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An Attitude of Gratitude

Even in January….

I am not a fan of January. I love December and Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year but then New Year rolls around and I am set adrift. I generally manage to find enough enthusiasm to sit up for the stroke of midnight but I’m never really quite sure why, especially the next day when I feel constantly tired and bleary, as well as a bit grumpy.

New Year, New Me, No Thank You!

The grumpy bit is not helped by the sudden blaring of headlines telling me it is a new year so I need to be a new me. This year was made even worse by the turning of a new decade, somehow dialling up the transformational trumpet call. People around me start dry January, Veganuary or take themselves on to the streets to train for that marathon.

I sit and stare into my tea, wondering why the consumption of 5 Heroes before breakfast, endless cups of tea and watching Christmas specials is no longer the order of the day. What happened? Has the world gone nuts? Hasn’t anyone realised it is still WINTER. That means it is DARK and cold. Surely the best course of action is to sit under a blanket finishing off those Christmas chocolates with a glass of mulled wine or three and waiting until Spring starts to poke its head out. Then we can leap off the sofa and spring into action.

And what about all those calls for resolutions, visions, goals and plans for the new year? Why can’t I move myself into wanting to put them together? Am I unable to commit? Given I’ve been married for 15 years to someone I’ve dated for over 20, I haven’t sold my children (who are 12 and 9), I have close friends I’ve known for over 30 years I don’t think that is the case.

It just feels like the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Can’t We Take a Moment?

I love Christmas and it feels disingenuous to move on so abruptly, only a week after the big celebration, before Epiphany (Twelfth Night) even and describe my seasonal enjoyment of dried fruit based desserts, chocolate and turkey sandwiches as gluttony, my attempts to connect and hang out with family laziness, and my wish to savour the gifts I have received, both physical and spiritual, self-indulgence.

And what is wrong with a little indulgence. It took a year to build what happened to us in 2019 so why not take a few moments to digest that, to really delve into what made it special for us, before launching into the new year?

Diving into 2019

This new year I did just that. My lovely mother bought me a tiny photo printer that prints 2*3 photos onto Zero Ink or ZINK paper, that is also a sticker. On New Year’s Day I walked my dog, taking in the countryside, the air, the bright sky softening as afternoon approached and then I went home and dived into 2019.

I took two A4 pieces of card, one for the decade 2010-2019 and one just for 2019. I went through my photographs on my phone looking for at least one for each year for the decade, and one for each month, for 2019. The photographs were to represent something I was grateful for, something I wanted to recognise as important in my life, to me, as I am now.

A Great Full Life

Doing this I realised a few things. One wonderful one was that I could have filled each card many times over with the incredible people, places, things and experiences that have been part of my life.

Another was the remembrance of what it feels like to hold a photograph in your hand, to have a physical connection to this imprinted memory. We carry many photos around with us on our phones and devices but I, for one, don’t really look at them, let alone really pay attention to them. Holding each one in my hand, choosing where to put it on the board, and meandering down memory lane I recognised that every single photograph had a story behind it. My life is a collection of stories, each moment, each month, year and decade, building up to the story arc of my life.

Gratitude Boards

After a few arguments with this new piece of technology where I was painfully reminded that I am not a digital native, I had my boards filled with pictures. Over the last decade I recognised the changes that have come about. I have a son; I’ve been to the Olympics in my home city; I’ve fulfilled my childhood dream of going to drama school and becoming an actor; I have spent time travelling around our beautiful world and learning about some of humanity’s greatest achievements; I have loved family and friends; I have lost dear family members; I have built my studio; I have started to share my story with the world. I have much to be grateful for.

Even in the last year I have walked across mountains; watched the blossom fall like snow from the trees; been able to support Temwa make life better for people in Malawi, far less financially fortunate than me, and I have done it all with my dear family and friends as the beating heart of my life.

Looking at these boards now, in pride of place in my office, I am reminded of how great my life is already. Sure, there are things I could tweak, at some point chocolate for breakfast stops being so attractive and it feels right to leave the garish twinkling lights of Christmas behind for another year.

A New Adventure

But I don’t need a new me. I don’t need endless resolutions I can’t keep. I do need to gently rejoin my path and discover the adventure story that 2020 has in store for me, with me fully present, brimming over with gratitude that I have a new year to explore and excited to share it with those around me.

If you’d like a gentler approach to the year and think a gratitude board or two could help you ease into 2020 keep an eye out for an online workshop I’ll be running.

Bring a piece of A4 card, an open heart, and a treasure trove of photographs. I promise you will find that your life has much to love in it too and that gratitude will support you in your new adventure for 2020.

Esther X

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