A Mother and her Two Daughters

03 April 2011

Embracing Gratitude


I’ve begun a new habit – a good habit this time. 

While doing some spring-cleaning, I found several journals purchased that have never had the stroke of a pen touch the paper.  A stack of three beautiful journals sat on top of the bookcase for several days until the idea came to me as clear as day. 

While this blog has been my journey of cancer and my personal experience of getting to the other side, I have now begun to write each night before sleep my list of what I’m grateful for.  Naturally the list is ever changing based on the events of the day.  But it’s a habit that I hope to keep doing for all the days ahead, to maintain my attitude of gratitude for all of my blessings.  As one friend shared with me recently, feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. 

So, while I will continue to periodically write in this blog, I wanted to pass along this new habit, maybe something you might consider doing yourself.  Honestly, it's an uplifting way to end the day, and the entry need not be laborious.  

After this long year of fighting cancer, and now fighting the after-effects of cancer treatment, I’ve come to believe that attitude is actually a form of medicine too.  When trying to define it, I think attitude is simply your approach to life, your general demeanor or disposition, your overall life mood, your response inclination to daily life events.  

What is your thought life?  And if it’s not what you want it to be, how can you change it? 

There are so many things that can influence our life thoughts. 
  • Spiritual life, such as the belief in and worship for a higher power, spiritual practices like prayer and meditation, a feeling of heart and soul. 
  • Connections to the human community, such a family, friends and even strangers who we encounter each day.
  • A sense of purpose or a life mission that allows us to give back, make the world a better place.    
  • An overwhelming body blanket of peace, calm and comfort with the world.  

 But there is one thing I know to be true.  We are in control of how we view the world and our lives, how we react and respond to life happenings.  Positive life circumstances do not come from negative thoughts or action.  I’ve often told my girls to remember that nobody makes you happy or sad or angry.  These are choices that we make ourselves.  By taking control of our own emotions, by pursuing a path of emotional health and abundant joy, the quality of life improves tenfold. 

Last night I wrote into my gratitude journal five things I’m happy about, five huge things that I was especially grateful for yesterday. 
  1. After an evening at Moss Mountain Farm, my college friend P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home, I am grateful to live in Arkansas, among such natural beauty and splendor only minutes from my urban dwelling.  
  2. I am grateful for longtime friends who have been in my world, as Dickens said, through the best and worst of times, friends like Dennie who's come back home to Arkansas, which has made life even more of an adventure. 
  3. I’m grateful for puppies that lick you in the face each morning, their kind and gentle way of asking for breakfast. 
  4. I feel blessed that my life has allowed me to know and spend time with philanthropic and community giants like my friend Mr. Maurice Mitchell, who passed away yesterday.  His was a life that was a sermon unto itself.  
  5. I’m grateful to be healthy again this spring, especially after planting my herb garden yesterday.  Last year’s herb garden didn’t happen and the anticipation of abundant basil and mint and cilantro and the rest . . . well, it's kept a smile on my face all weekend. 

The number of cancer survivors in the United States increased by nearly 2 million from 2001 to 2007.  There were 11.7 million survivors in 2007, up from 9.8 million in 2001.  If attitude is truly a powerful medicine for mind and body, we’re all going to need new habits to keep our spirits high, and our days filled with gratitude. 

“In daily life, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, 
but gratefulness that makes us happy.” 

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