even if it is not reciprocated, it is important for people to know that they are valued.
  1. Always be thankful for something. Every single day, no matter how small, find a piece of gratitude in every day. Life is too short to be miserable.

Gratitude

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There is a Buddhist saying that to live in the future creates anxiety, to live in the past creates depression, and to live in the present creates peace. While I agree with this wholeheartedly, I also think that to live in the present is a form of privilege.

When I was working on my social work degree, we participated in this project called “Walk A Mile,” in which we spent the afternoon attempting to live out a scenario given to us that was supposed to emulate the day in the life of a person in poverty. We were given toys dolls for children, told when the work hours were, had to juggle childcare, paying for bills, and emergencies like trying to get to food pantries and avoid utilities from being shut off. Little did the administrators know that when I was participating in this simulation, I was homeless myself, and have a history of homelessness from the time I was very young. At the end of the day, my classmates were able to return to their plush condos and lives in which every need was met, while I spent the night on the street, trying to find a safe place to sleep.

This exercise was designed not only to give insight to the future social worker into the lives of those with whom we would work, but also to establish a feeling of gratitude. There are many different forms of privilege in this world. Being able to remain present is a byproduct of economic privilege. During the simulation and in my personal real life experiences, when you are living paycheck to paycheck unsure of where your next meal is coming from, it is hard to stay present. You are always looking to the future for the next best thing that is going to help you escape the cycle of poverty, or you are simply reacting to what happens around you because you are too overwhelmed to handle anything else. It creates a lot of anxiety.

In my slowdown, I have come to realize that being present is a point of privilege. It is a privilege borne out of economic prosperity. When you do not have to worry about where you are sleeping for the night or how you are getting to work in the morning, you have the leisure to enjoy the moment you are experiencing.

Given this, I have also come to realize that it was in those times when my life was most challenging that I was also the most grateful for the smallest things. I recently came across a gratitude journal that I had kept during my early college years. There were days when I listed being happy that the paper I had written came off the printer warm because it was so cold outside and my hands were frozen from being inadequately dressed for the weather.

I have also seen posts online during the holiday season where people will do a “gratitude challenge.” Post everyday why you are grateful! Don’t just celebrate Thanksgiving for one day; celebrate for the entire season! What happens in the spring and summer when the holidays are over, the living is easy, and the weather is warm? Do we forget to be grateful?

We need to be grateful every day.

Let me say that again. We need to be grateful. Every. Day.

Just as I was able to be thankful for warm printer paper during some of the more challenging times in my life, I need to be just as thankful in the good times in my life.

The way my life is right now, I have never had it this good.

Expressing gratitude allows us to be present because it causes you to pause and reflect on the now. To really slow down, we must look at where we are and appreciate how far we have come. If you are constantly looking in the rearview mirror or wondering what is around the next curve, you are missing the most beautiful things that are right in front of your face. When the Buddhists say that to be present brings peace, they aren’t kidding.

I need to get back in the habit of keeping a gratitude journal in which I am able to identify at least one thing per day for which I am thankful. Even if you are having a “bad” day, there is always something for which to be thankful, no matter how small. Even the days when I was simply thankful that I had enough fare to ride the bus instead of walk in the cold.

To start, I have many things to be grateful for right now:

  • Health. Without health, we are nothing. Literally. If you do not have health, you are dead, and that is the absence of life. After many potentially fatal experiences in my life, including lymphoma, multiple anaphylactic food allergies, and other accidents, I can genuinely say that I am happy to be alive. Celebrate your health and the ability to grow old; it is a privilege denied to many.
  • Housing. After many years with precarious housing (including growing up – a time when I had even less control of my life), I am thankful that I have had stable housing for the past 6-8 years.
  • Food. Do you know what it is like to be able to go to the grocery store and be able to get everything on your list? Let me rephrase that: do you know what it is like to go to the grocery store and have to make difficult choices picking and choosing what is on your list because you have a very limited amount of funds and have to chose between groceries and paying the light bill? I am thankful that the past few months, I can go to the grocery store and get everything on my list without having to choose between, say bread or cereal.
  • Friends. I have good people in my life. When the Wonderful Life movie says that no man is poor who has friends, they are right. I am privileged to now have time that I have not had before to be able to cultivate the friendships in my life.
  • Family. My family may be small, but without it, I would be nothing. Having family has forced me to find stability in my life as an adult that I did not have as a child. It has forced me to grow up and to evaluate what is really important in life.
  • Education. My education has enabled me to escape the cycle of poverty. It has given me the tools to be able to find employment that allows me to meet all my basic needs.
  • Opportunity. I am so thankful that I have finally found employment that I not only enjoy, but that treats me well, and gives me the opportunity to slow my life down and enjoy the moment in which I find myself. I have never felt so alive. Having the opportunity at this point in my life to be happy – truly happy – is such a gift.

To be grateful is to take the time to pause and be in the present. To be in the present means to find and be at peace. If you are finding yourself hurried and wondering, “where did the summer go?” on this first day of August, then it may be time to slow down and identify your points of gratitude.

That anxiety you feel is what happens when you are so focused on the future that you do not enjoy the now. That depression you are feeling is when you are so trapped in the past that you are unable to move forward. Be thankful. Get out of the rut and be present here and now.

For what are you grateful?