Category Archives: Gratitude
Happy Monday! That probably looks a lot more chipper than it feels. Mondays aren’t necessarily my favorite days, but I do tend to feel a bit refreshed from the weekend. I like to use that extra energy to tackle chores for the week. Today I’m planning on grocery shopping, preparing some food for the week, and paying bills. That last one is probably my least favorite because I tend to stress about money even if we’re doing fine financially, which thanks to me working more, we are. It’s still not fun, but I thought I’d share a trick that I use to make it more enjoyable. Yes, it’s probably really corny, but it works for me.
Two tips actually. The first one it to use Pixar stamps. Paying the gas bill is much more fun with a Wall-e stamp.
The second, more important tip is to pay bills with gratitude.
I vaguely recall something like this in The Secret, so that’s probably where I got the idea, but while I’m writing out checks or paying bills online, I think about what I’m really paying for and the value I received. Here’s a quick breakdown of how I think about my bills:
- Rent-Thank you for giving me a place to live, for giving my studio and a kitchen to cook yummy food and a big window with a tree outside to look at while I sit on the couch and journal in the morning.
- Gas and electric bills-Thank you for hot baths, a cozy home, for light to read and paint by, for powering my computer so I can write and connect with others.
- Student loan payments-Thank you for helping me study in China and graduate on time. Thanks for helping me start my dream of travel.
- Phone bill-Thank you for allowing me to call my mom, text my friends, get a hold of Sam when my computer does something stupid and send him cute little messages during the day, and for helping me feel safe because I always have a way to get help in an emergency.
- Car insurance and fuel-Thank you for allowing me to visit my family and friends, for getting me to the library, grocery store, and art galleries. Thanks for allowing me to get to work in five minutes instead of tramping through the snow for a 25 minutes both ways.
It may seem silly, but I think gratitude is the key to a happy life. When we have gratitude, we see the good in the unpleasant things. We notice out blessings, and we just tend to be a lot more optimistic. This is a big deal for those of us that tend to be vulnerable to depression and anxiety.
I’ll let you know how this works on taxes. 😉
Have a wonderful week!
On Saturday morning, I went for an extra long walk. I didn’t take my hat or scarf, though I should have. It was the kind of weather that fools you into thinking it’s warm even though it’s freezing. Sunshine does something for my soul, it stirs up some deep happiness that I forget sometimes when it’s been cloudy for awhile.
I veered off my normal route and walked down the hill a little further so I could get a better view of Utah Lake. It was so beautiful for some reason. I stopped and looked at it for a minute, and then a feeling of gratitude came over me as I thought about where I was a year ago and where I am now.
Last February, I would have never imagined that my life would be like it is now in such a short time. A year ago, I was depressed, sick, my stress and anxiety were through the roof, and overweight because my compulsive eating was out of control. I lived in a tiny studio above my uncle’s garage and worked as a nanny, and I had no idea what to do about my future. I had no social life. I was so creatively stuck that I started to believe that I wasn’t meant to be an artist and writer after all, that I had nothing to say. I felt stuck, and I was miserable.
Now, standing on that hill looking over the lake, I have a clear vision of my future and a path to get there, but I also have the faith to let things unfold as they must. I have a great job that’s actually related to my degree, my body is maintaining a happy weight and though I’m still tweaking my self-care, I’m much healthier. I have an apartment I love, and I’m making art and writing all the time. I’m actually selling my work, and I have plans for growing my career from this little seed I’ve planted.
I’m so thankful for this past year and how incredibly far I’ve come. I’m so blessed. I’m amazed how I’ve been led to everything I need whether it’s tools, signs, opportunities, friends, or ideas. I’m grateful for my new outlook on the world, that I understand that struggles are important opportunities to learn, and therefore blessings. I could have never learned how to be truly happy without being truly miserable first. I couldn’t learn how to grow if I couldn’t experience being stuck. I couldn’t have acquired the new tools and knowledge I have without the situations that prompted me to seek them.
I hope that you all are well and that you’re experiencing some wonderful growth right now. Have a wonderful week. 🙂
Over the past few months, I’ve observed that at any given time, I’m living in one of two mindsets: Love or Fear.
Love is a mindset of trust, joy, gratitude, patience, passion, and caring.
Fear is a mindset of worry, want, insecurity, judgement, impatience, and obligation.
Where would you rather be?
I think this is true for everyone.
When we’re living from a place of love, we are happy, our creativity flows, we appreciate what we have, we live in the moment, and good things seem to happen to us.
I know when I’m living in love, because I spend a lot of time writing and painting, I have to scribble down ideas in the checkout line or at red lights, I only think about food when I’m hungry and I even put off eating because I don’t want to stop what I’m doing, I’m patient with myself and others, and I feel adventurous. I trust that everything is and will be ok, and that I have everything I need. I feel grateful.
When we’re living from a place of fear, we worry a lot, spend a lot of time planning, think in terms of “should” and “have to”. We get frustrated with other people and ourselves, and we live in the past and future-anywhere to avoid the present.
Sometimes it takes me a while to accept that I’m living in fear, but it’s not hard to identify. I can usually tell because I don’t feel like making art and I spend a lot of time planning, budgeting, making lists, crunching numbers, and thinking about food when I’m not hungry. I munch a lot and feel like I need to sleep more. I feel insecure on many levels, whether it’s with money, career, or something in my body feels off and I panic.
I lose my trust in life and feel that I have to force things, because what if it won’t be ok?
Fear isn’t a fun place to live.
So if we’re living in a mindset of fear, how to we switch gears?
- Gratitude: Look around you and notice the beauty, the abundance, and the joy. Look back on your life and remember the time that seemingly bad things worked out for the better (they might still be working out)
- Have faith: Whether you believe in a higher power or not, know that God, life, the universe or whatever has a way of guiding you to what you need. Knowing this is the key to trust, trusting is the key to letting go, and letting go is the key to being open.
- Be gentle with yourself and others: To borrow a quote from the amazing Tara Wagner aka The Organic Sister, “Everyone does the best they can with the tools they have.” This also applies to you. You aren’t lazy, stupid, or weak, and neither is anyone else. While this doesn’t justify things that are wrong, just realize that mistakes are a matter of not having the correct tools, not that something is inherently wrong with you or another person.
- Know what makes you happy, and what doesn’t: I love art and writing because they open up a part of myself that I can’t access otherwise. I love walking and yoga because they connect me to my body and free my mind. I love good food, animals, spending time with people I love, and reading. Worrying, planning, and making endless lists doesn’t free me. It just works me into a mess of obsession that takes me away from things that truly bring me joy. While life does require some planning and organization sometimes, those things will never fill me.
- Love someone else: We’re all in this “life” think together. We all move back and forth between these two places of love and fear. Help make someone else’s day better, and you’ll feel good too.
Learn your own signs that you’re living in love or fear. Learn to make the shift if necessary, and life will be amazing.
Somehow it’s Christmas Eve already.
This has been kind of a weird Christmas season for me and my family. It’d be easy to feel sad or let down because the season hasn’t been quite as “magical” as I’d hoped in a lot of ways. I never got around to making a lot of the crafts and treats I’d planned on or watched all my Christmas movies or listen to all my favorite Christmas songs. No snow yet, so it doesn’t look like Christmas. I’m also living in a new city that holds no Christmas memories for me.
But I’m not sad. It’s Christmas, and I’m with my family. It’s ok that it’s not perfect. I’m still grateful for it and I welcome this holiday season and all and all it has to offer. Fun, weird, goofy, hodge-podge, whatever.
Peace, joy, love, and fun are unconditional.
But Christmas has a way of being magical somehow, even if we never got around to putting up Christmas lights or if there aren’t many presents under the tree.
One of my most magical Christmas memories was when I was 9 or 10. Every winter, a giant ice patch used to appear in our field. I don’t know whether Dad flooded it or if the well did it on it’s own, but that Christmas eve at sunset, I took my little brother out to slide on the ice.
The neighbors across the streets had just turned on their traditional configuration of lights, and as the sun went down, I witnessed that moment when the sky finally darkens and the lights become brighter than the last colors of the sunset. I can’t explain what happened that moment, but the air just crackled with magic.
The snow, the lights, my pink-cheeked toddler brother, and the faint echoes of Christmas music from my house filled my soul with some of the purest joy I’d ever felt. Not the kind of joy that makes you want to dance around your room laughing and giggling, but the joy that nearly brings you to your knees in sheer gratitude of being alive.
That’s the kind of joy I try to express in my art, and that’s the feeling I strive to allow into my heart each day.
I wish you a holiday full of peace and that special joy.
Some days are just rough. That’s how life is, because without the rough days, the great days wouldn’t be so wonderful.
Sometimes the darkness and cold of winter sinks into your bones and you forget that spring is just a few months away. You forget to let yourself settle into the slower time, to admire the landscape, and to appreciate the contrast from the hot, busy days of summer that seemed like only yesterday.
Sometimes it feels like your career will never get off the ground, that no one will ever want what you have to offer. You forget that the struggle to create your career is what makes you a stronger business person, and that the fact that your passion drives you forward anyway is a sign that you’re on the right track.
Sometimes it seems like you’ll never get out of debt or have enough money. Sometimes things get so tight that you don’t want to turn on the lights or drive to the library, but things won’t always be this way. It may be a sign that you need to be more conscious of the way you spend, or that you need to explore some unopened income channels.
Sometimes life isn’t fun, but things always change. As cheesy as it sounds, a positive attitude and a bit of patience makes all the difference. Appreciate the moment, be grateful for it, and learn what you can from the current situation, and let go of the outcome.
Everything will turn out all right.
Before I jump in today, I’d like to announce that several of my paintings are now available on Etsy! Also, for the time being I’ve decided to showcase my art and life as an artist here on Handprint Soul, because this is my cozy little online home and it feels right. Will this change the blog? Slightly. Many of my posts will be more creativity and art oriented, but that is the place I’m in right now. I feel that this will only enhance Handprint Soul, and I’m excited!
Every year around this time, my energy and mood takes a noted drop. I wrote about this last year as I tried to accept and appreciate the coming of winter. This year, I’ve decided to celebrate the inevitable as well. I plan on writing a post about my plan for dealing with winter blues later, but for now I want to share with you the little ritual I’ve created for myself this November.
Premature Christmas displays aside, November is the month in which we typically give thanks for what we have. I believe that gratitude is one of the keys to happiness, and changing my mindset to one of gratitude is what truly lifted me out of years of depression.
I wanted to make gratitude a more conscious act this month instead of just waiting for Thanksgiving, so I created a ritual to celebrate both the seasons and the many things in my life that fill my heart with thanks.
Every day on my walk, I pick up a leaf. I usually go for the pretty, colorful, well-shaped ones. When I get home, I use a marker to write something I’m grateful for on the leaf, and I save it it a box. So far I’ve given thanks for my husband, my body, the seasons, education, and even gratitude itself because it’s like Miracle Grow for the soul. On Thanksgiving Day, I plan to cap this project in a special way. It’s a secret. And by secret, I also mean that I haven’t completely decided what to do with them yet. I have a few ideas, but I’ll wait until the time is right to decide.
How do you give thanks? Do you have any gratitude rituals?
Happy Father’s Day! Last month, I thanked my mom for all her awesomeness, but now it’s time to thank my equally incredible Dad.
1-Thank you Dad for working so hard to keep a roof over my head and food in my belly, while still finding time to take me fishing.
2-Thank you for always making the best spaghetti, burgers, salsa, and steaks I’ve ever had.
3-Thank you for growing the most amazing vegetables and letting me raid your garden and chicken coop every time I visit.
4- Thank you for endowing me with your blue eyes, artistic talent and off-kilter sense of humor.
5-Thank you for teaching to love Jim Henson, The Three Stooges, Benny Hill, and The Beatles.
6-Thank you for teaching me to work hard, be respectful and pick my battles, and that a sense of humor is one the greatest coping tools a person can have.
7-Thank you for faithfully reading every blog post I’ve ever written, liking nearly every Facebook update, and believing in me even when I don’t.
8-Thank you for saying I’m still your little girl even though I’m well into my 20’s.
9-Thank you for making me laugh all the time and for getting my weird brand up humor. ‘Cause it’s just like yours.
10-Thank you for trying to teach me to drive a stick shift. Sorry it didn’t work 🙂
11-Thank you for striking the perfect balance between protecting me and letting me grow.
12-Thank you for going with us to Disney World and stuff like that, even though you’d rather be fishing.
13-Thank you for being my best friend. I know I’ve said that Mom and Sam are my best friends, but you’re my best friend too, because you’re my dad.
I love you Daddy!
I’ve been meaning to read “Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams” by Sylvia Plath for years and last night, I finally did and I loved it. I love Sylvia Plath because something about her life and work draws me in. She’s one of those writers I feel like I know somehow because I relate to her so well.
I have no intention of offing myself, but the connection between creativity and depression fascinates me. The thing I think I relate to the most though, is her struggle to own her writing. To trust it.
You see, Sylvia wanted to be a highly-paid travel journalist and to publish short stories in popular journals. Poetry was just a release for her and sadly, she didn’ t become famous until after her death. She agonized over every word, she doubted herself even though she was a fabulous writer of prose and poetry. She married a successful poet and felt that she lived in his shadow because her career never took off in her lifetime. She waited for that validation from other people-the publicity, the paycheck- to be happy and acknowledge her gifts. She didn’t trust herself at all, and I think it was that turmoil that finally killed her.
I know what it’s like to be depressed, to agonize every every word and feel like I’m dragging the prose out of myself because I can’t reach that place where it flows naturally, to fear and yearn and strive but feel like I always fall short.
Sylvia, why didn’t you see how amazing you were?
After reading Johnny Panic, I realized how important it is to trust our gifts. We need to trust our creativity, recognize our talents and put them to work. Enjoy them whether we’re making money from them of if we’re not quite there yet.
I know I’ve doubted myself. All my life I’ve wanted to be an artist and writer, but after a few years of a near creative paralysis, I actually considered that maybe that wasn’t my calling. Maybe I should give it up, go back to school and get a real job. Now, I realize what a heinous thought that was.
You have gifts. We all do. They’re meant to take care of us and to make the world better. Hiding them is irresponsible. Here’s a few tips for trusting your gifts and bringing them out into the world.
- Develop self-love- In order to trust yourself and recognize your gifts, you have to love yourself. When you love someone, you see their strengths. When you don’t like someone, you only see their weaknesses. Make friends with yourself.
- Take care of yourself- if your emotional, physical or spiritual channels are plugged up, your creativity won’t flow. Take care of your body, express your emotions, give yourself the emotional space you need to have stillness so you can really think and ponder about things. Keep everything open; the flow of emotions, your bodily systems, and your mind.
- Find a safe place to play- if you don’t feel safe to experiment, express and even fail, you’ll always be stuck in some serious creative muck. Find a safe place, whether it’s a physical place or a mental state that allows you to open up and let things pour out. Don’t worry about making money yet. Don’t worry about anyone seeing what you’re doing. Let go of the urgency. Once you’re comfortable doing this in your safe place, practice moving it out into the world.
- Be like a child- Do children doubt themselves? Do children worry about what other’s think? Do children ever worry about failure, or that their scribbles aren’t good enough to adorn Mommy’s fridge? Play. Make a mess. Paint with your fingers if you want.
- Keep your mind open and be optimistic- Don’t be afraid to try new things if you discover one thing doesn’t work for you. Instead of putting a price tag on your satisfaction, invent your own definition of success. Enjoy doing what you’re doing just because you love doing it. Find the good in struggle, because struggle is all about learning.
- Be grateful for your gifts-You say “thank you” when someone gives a gift, so be grateful for your talents. They’re there for a reason; to make you happy, just like a gift that comes wrapped up with a bow.
- Know your purpose- Know what these gifts can do for you, your loved ones and the world. Even if you’re not sure, just understand their value. If this is hard, make a list of all the things you can do with your gifts and your life, then go back and read it and see which ones hit home with you. Keep refining this list and pondering it until you get it.
Happy Mother’s Day! Sadly, I won’t be able to see my Mommy today, but I just wanted to publicly thank my Mom for being so amazing and always taking such good care of me. I love to make lists, I thought I’d list some things I’d love to thank her for, then I’ll call her to wish her a happy Mother’s Day and remind her to check the blog 🙂
Ready, set, go!
1-Thank you Mom, first of all for bringing 10 pound, 2 ounce me into the world. I know that wasn’t easy, but thanks a lot of doing it. Being born means a lot to me.
2-On a less ridiculous note, thank you for meticulously documenting every inch of my life in the form of scrapbooks and journals. I love reading them.
3-Thank you for always telling me I’m beautiful and amazing no matter what.
4-Thank you for teaching me to make the world’s best chocolate chip cookies. I’m sure all my friends and neighbors thank you too.
5-Thanks for always listening to me and guiding me through life’s twists and turns. I couldn’t have made it this far without you!
6-Thank you for driving me all over kingdom come to music lessons, art classes and play practices.
7-Thanks for teaching me to eat healthy and exercise, but to also enjoy ice cream.
8-Thanks for sacrificing so much so you could be a stay-at-home mom for me. A lot of kids these days don’t have that, but I’m glad I did.
9-Thanks for trying to teach me to balance my checkbook and do my own tax returns. It’s not your fault that I hate doing them, but thanks for teaching me how.
10-Thank you for nineteen years of meals, laundry, a roof, and a whole teenage career of stealing your clothes and raiding your jewelry box. And thanks for still letting me.
11-For always telling me I can be whatever I want and for encouraging my creative dreams, “unrealistic” as they may be.
12-For always “getting me” when no one else seems to.
13-Most of all, thanks for always being my best friend. I love you so much Mom!