30 Days of Gratitude: Day 15: Strength

Strength is one of the most highly held virtues in life. We look up to people who are physically or mentally strong or both.

I wrote about the importance of being strong and how people are looked at with strength in the post on courage. One definition of courage is strength in the face of pain or grief.

How do we truly measure the strength of emotion though? It’s far more difficult to measure emotional strength than physical strength. The world’s strongest man physically has often been measured as the weightlifting champion in the Olympics.

As I discussed in the post on courage, a friend of mine posted an article about that people with mental illness are not mentally weak. I posed the question to her: What is the true definition of someone being mentally strong and mentally weak?”

She’s in school to become a therapist and gave a very poignant response:

As with most things in social science that cannot be defined absolutely.” This is also true with courage. It’s a subjective observation and one that cannot be answered universally. “

Strength emotionally and physically are both important. We use both every day. We might be strong without even realizing it. We use physical strength for small things like getting out of bed and lifting a shampoo bottle to get ready in the morning.

We then have the emotional strength to face whatever our day will be filled with. When we go through adversity we are told we need to be strong for our….children….spouse….employees etc. Are we the ones being strong or are we drawing strength from those we lead? Idea

Are we the ones being strong or are we drawing strength from those we lead? Ideally, we draw strength from each other.  We should all be grateful when we have others we are able to draw strength from. The important thing is to have support not where it comes from.

I’ve often reflected on my own strength. In many ways, I don’t give myself enough credit and in others, I wish I had been stronger. Losing custody of my children zapped a lot of my strength. I was strong for them and they for me for 44 months. Losing them and having my skills as a parent questioned and looked at negatively was devastating.

I am grateful that I have people who are helping me to regain strength. It’s a process we all go through in life. Some people go through more than others. Looking inward and realizing our strength an important part of examining our own self-worth. It’s all a part of the growth we growth we do as human beings.

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 14: Pleasure

There are many ways in life we can derive pleasure. We all go about it in different ways and from different sources. Having pleasure in our life in an important component to happiness and a long healthy life.

When we think of pleasure we think of something that brings joy into our life. Many will associate the word with deriving from sex. Pleasure goes far beyond sex. We can derive pleasure from food, doing something we enjoy and spending time with friends and loved ones.

The importance of balancing work and pleasure is a key to happiness in life. We need to be able to do things that make us happy. Pursuing hobbies, having a job we don’t dread going to each day and being with those that we can get pleasure from spending time with are important keys to happiness and success.

Finding that can often be difficult. In my post about work, I wrote about the scene in City Slickers that Curly and Mitch discuss finding the secret of life. Curly tells Mitch that finding the secret is just one thing and that it’s up to you to figure that out.

Many people seek what pleases them throughout their life. The perfect, job, perfect career, perfect spouse, place to live, school for our children, neighborhood to live and group to hang out with.

How do we truly determine what will truly give us pleasure? A curly said that’s up for us to find out. We might find it and then determine that what we found and thought would give us pleasure doesn’t necessarily do so.

Over fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. Hopefully, the majority of marriages begin with the idea that it will be a pleasing experience. The old question proposes is it better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all?

If we experience love, at least we got to experience a time in our life that presumably brought us pleasure. The pain and fallout from the breakup hopefully was far less than the pleasure that occurred during the relationship.

 

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 13: Food

Food can bring out the simplest and most complex of emotions. To some, it’s a means to an end, something we must do to survive, to others it can mean everything.

Food brings me a lot of comfort. I am grateful to be able to afford food. It’s more than just about eating good food. The ability to cook is important to me. Making something good and learning and growing in my ability to cook is a huge key in my life.

For me, cooking is comforting, is goes beyond the actual food. The entire process from shopping through eating something that comes out good makes me feel good. It gives me confidence and pride. Grocery shopping is my version of retail therapy.

Food is a major component of most holidays for most of us. The last two years I have spent almost every holiday alone. I have had very few invites from friends or family to spend holidays with others.

Spending holidays would get many people down. The only holiday I make sure not to be alone is New Year’s Eve. The rest of the holidays have given me a chance to learn how to cook food that is relevant to that holiday.

The last two thanksgivings I have particularly enjoyed. I made a turkey burger with craisins in it topped with smashed sweet potatoes. This past Thanksgiving I made a Turkey breast with sweet potatoes and the other things associated with holidays.

I have cooked on other holidays as well. I made chicken wings for the Superbowl. Think of a holiday and what would be appropriate to eat and I try to make it. It’s comforting to be able to do that.

When I had custody of my children I would try to do something special for every holiday. It’s fun and can also be an opportunity to teach them about various cultures. We always had fun with it.

Some of the food excursions and things we made included Italian Ice, Corned Beef on St. Patrick’s Day and Paczkis from our Polish Nanny on Fat Tuesday.

Food is a major part of my life. Whether I am alone or with friends and loves ones it always gives me a sense of comfort and makes me feel grateful.

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 12: Work

When we think about work a job is too often what comes to mind. Roles that have been assigned in the past are too often accepted as how people should act.

A member of Generation X I grew up where it was expected that the father would go to work to support the family and the mother would stay home and raise the children.

That has shifted a lot in the last few decades. Although far fewer fathers stay home than mothers, the new reality is a lot of home where both parents work and share the child rearing and domestic responsibilities.

How do we look at the way people work? It’s often been said that a stay at home mother hasn’t gotten enough credit in the past.

My entire life I had two dreams. The first was to get married, be a parent and raise a family together. The second was to work in radio. My career never materialized. I told this to my future wife when we met.

Because of this, I worked on being proficient in other areas. Before we got married and had children I would drive her to work and pick her up, do the laundry shopping and cook dinner.

Once we had children I added the responsibility of caring for them and most of what that entailed. It never seemed to be good enough. In the divorce her attorney used it against me, asking if we ever discussed me being home more often. Two years before she filed for divorce she had started a new job. She took a job that paid her half of the job she took.

If she had taken the other job we would have been in good shape financially. She resented me for not being more successful and her having to work. She wanted to be home with the kids. A large part of this is because that’s what her mother, sister, and brother-in-law told her.

I told her to take the job that would make her happy. She was not in a good place emotionally before taking the job. I told her to take the position that would make her happy and we would figure the rest out. Her happiness was what was most important to me.

She was difficult to be around when she wasn’t in a good place in life. I was the one that took the brunt of her misery, with her mother taking the rest. I was inundated with her frustrations and she shared her triumphs with her sister and friends.

Before I even met her I had worked hard at finding a woman to spend my life with. How do we judge work? Work in life is far beyond just what we do to make a living.

We have to work hard on a multitude of things in our life. We need to work hard on our relationships, keeping ourselves healthy mentally and physically and putting ourselves in a position to succeed and be happy.

The definition of success is different for each person.  There is a scene in City Slickers when Jack Palance’s character Curly asks Billy Crystal’s Mitch if he knows the secret to life.

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
[holds up one finger] This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean shit.
Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”
Curly: That’s what you have to find out.

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 11: Curiosity

From the moment we are born we all have a curiosity about the world around us.

The first thing we are drawn to is our parents. We have a need to be close to them, but also an innate curiosity about who they are, who we are what is happening and our own needs.

I have always had my own innate curiosity about how the world works, a need to gather information and learn about the world around me. I’ve often called myself an information hound or junkie.

If I don’t know about something I look it up. When I was finished with my homework as a kid or even before I was finished I would read the encyclopedia if I was bored. I have always had a constant curiosity to learn. Now I will look something up on the internet if I am curious about something I do not know the answer to.

The best way to learn is through travel, but we don’t all have the means to be able to do that. The ability to quell our curiosities can occur in many ways. The biggest urban centers have plenty of opportunities to learn about the world around us.

Social media, television, streaming shows, and podcasts now give us the ability to connect with the rest of the world more than ever before. The world is connected far greater globally which makes us more aware of our differences. This can, in turn, lead to greater curiosities.

I am grateful to live in a country without censorship. Living in the United States we can consume whatever medium we want. We are able to read, watch, listen and connect with others without government interfering at all or at least minimally.

My own curiosities have given me the ability to see what makes everyone different. We all see the world through a difference lens. By being curious about others and learning about them, their cultures, beliefs and how they live similarly and different can help us learn not just about them but ourselves.

Curiosity can help us quell our fears of others and allow us to learn about them. Knowing and understanding someone else helps the fear to dissipate.

Curiosity has guided me my entire life. It continues to guide me and has done so more frequently the older I have gotten. I strive to learn about issues and people and have an informed decision.

My hope is that others can see this as an important trait. It seems that in today’s world of instant analysis our curiosity is short-lived. We are more likely to make snap judgments in swipe right, swipe left world. We have stopped being curious as we are able to customize our news feeds on social media to our own beliefs.

People have stopped seeking out information that is more neutral. When I come across someone who thinks more impartial I am grateful. Curiosity might have killed, the cat, but not being curious kills our ability to learn and continue to be educated throughout our lives.

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 10: Intuition

We all have intuition on when and when not to do something. How often should we trust our instincts even if it defies logic?

For years I have battled my logical mind versus my emotional mind. Two years ago I learned about mindfulness. Mindfulness is almost taking intuition a step further. Dictionary.Com defines mindfulness as:

1. the state or quality of being mindful or aware of something.
2. Psychology. A technique in which one focuses one’s full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them:

The practice of mindfulness can reduce stress and physical pain.
the mental state maintained by the use of this technique.

If intuition is going with our gut instinct, then mindfulness is being aware of that the instinct is and focusing on the present and making a decision.

Intuition can be closer to the emotional or practical/logical mind. It likely depends on the person. I tend to be more of an emotional thinker. Mindfulness and social media have taught me the importance of thinking things through and not always rely on intuition and an initial response.

I am grateful for social media in many ways. It has allowed me to make many new friends and reconnected with numerous old ones. In the past, I would usually just respond right away when I saw something online. If something sparked my interest either negatively or positively my intuition was to respond right away.

Now I often trust a second intuition. Sometimes while I am typing a response to someone’s post it might not feel like the right thing to say. I think it through and either don’t respond at all or given myself time to think it through and use a combination of intuition and mindfulness to make a decision on what to say.

I grateful that I have grown in this area. I am beginning to try to do this in my daily life as well. It can be difficult. My intuition is frequently controlled by anxiety. My intuition with my anxiety is to keep myself out of situations that I will feel uncomfortable or that takes me out of my comfort zone. It’s

My intuition is frequently controlled by anxiety. My intuition with my anxiety is to keep myself out of situations that I will feel uncomfortable or that takes me out of my comfort zone. It’s something I am working on and need to continue to work on.

Intuition is the way we think innately. It’s that way our personalities are when we are born. That doesn’t mean we cannot evolve, change the way we think innately and challenge our own intuitions. We all can and should continue to evolve throughout our lifetimes. I am grateful at the opportunity to continue to do so.

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 9: Courage

The question of courage seems to be one that has been more in the media over the last few years. What is truly the modern definition of courage?

cour·age
ˈkərij/
noun
noun: courage
  1. the ability to do something that frightens one.
    “she called on all her courage to face the ordeal”
    • strength in the face of pain or grief.

A recent article in psychology today discussed the ability to be mentally strong while battling mental illness.

The discussion about those that come out as LGBT as being courageous has been compared to veterans.

It’s tough to compare either. Both have elements of being courageous. What might be easy for one person, could take a tremendous act of courage for another.

I have always had a fear of heights. One summer while in Israel I went repelling off of a 100-foot cliff. For someone that is an adventure seeker that might not take much courage. When our group went repelling later on that summer into a cave, I chose to walk into and out of the cave.

By above definition, I was courageous for facing my fears of heights. What is courage and what makes someone courageous or strong. My friend who posted the article about be mentally

I asked my friend who posted the article about being mentally strong while fighting mental illness “What is the true definition of someone being mentally strong and mentally weak?”

She’s in school to become a therapist and gave a very poignant response “As with most things in social science that cannot be defined absolutely.” This is also true with courage. It’s a subjective observation and one that cannot be answered universally. 

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 8: Struggle

The old saying is that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Almost everyone goes through struggles in their own way. Learning how to cope with our struggles is a major part of life.

My entire life has felt like a struggle. With few exceptions in my life, I have not felt like I fit into most places I am. From my family and fraternity in college to most of the group of friends I have had and in most workplaces I have struggled to fit in.

I am therefore incredibly grateful for those in my life that relationships come naturally with. I have learned that there will be a precious few people in life most of us will have a special connection with. When you find that it’s a true blessing and one that’s hard to let go of. We all want to be accepted for who we are and not have to struggle to get there.

As I have discussed frequently, I also struggle with anxiety and depression. It’s mild on many levels. I am grateful it’s not worse. I don’t have panic attacks and have not needed hospitalization.

That has also been a curse and something others have struggled to understand. I’ve been called lazy, sweetness facetiously and looked at like I am too negative. I often struggle to understand myself. It’s something I try to evolve at every day. I search for my purpose and meaning in life. What I thought was my true life’s purpose was taken from me.

Writing is something I would like to be able to do full-time. The struggle to get there as a full-time job is something I have been working on for over ten years. I am constantly learning about what it takes to be a writer.

In the meantime, I am grateful for the opportunities I have writing.

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 7: Power

Power is what seems to drive our country more than anything. There is a multitude of reasons for power, but power in and of itself gives us control, decision making, and status.

There are many underlying factors that can cause power, money, status, the feeling of being in control, the ability to be deceptive. When one has power they are the one that has the authority in the decision-making process.

My biggest personal battle with power came when my wife got sick over five years ago. Her life was very much in question. I went her sister and said, “let’s forget the past and work together, we might have to make decisions no one should have to make alone.”

She played nice for about two months and then got power of attorney behind my back. She used people we both trust to do so. I didn’t find that out until many years later and had trusted people I shouldn’t have.

Someone that was very involved in the process said she is the most conniving and controlling person they had ever met. Every step of the way during her illness and going through our divorce and custody battle it was all about power. She would get upset every time I would be awarded some control through the courts.

It continued when I got physical custody of our kids. Two and half years later my ex, living with her sister got permanent custody of our children.

I have seen first hand and from afar what power does to people. Used in the right way power can accomplish a lot of good things. The unfortunate thing is that most choose to use it for their own good instead of to help others.

 

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 5: Worry

I have dealt with anxiety my entire life. I often worry about how things will turn out. Some things I have control over and others I do not.

The stigma surrounding mental health seems to be to discredit it completely or to think there is something seriously wrong with someone. We often worry about those needed to be committed or potentially harming their own life. Gray areas are often ignored and/or misunderstood.

Society often over worries or not at all. When we worry about someone it’s often a tricky slope. How often to we check in on those we “worry” about. It’s often not until it’s too late or until something serious happens. Do we call those we love just to check in and see how things are going? How they are feeling and where are they at in their lives?

Social media has brought people much closer together. We are able to keep in touch more often with those we love, old friends and make new ones. Many people use it as a means to reach out to others and connect. The reactions can often be misguided.

Many people use it as a means to reach out to others and connect. The reactions can often be misguided. People now have opinions on everything and will overreact instead of reaching out directly to the person to see how they are doing.

How genuine is our worry? What do we truly do to help those we think are in trouble? Do we reach out and talk to those we worry about or do we overreact and contact someone who we think can help someone? Until we truly try to understand others, their thoughts, beliefs, and what’s at their core, worrying will not be enough.