Why I practice Gratitude

For the first year and a half after moving into our new home – joyous, momentous life event that it was – I was horribly depressed. I like to imagine that I know a lot, about a lot of things. For instance, I knew that maintaining a house that was 4 times larger than our first apartment wouldn’t be too hard. I also knew that it couldn’t possibly cost much more on a monthly basis, for utilities and repair. And, sure, grass grows really fast… but I knew that mowing the yard as an almost-thirty-year-old wouldn’t be any different than my 16-year-old-self sharing lawn duty with her two teenage brothers.

That first year taught me a lot about what I didn’t know, and it wasn’t a something I took gracefully, or with much dignity. In fact, I fought the Universe tooth and nail on just about every point. Those who know me might not be surprised to hear this: I am a stubborn sot.

But as if Being Stripped of All Preconceived Notions weren’t enough of a trial, I was also dealing with Unidentified Chronic Pain, Being Far Away From my Framily, and Trying to Maintain The Household on One (Small) Salary. If there’s any validity to the addage that It Never Rains But It Pours, this period could have been called Kathryn’s Suburban Monsoon of 2013. (Thankfully, there were no casualties. That’s probably why you didn’t hear about it on any of the major news networks).

I was upset! I was angry! Indignant, even! This was more than any mere human could be expected to cope with! Everything sucked! And there was no end in sight! I was a wreck – but worse, I felt absolutely validated in my high levels of anxiety, anger, and lost-ness. Feeling validated, while also being open to solutions, is an amazing thing. It can fuel personal empowerment, and help you connect with your support group. Feeling validated, while simultaneously looking for more reasons to feel upset, is like adding gasoline to a fire. Not my wisest move.

I’m happy to report that there was in fact a turning point. At first, I started getting tired of my own bullshit being angry at everything, all the time. That’s a very tiring way to live! From then on, though, the change was more gradual. It took me a while, but I started realizing that Yep, for the time being my circumstances weren’t going to change… but maybe my perspective could.

I was sitting on the bed last August, blubbering into a sodden wad of toilet paper. Money was tighter than usual, and I was terrified. Plus, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. Until this last setback, I’d been feeling a little better about things. This just wasn’t fair! How was I supposed to roll with this??

Well, here’s a funny thing about your Subconscious. If you ask it a direct question, it’ll always answer. Seriously, try it! If you find yourself stuck on some problem, stop saying, “I can’t possibly…!” and start asking, “How can I…?” Then create quiet spaces in your busy life in which your quiet Inner Voice can break through, and hear what it has to say.

So, I asked, and I got an answer – beautiful in its simplicity. “Feel thankful”. That was it. It hit me powerfully, but there were no trumpets, no angels singing. Just… feel thankful. So, I looked down at the wad of toilet paper in my hand and said, “I’m thankful we could afford toilet paper this month”. Yes, out loud. And then I felt thankful that no one else was around to pass judgement on how much I resembled a Crazy Lady just then.

And that’s where my Journey of Grattitude began. It seemed small, and even silly, at first – but it really was a dramatic act of defiance. In the face of all the negative emotions my depression was trying to heap on my plate, I said No More. I said, Sometimes all that crap is true, sure, but you know what else is true? That I have good things in my life.  By feeling thankful (truly feeling it in my bones, not just rattling off a list like a worn out catechism), I was stealing ammunition from my Depression’s arsenal, to be used against it.

Noticing the good things in my life hasn’t magically erased all the crap. Money’s still tight, bits of my house are still falling apart despite our best efforts, and I still get (insert unsavoury emotion here) from time to time. The ways Gratitude has changed my life have been more subtle than that… the bad stuff doesn’t feel as awful when I remember that it’s not the only stuff going on. That in turn helps me realize that not everything is worth getting upset about. And I’m more prone to looking for solutions, when I’m less stressed out by what I choose to deem the “little things”.

I challenge you, dear Reader, to practice gratitude frequently, all year long. You’d be surprised how much such a seemingly small act can ease depression.

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Introducing the Great Utah Adventure of 2014!

You may have noticed my blogging has taken on a bit of an unusual theme. When you see the leaves begin to fall and the windowpanes get frosty, I’m sure the first thing you think is, “THE TIME TO GARDEN IS NIGH”. Right guys? …guys? *sigh* Guess I’m alone on that one.

I explained that the break in triple digit heat was to blame for my excitement, but that was only partially true. (Sorry I half-lied. Can we still be friends?) While it’s true that I do reverse-hibernate every year, only coming out of my house-cave for a few months starting in Autumn – there are other, much mo’ awesomer reasons for my Prematurely Verdant Dreams:

In the beginning of October, the wife and I set forth to conquer the wilds of southern Utah. And also, we visited my extended family. The Great Utah Adventure of 2014 was pretty epic! Some of its highlights include …

. getting Married-married to my wife!!
. spending time with my hero, my 96-year-old, skydiving Grandma!!
. traipsing around the world’s largest living organism (Quaking Aspen Forest for the win)!!!
. hiking* through a slot canyon and other amazing feats of geological conquest!!
. procuring photographic evidence of my wife’s first-ever campfire s’more!!
. connecting with my roots – finding out my whole family is full of inspiring people!!!
. collecting seeds from the gardens of my awesome Aunts!!!
* by hiking, I really mean Walking on Slight Terrain. And taking pictures. Lots of pictures**.
** over the course of our 3-day visit, I took no fewer than 650 photos. Some of them even turned out pretty good!

Calm down, guys, calm down! I can practically hear you yelling through my modem – “You had awesome wilderness adventures, collected family stories, connected with amazing people, and legally married your Wife … and all you’re harping on are your silly garden plans?!” Relax. Over the next few months, I’ll share stories and photos from our vacation Great Utah Adventure of 2014, I promise. Honestly, once we got home our social calendar filled up crazy-fast, and it was easier to just fill my blog schedule with some of the happy-fluff instead of trying to beat my already frazzled brain for anything of more substance.

But, y’know since we’re still talking about my awesome garden plans for Spring 2015 … wanna see some photos of a few of the plants I’ll be planting from the seeds I collected? You do??! You guys are so sweet to indulge me.

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Know Thyself

Every year about this time, I start planning my spring garden. Sometimes things live, but sometimes the only thing I harvest from my efforts is a bit more knowledge for next time.

Things I’ve learned about Myself
. I always mean well, but it’s time to be real: I have never been one to water my garden, and I doubt that’s going to change. 
. Therefore, plant only where my sprinkler system will hit. (goddess bless modern conveniences).
. Don’t use being broke as an excuse not to garden. Starting seeds indoors in January is cheap, and crazy easy.
. Don’t forget to plant your seedlings in the ground once it’s warm enough. If kept indoors too long, the ones that survive your neglect will be wimpy and sad. They’ll be ready sooner than you think.
. Newspaper is your friend! Every spring, work last year’s mulch into the Texas Clay, to help it become something resembling Soil. Then, put down lots and lots of newspaper, and top it with mulch. It will act as a biodegradable weed-blocker, and make your beds look awesomer longer.
. Prune stuff periodically. Not only will it make things look tidy, it prompts the plant to create new growth – filling out faster, and flowering more frequently.
. Don’t be so timid! If I hate the layout I create, I can move anything that grows back next year. Plants are more resilient than I give ’em credit for.
. Less is more. One of the great things about having your own yard is that you can add to your garden year after year. I dream of a riotous cottage garden – but I need to give myself permission to start small. Choose only a few types of seed to start over winter, and focus on Not Killing Those. Setting myself up for success will help both me and my plants.