With Gratitude For All


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This is a post that I wrote two years ago. Today, I was preparing to write a Thanksgiving post, when I happened upon it. After reading it through, I realized that it perfectly expressed my present feelings. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, I offer it to you as my way of showing gratitude for you, whether your country celebrates the holiday or not. Gratitude is not a once a year day, it is meant to be practiced every day. So, with this post, I say “thank you’ for being such a blessing to me. Thank you for joining me on my journey. Have a blessed day.

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As I rush to and fro in preparation for this week’s holiday feast, I stop to consider the meaning of giving thanks, that is, the meaning of gratitude. According to Wikipedia, “Gratitude, thankfulness, gratefulness, or appreciation is a feeling or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive.” For most of us, it is quite easy to give thanks for the good things that happen in our lives. No, the difficulty arises when we consider our thoughts and feelings about those things that we consider “bad,” for instance, illness, a lost job, or the death of a child, spouse or close friend.Granted, these are no zippity do dah moments, but they too have undoubtedly  left us with some underlying “benefit” that may or may not have manifested itself as of yet.

For years, I have dealt with the  scourge of fibromyalgia– constant pain, depression, insomnia and more. I resigned from my 14 year job as a State’s defense attorney because my fibro symptoms adversely affected my work. It was impossible to concentrate on the case at hand while in excruciating, unrelenting pain.  There were too many days when I made it to work, only to lay writhing on my office floor. So for me, fibromyalgia is my nemesis, that one thing that I find it difficult to give thanks for. Yet, in most of clarity, I can see that the benefits are there.

Not too long after I went on disability, my mother had a stroke. She has always been in perfect health, so it was a shock. After she left the hospital, the options were a nursing home or our house. There was no question that  she would stay with me and my husband.  The thing is that had I still been working as an attorney, it would have been impossible for me to welcome my Mom into our home. I travelled constantly and was always trying cases in one Texas city or another. I was out-of-town more often than not. My disability became a benefit, because it allowed me to be there for my mother when she needed me. I am grateful for that.

We can’t pick those things that we are grateful for. When we begin giving thanks, it is for everything that has gotten you to where you are today. As Oprah Winfrey writes, “Gratitude for the whole journey of my life–not just everything that had gone right, but the things that had not.” I have to remind myself of this every single day.

I wish you and your loveds a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

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My Art of Prayer

MOON
MOON (Photo credit: Nick. K.)

As an initial matter, I want to point out that in this post, I refer to God. That is my preference, but I understand that for others it may be Source, Divine Mother, Universe or what have you. Please feel free to substitute the term that feels right for you.

“At the end of a crazy-moon night
the love of God arose.
I said, “It’s me, Lalla.” ~ Lal Ded (Lalla), a 14th century mystic from Kasmir

Earlier, I was reading this blog and her post led me to ponder the act of prayer. For me, praying is as natural as breathing. I grew up in the very Catholic New Orleans and I spent 12 years in Catholic schools where we attended church regularly. The act of prayer was bred into us. As a child and teen, I prayed about things which as an adult are quite laughable. I prayed that I’d receive certain things for Christmas, I prayed that I wouldn’t make a fool of myself in a PE softball game, I prayed that I could attend a sleep over, and as I grew older, I prayed that a certain boy would notice me, and that I could attend the party of the century, nothing was too trivial to bring before God. At that time, prayer involved getting down on my knees in sublimation, bowing my head with reverence and making an impassioned plea for my request.

As an adult, prayer became less of this rigid, formal affair and more of a way of forming a deep relationship with God and more importantly, a way of communicating with him. In addition to requests and gratitude, I began to, among other things, share my thoughts and feelings, and seek guidance or advice, usually in the form of journaling. For reasons that I cannot recall, at some point, I became concerned about whether I was doing enough and whether I was praying correctly. I was in a quandary because if I was ‘doing it wrong,’ perhaps God wasn’t hearing my prayers.

It was during this period of rumination that I first stumbled upon the above poem. It was so simple and brief that at first glance, I passed it up. Yet, it spoke to me in a very profound and real way, and I returned to it to figure out the reason. I understand that, as with any poem, others may espouse different interpretations to it, but this is my interpretation.

In it, I read that there is no strict formal way that we must pray to be heard. In my mind, the phrase “It’s me Lalla,” implies both a close relationship in which God knows exactly who we are, as well as an approachable God. For me, prayer is akin to talking to a close, special friend that we trust more than anyone in the world. With that said, think of your relationships and particularly those in which you feel a kinship with the person with whom you are talking and perhaps, sharing your heart. Especially in the case of significant or important discussions there is an implied level of familiarity and trust with the person. In the end, we speak to God in a way that allows us to be most open and honest. The poem allayed my fears and concerns.

In my case, prayer became a freer more open-ended exchange. Of course, my adult concerns make those of my youth pale in comparison, but I value my “talks” with God, as an integral part of who I am. Ours is a two-way conversation in which I can rant, rave, question, explain, express gratitude and be exactly who I am, with no doubt that I am understood and loved. I finally realize that as unique human beings, it is little wonder that our methods of prayer, communication and relationship with God differs, and that is as it should be.

Blessings, Lydia

Let’s write a letter.

Once I got a love letter
Once I got a love letter (Photo credit: Pimthida)

When was the last time you received a letter? No, I am not talking about any document generated with the aid of a computer or typewriter (they still make them don’t they?). I am referring to an honest to God letter penned by someone’s hand. I am talking about a letter someone who thought of you, took the time from their busy schedules, pulled out pen and paper and hand wrote you a letter. Before the age of computers, letter writing was our means of saying I’m thinking of you, I am worried about you, you mean so much to me or I love you. I don’t know about you, but going to the mailbox and finding a handwritten envelope with my name on it created excitement and anticipation. Well, I give you the perfect opportunity to elicit similar feelings in someone you love and care about.

As an initial matter, it is not my idea. I was reading one of my go-to by Flora Bowley, an amazing artist, teacher and author. The post was about a project she created and in which she herself is participating. The project is “A Heart to Hand: A Love Letter Project.” It began December 1st, so as usual, I am late to the game. Nevertheless, needn’t matter. The purpose of the project is “

“all about letter writing which also happens to be all about slowing down, mindfulness and gratitude.  So, for each day of December, I will write a hand-written letter to someone I love.  I have no list of people in mind to receive these letters.  Instead, I plan to sit down everyday, meditate for a few minutes and allow someone I love to float into my heart and mind. “

It is all about making the recipient feel special knowing you took the time to write more than a card or email to them in this age of immediacy and computers. It is about showing gratitude and saying thank you while you have the chance. It about slowing down, making a cup of tea or coffee, lighting a candle and making it a sacred act of being in the moment. It is about choosing the way is right for you to meet the objective — a letter pouring out your heart to someone in your life to whom you have something special to say. We think we have all the time in the world, but all too often, unexpected events harshly remind us ‘later’ may never come, and even the best of intentions are subject to chance. We are only promised this moment, so let’s make something of it.

As Flora points out, “Whether it’s a month of letters or just a few, let’s all take some time to sit down, slow down and express our love and gratitude to the people who mean the most to us.” So grab your favorite pen and paper and just do it. Whose face floats into your mind?

For more information on the project go here.

Blessings, Lydia

Five Things For Which I Am Grateful

Candlelight
Candlelight (Photo credit: UnnarYmir)

1. For the kindness of strangers.

2. A cozy bed that shelters me from the cold.

3. The visit from my LA daughter and g’son.

4. Last night’s sleepover with my g’daughter

5. The blessing of a roof over our head, food on the table and the opportunity to help others.

What are you grateful for?

Blessings, Lydia