Our little group of friends gathered this weekend to mark another birthday among us -- not one of the "big" ones, but I'm beginning to think that celebrating birthdays at this stage in our lives is as important as it was back in grade school.
Then it was celebrating getting another year older, another year closer to more privileges, more fun, to adulthood. Now it's celebrating that we're another year older and not already dead, and that we're indeed blessed with friends we can party with!
Various conversations throughout the evening -- and someone commenting on how positive I always am -- made me stop and think about that. Sometimes I think I sound very "Pollyanna"-ish -- finding the gratitude in adverse situations, looking for the blessing. And I assured them that I have to work at it, that I'm not always just a bouncy bundle of joy and optimism.
It isn't that I don't recognize problems and bad things. I've had my share of depression over the years -- I have black, dark poetry from my college years to prove it! (Doesn't just about everyone!) I've gotten through some very bleak times with a little "better living through chemistry" help and some counseling a time or two.
Before 9/11, I was a classic news junkie -- read two newspapers daily, newsmagazine, online stuff, CNN. But I could not take the horror and collective grief and pain that the event generated, and cried my way through the next month, finally asking for some help from my doctor. When I finally came out of that, I was no longer a newshound. I still read two papers daily and newsmagazines, but I skim over the tragedies now and try to narrow my focus and keep my emotions in check.
I've learned to live with gratitude over the last 25 or so years, more so in the last decade. There have been some big changes and hard times in those years, painful and scary issues -- my parents' deaths, my uncle's death, my daughters struggling with their lives and own issues, our own huge change from working and living in the Bay Area to moving here and going into (and out of) real estate. These all have tremendous ice weasel potential, and there have been some big party nights for the creepy rat ba*s*a**ds.
But I've also read a lot of -- for want of a better term, spiritual -- books and stories of people who have faced far more adverse conditions than I, and have come through it with a positive spirit ... and grace.
And that's it -- the goal. Grace.
Today's Daily Om is about living with grace.
It doesn't mean ignoring what is going on around you, the pain, the chaos, the state of the world and the country and your own problems. It means learning to be aware of what ELSE is going on around you, of shifting focus much as you do as a photographer to capture something that maybe isn't quite so obvious. It means looking for the little blessings even in pain and confusion. Grace leads us out of the morass to a place where we can stand without sinking, and helps us see through the haze and the fog to find solutions for our situation and to understand how to change the things we can.
The only way I know to find grace is to practice gratitude. And it's hard some days: sometimes even just a warm shower can be your best moment of the day, or climbing into a bed made with clean sheets. But if you practice it when you're not in crisis, it will be there for you when you are.
The party was great fun -- and everyone agrees that we are all indeed blessed to have this circle of friendships....peter out or peter in....