It’s been a week since someone in my family (my sister in law and Celia’s godmother) got the best news ever. Well, it was good news only because of the bad news that preceded it.
Long story short. A doctor said, “Pack your bags and move to Fiji.” This statement followed the delivery of a very grim prognosis. Inoperable brain tumor.
Less than a month later, the inoperable turned operable and the remaining part of the tumor post-surgery was termed benign. A family breathed a huge sigh of relief, and so did an entire community. People from coast to coast were sending Facebook prayers, well wishes and cheer to a person who, if it were someone else’s hardship, would have been the first one getting everyone together.
I am lucky for many reasons. But one is that I married into a huge extended family. My husband is one of seven children. I love being part of it– mainly for the big-ness of everything- big birthdays, big holidays, big parties, big helping hands, and let’s not forget, big personalities:)
So, after seeing my sister in law Liz and her husband (Mike’s eldest brother) brave her way through what must have been the craziest not-so-merry go round, I found myself thinking a lot about gratitude. About being grateful and staying grateful, day after day after day. Sounds easy, right? Wrong.
In three months, some of us will forget Liz’s brief brush with the unthinkable and will be wrapped up in our woes of the everyday. But what if you made yourself stop every single day, no matter what? Stopping in order to think, visualize, appreciate.
Oprah tried to get everyone to do it in the nineties. Keep a gratitude journal, she said. Write down what you are grateful for each day. I did it, I thought it was worth a try. But it seemed hokey, touchy feely and maybe even a little forced. I needed something more permanent, more conversational, more rewarding.
Hmmmm. When did it start? Back in, gosh, 2005, maybe? My best friend since fifth grade, Kristy, encouraged me to email her a list of five things a day that make me smile. It was something she was already doing with a family member and it seemed to be a good pick me up.
Always up for some type of daily writing and/or journaling, I was game. And the rest, as they say, is history.
If I Was Right About The Date, We Have Been Doing It For Seven Years (Holy crap!)
We call it 5 Things. “Don’t forget 5 things.” or “Do 5 Things, it will make you feel better.” And it does. Over and over again.
This is why it works: Someone else is “listening.” If you are just thinking about your own experiences and how you are grateful for them, there isn’t a connection with anyone else. But here, the connection is paramount.
Also, it makes you stop- reflect- savor the moment and even better, look for the good in the world around you. Some days that’s hard, some days it’s easy.
Here’s my 5 Things from May 29, 2012:
1. Parker: “I’m just kiddin’!” About everything. He’s adorable.
2. Celia’s disposition. She’s so low maintenance, it’s hilarious.
3. My husband who thinks it is totally normal for an eight month old to have olives:)
4. A relatively un-busy week
5. My yard— I know I already said this— but I really, really love that yard!!
Doing 5 Things has done great things for my friendship with Kristy, it brings us close every day we write (typically only done during the school year, we both work on a school calendar). And because we are so in tune with each other via email, we tend to naturally text and call each other more often to follow up on previous emails (i.e. “Revision to “low maintenance” child item. Now she will only eat olives for dinner.”)
I asked Kristy what she likes about 5 things and she said this, “Listing 5 things that bring a smile to my face each day helps me start my day on a positive note. Even on the worst days I can try to refocus by remembering my baby’s dimple or saying thanks for steaming hot cup of coffee.”
So, pick a friend, a spouse, a sister, a parent and share 5 Things with them. It will help keep you grounded when a doctor tells you to spend some time in Fiji and will bring a smile to your face when you see how many exclamation points your friend uses in describing her garden.
Gratitude, it’s the shortcut to a happy, healthy life.