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  • Writer's picturePeter Stadalsky

Express your Thankfulness

The American holidays are here; turkeys in the oven, shoppers ready at the starting line and Christmas around the corner. Seasons are changing. It’s getting colder on this hemisphere of the globe. Things just get frickin crazy. Presents, traffic, stress, snowstorms, short days and the end of another year. New Year’s Resolutions are coming up so we must cram in those last slices of chocolate cake.

I used to despise what Thanksgiving stood for. Especially the tales told in school about Columbus cutting Squanto a slice of pumpkin pie. We all know how it really went down. I don’t think it was a cornucopia feast and the only one’s celebrating were the opportunists in Europe. Sarcastically I would say, “Happy Native Genocide Day.”

The past few years have changed me. The desire to take responsibility for my mistakes and make amends with those I’ve wronged ignited a big shift in my life. Years of broken memories with my father began to melt away and we have been growing a relationship I never imagined. Every sunday I make it a point to go back to mom and dad’s to help them make dinner and catch up on each other’s lives. I’m finally learning what it means to be a good son.

My super awesome dad.

This year I quit a job I didn’t love anymore to pursue a dream to travel the world and to start my career as a writer. Years ago I heard a quote by Jim Carrey, “You can play it safe and still lose it all, so you might as well take a chance to do what you love.” It is scarey, but I don’t regret for a second taking a chance in life.

I live in a quaint little house on the eastside of a rough city. Home to 3 strange cats and 3 grown bearded men. My beautiful girlfriend stops by and we drink tea and read books. I’ve only resided in this city for 5 years and I’ve gotten to know a few thousand residents and make hundreds of friends. Life is the kind of garden we decide to grow. I’m grateful I planted a lot of flowers.

Walking with the yoga community in the city parade.

Some days life is a quiet adventure. The T.V. in my house rarely turns on. I crack open a book, listen to the rain, sit in meditation and prayer, enjoy the little blessings in the life I have. This year I don’t have much money to buy lots of presents, but I do have the time to be there for the ones I love. And time is something that cannot be bought. Everyone will get a little gift, something to say I love you, but I want more than anything for them to know I appreciate them.

My good friend Tim writes a gratitude list every single morning. He emails it out to a couple dozen people and they reply with what they are grateful for. It has become a life changing practice for Tim, ever reminding him to look at the gifts he has, instead of looking at what he is missing.

Years ago at Starbucks my coworkers were feeling down from the impatience and discontentment of many customers. I cut a big piece of paper out and taped it on the counter. The paper read, “What are you grateful for?” I left some Sharpie markers and let each customer write something down. The entire day began to turn around. Everyone was laughing and excited to see what the next person would write. Gratitude has the power to change.

Starbucks gratitude list.

Being grateful is a way of looking at life everyday. Some days life gets the best of me and my gratitude list is, “I’m grateful for my damn life and my damn cats and my damn job,” and that is human nature. But the more I practice, the more I see the blessings that are always around me.

So instead of cutting off the nimwit in traffic, pushing aggressive shoppers aside so you can grab the newest Furby, or stressing about buying a rotating christmas tree with fifteen hundred LED lights on it, step back and take a moment to be grateful. When we boil it down, holidays are really about time spent with those we love and being grateful they are in our lives. I know hearing about uncle Chuck’s recurring foot fungus at the Thanksgiving dinner table may not be everyone’s favorite conversation, but you only have to hear it a couple times a year. You can be grateful your feet are not uncle Chucks.

This gratitude stuff changed a bitter young man who hated Thanksgiving because of a past we cannot change into a guy who wants to show others he loves them. And loves sharing food too! I have deep sympathy in my heart for what the natives have had to suffer. But I know the best thing I can do about it is appreciate what and who is in my life and take a few days to show it.

My beautiful and super-dooper girlfriend.

My mother wrote an article last year about “filling your tank with joy.” When the hard days of winter set in we need to pull from that joy reserve. These are the times we fill our tanks. These are the times to reflect on everything wonderful that’s happened and all the gifts we do have. These are the times to show others we are thankful they are in our lives.

So what are you grateful for?

Journal it, post it on facebook, email it, share it at the Thanksgiving table. Whatever you do, don’t hoard it, give it away. Because happiness is always better when shared.

A gratitude list, try writing one out!

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