I'm okay with that because I am touchy-feely. I hug my friends hello and goodbye. I will give my last dime to charity. And I tell the people I love that I love them ... on a semi-regular basis.
So when I saw a bunch of people being tagged in "The Gratitude Project" on Facebook, I secretly wanted to be one of them.
For those not in the know, The Gratitude Project involves posting three things you're grateful for on your Facebook page every day for a week. When your turn is finished, you tag three others.
Once I was tagged, I dove right in. I fully expected to name the usual gratitude-inducing things: family, friends, partner, meaningful work, pets, etc. And I did do a bit of that.
But what surprised me was how grateful I was for the things I usually complain about. Like growing up in small northern community, for instance.
A conversation about my hometown usually goes something like this:
"You grew up in northern British Columbia? Wow, it must be so beautiful there."
(Shrug) "I guess so, but we never really noticed that in high school. We just wanted to get out."
The last thing I ever expected was to be grateful for the place I was raised, but as soon as I sat down to write my three things, there it was.
Instead of focusing on the lack of opportunities, the isolation, and the pressure to conform, I felt a deep sense of thankfulness that I grew up in a place where it was safe to walk to school. Where the backyard provided plenty of space to play, and where we didn't have to lock our doors.
I was also grateful that my mother never censored what I read. As a child, I quickly exhausted the appropriate books at my home, my school, and the local library, and soon moved onto hers. I read Rosemary's Baby, some racy Jackie Collins numbers, and discovered a bag of Stephen King books in the basement--THAT was a find. I even read true crime. Sometimes I had nightmares, but I'm so thankful I was never taught that any books were bad. I believe all that reading shaped the writer I am today.
I've seen some articles urging parents to police their children's reading material, and that makes me so sad. I can understand it, but I think it does more harm than good to put barriers between young people and the books that interest them. I'm sure my mom wished I hadn't read "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret," in Grade Three, but she dealt with it--and the dozens of questions that came afterward--gracefully.
What started as a simple Facebook exercise became a real eye-opener for me. Here's what I discovered:
- Touchy-feely or not, a surprising number of people enjoyed reading these lists. You can learn a lot about someone by seeing what they're grateful for.
- Thinking big picture about gratitude puts things in perspective. Instead of simply being grateful for my work or my martial art, I thought about all the women who helped get me and so many others to this place--without them, we wouldn't have the opportunities we do today. This got me thinking about how I could be a trail blazer or at least give another woman a hand up.
- Thanking people feels really, really good. This I already knew, but acknowledging those who aren't part of my daily life--tireless advocates and volunteers, the inspiring people I've interviewed--made me feel amazing, and it helped the people I mentioned feel appreciated. One woman was moved to tears. You never know who might need a kind word.
- So often we focus on the negative--even if we're positive people. I'm not sure if it's an effort to appear humble or what, but this project taught me the power of looking on the bright side.
By the end I was feeling so great that I decided to start keeping a gratitude journal again--something I haven't done in years. But there was something very powerful about expressing my gratitude publicly, and I'm glad I did. Thanks to Kei Ebata for tagging me.
Have you ever kept a gratitude journal or tried the Facebook project? What did you learn? What three things are you grateful for today?