30 Days of Gratitude
Updated: Nov 30, 2021
Join me on a journey to becoming more human
It's November in the United States, a time when spiritual teachers, corporate leaders, and commercial businesses alike tout the importance of "giving thanks" for the blessings of daily life. It's the first wave of holiday messaging. (Later, in January, all the buzz will be about self-improvement and up-leveling your life. But for now, we're going to be grateful for it.)
I struggle with gratitude the way I struggle with meditation, exercise, and getting enough sleep. After I've done it I feel good. Really good. But I'm reluctant to start. Firstly, I think part of me kind of likes sulking in self-pity and begrudging the promotions and success of others (some of which happened yesterday). Secondly, I don't like people telling me what I'm supposed to feel, and I often think of gratitude and gratefulness as feelings.
But gratitude is really more of an action than an effect. It is an affirmation of goodness, an intentional practice of naming what is good. It is also a recognition that the sources of goodness are outside of ourselves. Gratitude requires that we acknowledge how supported we are by others, and in doing so it opens us to deeper connection.
So I thought I'd give it a try. I've done this sort of thing before, but it's been a while. I'm following prompts from a month-long calendar put up at my gym (which I am legit grateful is open right now). Feel free to follow along, read straight through, or try some of these for yourself.
November 1 - Show gratitude toward someone you love
My friend Matthew and I met under interesting circumstances. It was a charged time in my life. I'd just begun training as a spiritual director and was newly connecting with a group of "ex-vangelical" people in the Bay Area. Meeting him was like meeting another version of myself and learning to love him required facing and embracing parts of myself that I hadn't been ready to hold. I continue to cherish the synchronicity and closeness of our friendship.
November 2 - Show gratitude toward a talent or skill you possess
I currently live on a property with three incredible women and a young soon-to-be navy serviceman. Last night I roasted delicata squash and made a big old pot of kale, cauliflower, and sweet potato stew. We lit a fire, pulled cards, and talked about our ancestors. I love sharing my cooking in this way. I won't be entering competitions any time soon, but I can imbue good food with loving kindness and usually that is enough.
November 3 - Show gratitude toward your favorite song
The world is too beautiful, vast, diverse and strange for favorites. My emotions are similarly diverse and music is something I connect with based on its ability to help me feel more or less of a particular state. That being said, I have been digging the solemn depth and nihilism of Dust in the Wind this year. On the flip side I spent a lot of time listening to Kalapana in Hawaii with the windows down, singing loudly. I love that music speaks to the soul, even without lyrics, and I feel gratitude for the company it's provided me over the years.
November 4 - Show gratitude toward a freedom you are grateful for
When I was working on my MFA in creative writing, I focused my thesis project on a series of essays about a religious asylum seeker I met when I was living in the East Midlands of England. One piece of her story (which is a critical plot point) is a trip she took to Turkey, which required a chaperone. I am grateful to have the freedom to travel on my own, to be allowed (most places) to explore on my own time and terms, with a camera as company.
November 5 - Show gratitude toward a life lesson you have learned
One of the hardest things for me about graduating from college was entering a stage in my life were there was no syllabus, no assignments, no feedback, and no grades. I'd always been very good at school and didn't know how to navigate this new phase of life where the expectations were unclear. "The path is made by walking" is a piece of ancient wisdom that was shared with me in my early 20s and one that becomes more and more meaningful as I make my life and myself, rather than trying to find or prove it to anyone else.
November 6 - Show gratitude toward something related to fitness
For someone who claims to be self-driven, I love pre-programmed workouts. During shelter-in-place I've been especially grateful for instructors who teach to screens and record classes for no one and everyone. (Sometimes I'm one of those instructors and it isn't easy). I appreciate the enthusiasm, encouragement, and hard work of the women and men who get me through and bring me one step closer to my better self.
November 7 - Show gratitude toward something positive about your body
In a body-critical society, this prompt is critical. I am forgetfully and frequently amazed by my body's ability to heal, whether that's recovering from a cold, regrowing skin scraped off in a fall, repairing muscles bruised by a careless collision, or healing stubbed toes and pinched fingers. My body keeps giving me new opportunities to adventure, explore, and be in the world.
November 8 - Show gratitude toward someone who makes you smile
My friend Andrew is a Light Being. That is the first way I think of him. We met online through a friend-cum-match-maker (despite being on opposite coasts) and though we never actually dated, I have to say it was good match, just a different kind. Every time I think of him I smile. When I think of our conversations, I smile. When I think of his growth and emergence, I smile. More and more I am aware of and grateful for resonant souls like this one.
November 9 - Show gratitude toward something you accomplished today
I'm visiting my parents this week and working as little as necessary in order to spend more time with them. Even so, I was able to finish a slide deck for a presentation I'm leading on gratitude later this week. I'm not great at finishing early, but I almost always make my deadlines. I'm especially delighted by the ideas that come together at the last minute.
November 10 - Show gratitude toward something you let go of
Letting go is rarely a one-time event. Or at least it is for me, with the things that really matter. I am constantly letting go of the need to prove myself, the desire for status, the fear of not belonging, the insistence of my ego. When it comes to social media, I'm letting go of the need for views, likes, or comments. It isn't that they don't matter (they do), but visibility isn't my goal, and the burden of proving my importance is one I'm happy to give up.
November 11 - Show gratitude toward something related to group fitness
Every Wednesday I lead a 30-minute meditation with the aim of alleviating anxiety and practicing modalities that help separate the self from the experience. It isn't a large group and it's lessened the past couple of months, but I am so grateful for one attendee who shows up every week regardless of how busy his schedule is and shares this time and co-created space with me. It matters to me, and it benefits both of us.
November 12 - Show gratitude toward a co-worker or boss you work with
Rob joined our team just a few months before shelter-in-place, so while we've met in person, most of our relationship has taken place over screens. For the first few months, I couldn't figure Rob out. I wasn't sure where he was coming from or what he was aiming for. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't easy. This initial disconnect is one of the reasons I value our relationship now. It's easy to stop trying when you don't initially click, especially when your interactions are online. But if you can, keep showing up, keeping looking for commonality and working toward connection, especially with people who show up a bit differently from you.
November 13 - Show gratitude for an experience from the past year that you are glad happened
July 2020, I put my stuff in storage, packed up my car and drove 27 hours straight to Nebraska. I'd just moved out of my last apartment and was taking a four-month stretch to visit family and friends. A year later, I still haven't signed a lease. In that year I've been to 10 national parks in 15 states and slept in over 50 beds. To pick just one experience is tough, but I will say that seeing my first orca in the wild touched my soul.
November 14 - Show gratitude for someone who has been a good friend
I met Chris at a gathering of friends pre-pandemic. We've only seen each other a few times since, but he has proven to be a loyal and enthusiastic friend. Chris has attended my yoga and meditation classes, pulled me into an incredible discussion group, and is one of the people who showed up for my birthday. Chris believes in me in ways that help me believe more in myself. This is one mark of a good and true friend.
November 15 - Show gratitude for an aspect of your health
I was kind of a somber teenager. A lot of writers and artists have melancholy tendencies and I wasn't quite sure how to channel mine. Following college, I often felt unfocused and antsy. Life without a syllabus seemed hard to navigate. Though I still have moments of sadness and anxiety, I'm generally happy when I wake up these days. I've found ways of calming myself and being more present, more in this moment, and it turns out there is a lot here to love.
November 16 - Show gratitude for an opportunity, whether in full focus or hidden Google's gPause community has provided countless opportunities for me to lead, learn from, and participate in meditation groups and events. A few months ago, Nicole issued a call for new courses and I hesitantly offered to lead a class in narrative framing. The first offering was in September and the second is this week. It has been an amazing experience and something I've been imagining for close to a year, but needed a "push" to get started.
November 17 - Show gratitude for something in nature that brings you joy
In the past 18 months I've traveled to many places, 10 of them national parks. Something about being in a new context inspires me to catch the sunrise and sunset as often as possible, sometimes planning the whole day around morning and evening hikes or destinations. Now back in the Bay Area, I often miss those moments, but I notice the sky in ways I didn't use to. Each morning the sun rises, and each evening we end in darkness.
November 18 - Show gratitude for basic needs being met
I spent November 8-13 with at parents' house in Nebraska. Any time I'm home for more than a few days, a part of me reverts to being a child. I sleep in late, eat food I didn't buy, wear clothes I didn't wash, and lounge in a house I didn't clean and don't pay for. I take hot showers and curl up by fires. I remember what it is like not to worry about anything.
November 19 - Show gratitude for someone you admire
I'm currently living with a friend who does more in a week than I do in a month. She is a therapist, teacher, mother, researcher, and student all at once. And while she does, occasionally, play very freely and beautifully, she is tremendously dedicated to her own becoming and to the work she wants to do in the world. I admire that drive and aspire to take hold of my own becoming with such dedication and force.
November 20 - Show gratitude for someone who has made a difference in your life
The list of people who shape us is often longer than we realize. Jenya was the fourth of the seven managers that I've had in the past four years and the first who really grew me as a person. She was not only a leader, mentor, and advisor, but also became a friend to me—someone who genuinely cared about my wellbeing and dreams, someone who inspired me to be a better, fuller version of myself.
November 21 - Show gratitude for a book that has taught you something
The list of books I am deeply indebted to is no small one. (I'd like to add a reading/resources list to this site). Currently I'm going through Paulo Coehlo's The Alchemist for the third time, this time with a small group of folks who are focused on dreaming. It humbles and challenges me as a writer and a dreamer to recall how painfully unsuccessful this book was when it came out, and yet how deeply meaningful it has become across time and cultures. There is something in you that wants to be born. Are you willing to bring it forth?
November 22 - Show gratitude for one thing you’ve worked hard to achieve
I'm a feelings-forward curious creative who has mostly worked in the fields of education, writing, emotional development, and human transformation. I've mostly deeply enjoyed the credentials I've achieved, from a TEFL certification to an MFA. The hardest work I've done, though, has been the work of separating my parts from my Self and allowing that true person to lead from her heart. The moments when she does are fully beautiful and deeply satisfying.
November 23 - Show gratitude for an experience that has not taken place in your life
I was supposed to get married in 2013. November 22nd was our unofficial wedding date, which would have made yesterday our 8th anniversary, but we broke up before we were engaged. For years I pined after that relationship, so sure that this was the man I wanted to be with and so ashamed for having lost him. I ached to see him, just to speak with him in person, but he refused, and I thought I deserved that rejection. I hurt for a long time, even after I started dating again. Then, three years ago, something shifted. My True Self began to open and I started to see who I was meant to become. The more I grow into myself the further I veer from the sort of woman who could marry that kind of man, and the less I see marriage as a goal to pursue. I have never been more grateful to not be married.
November 24 - Show gratitude for a teacher who has had an effect on your life
This is a tough one to narrow, and that alone is something to be grateful for. I've had so many wonderful teachers, through every stage in life. Today I'll mention my choir instructor, Dr. Holm, who had the most delicious zeal for musical expression. I came into college choir without much background, and I remain grateful that this didn't matter and I was given a chance to emote with my voice. I am grateful for choir tours and Christmas Vespers, embodied warm ups and the annual Christmas party hosted in the Holms home. I hope I shared at some point how much it meant to be part of a community making music.
November 25 - Show gratitude for one of your senses that you are thankful for
Another hard choice. One thing that amazes me about scent is how quickly it can transport you back into another time, place, or emotional experience. The smell of the swan-shaped hand soap my grandmother kept in her bathroom, the cologne my first boyfriend wore, the scent of cinnamon-flavored Folgers or pumpkin spice creamer in my college dorm room. Smell isn't about appetite, but memory. It grounds us firmly in place, while also giving us access to all times everywhere.
November 26 - Show gratitude for a tradition you are thankful for
My family has a tradition of offering toasts on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and special occasions in general. Everyone gets a glass (even the grandkids) and everyone gets an opportunity (sometimes many opportunities) to share something they're grateful for or impress by with the rest of the family. Sometimes it's the sheer gift of being together in the same space. Sometimes it's the growth that's taken place in their or another person's life. There's usually crying involved. It's one of my favorite things that we do. Every family has its disruptions and every family has its great gifts.
November 27 - Show gratitude for something money can't buy
You can spend a nearly infinite amount on entertainment—movies, shows, games, subscriptions, services—but money itself cannot buy laughter. You cannot purchase uncontrolled guffaws or a case of the giggles. While there are jokes, gestures, memes, and videos almost sure to make you smile, laughter is magical that way. It is a grace and a gift that carries us on.
November 28 - Show gratitude for a meal
In 2014 I took a class in food writing. (Before I started grad school I didn't know this was a thing). I began dabbling for a local paper and in less than I year I was interning at two magazines, which led to a years-long foray in culinary journalism. As a result, I have been gifted some amazing meals. The one that touches me most today is a ticketed event in which Top Chef contestants Melissa King and Mei Lin partnered on a 6-course meal. It was my first big comp and I was stunned not only by the flavors, but the plating, the decor, and the energy of the whole evening. Life can feel like a dream if we are able to see the magic.
November 29 - Show gratitude for a community you belong to
The pandemic has done strange things to my social life. Shelter-in-place all but equalized location-specific pain points as we adjusted our meetups based on time zones rather than traffic, and a series of road trips put me out of California and closer to my family for weeks at a time. When I returned to the Bay, I wanted to reconnect. There were a few dinners and coffee dates, but even with increased flexibility, hitting a social cadence has been hard. Still, I am grateful for a sense of community and belonging here in Redwood City. I live on a property with women who join me in full moon rituals and come over to eat soup in front of the fireplace. For the first time in years, I run into multiple people who have talked to each other within the same week. I come home with the message, "so-and-so sends their love" and I really mean it and I'm happy to bridge the gap and strengthen the other connections that make community possible. And I am deeply grateful for the one conversation four and a half years ago that began paving the way for this new sense of identity.
November 30 - Show gratitude for yourself for taking the time to practice gratitude
When I started this series, I wasn't totally sure why. I always give thought to an audience when I'm writing, but this was largely for myself. I know how good gratitude can be and I wanted to kindle some more inner light. One thing that has struck me is how often my answers involved circumstances or situations I would never have planned for myself. Not only were they out of my control, but against an original sense of what I wanted for myself, whether that was a relationship, a career path, a living situation, a transition, or a reluctance to stay put when I wanted to move forward. We often think we know what we want. We think we know what will touch our souls or lift our hearts. But it's the unexpected that delights me most. "I never would have thought" is both humbling and enlivening, a reassurance that forces beyond me are aware and attuned to the life that's unfolding.
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