Having “WOW” Eyes — Developing a Gratitude Habit

Arfa Syed was pregnant with her first child and trying to find the strength to leave an abusive marriage.  She writes in Guidepost Magazine, “Life as I knew it was falling apart.”

Then she received the “sweetest gift”.

It was a journal with the word, Gratitude, on the front.  What on earth could she be grateful for during this time of acute stress?

She stretched her mind and came up with what seemed minute happenings in her daily life.  A neighbor giving her a recipe.  A random woman picking up her glove and handing it to her.

Over time Ms. Syed developed a daily practice of writing down what she was grateful for.  During difficult times, she journaled twice a day to remind herself of the good in the world.

In her article, How to Make Gratitude a Lifestyle she shares 3 additional tips to develop such a routine.

We should be present – remembering that time is precious.

We should reframe our view of obstacles – remembering that through them we develop resilience.

And this one I just love –  Ms. Syed says,  We should remember to be wowed.

“After “mamma,” my daughter’s next word was “wow!” I spend a lot of time looking at the world through her eyes—new and fresh and certainly appreciative of little wonders. One afternoon, I was rushing into the house, carrying her, when she started kicking her legs, wanting me to stop—she saw a squirrel on the tree and wanted to sit and watch it eat a nut. So, I stopped and we sat there and watched. I couldn’t help but notice the delicate green leaves on the tree branches, how delightfully the squirrel was eating and how great it was to pause and enjoy that with my daughter. What a reminder that I’m surrounded by beauty. Now, I pay attention to the beautiful river I pass on my way to work and the small joys of being a mom. Through my daughter, God shows me that even my mundane mommy routines can be wondrous.”

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This is surely a WOW life!  As I write, Codie’s tail is thumping on the hardwood floor; an orchid on the table next to me is boasting pink and purple charm; and a robin is pecking diligently on the grass outside.

Ms. Syed’s piece ends with a quote, “Happiness does not bring gratitude.  Gratitude brings happiness.”

So instead of listing our aches and pains, let’s pick up a journal and list our blessings.  Then let’s stare at a squirrel and say to ourselves, WOW!

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Today’s Takeaway –

-Where’s your WOW right now?

-Take after Codie whose WOWs are found in napping, retrieving socks  from the laundry bin, placing tennis balls in strategic places around the house so there’s always quick access, sprawling on a kingsize bed, greeting all strangers as possible best friends.

 

Enjoy the Ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

 

If you need more structure to your journaling, here’re some templates to get started.  And of course there are apps for that as well.

 

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The Empty Nest – A Syndrome or a Celebration

I knew if I blinked the tears would fall.  So I widened my eyes and briskly hugged Alex, turning quickly so she wouldn’t see me cry.  She walked resolutely across the park-like Denison campus, keeping stride with a freshman roommate who had confessed to being ADHD and a slob within the first 5 minutes of meeting her.

I cried most of the 7-hour drive home.

With Alex gone, our nest was officially empty.  Wasn’t it just moments ago my daughter was a cheery toddler belly flopping on her bed, shoving a Goodnight Moon board book my way while arranging Bunny and Bankie alongside Chelios the dog (not too close as they didn’t get along)?  Wasn’t it just the other day 5-year old Jared was waving his Ninja Turtle numchucks in a carefully crafted routine – Brett and I applauding with appropriate seriousness?

I remember when our basement was loaded with Little Tykes molded plastic – that basketball net filled with sand at the bottom so it wouldn’t break in half from energetic dunking.  That Flintstone-like car that Alex beeped on her way to indoor destinations.

From now on our house would be uncluttered.  Laundry would be doable. Dinners would be simple.  And as for that crowded wall calendar we used to complain about – there would be no more games, practices, matches, recitals, or birthday parties.  No more visits to Chuckie Cheese or Great America  (thank goodness).   Its boxes would be stark.

This was the plan, right?  Parenting is about letting-go.  First to babyhood and bedtime stories and then all too soon – you’re handing over car keys taking them to see friends you don’t know about at events you’re not sure about.

For us clingers (we know who we are), the empty nest is bittersweet – even downright depressing. You’ve lost that motherly identity and day to day sense of purpose.

The Mayo Clinic  cites the Empty Nest Syndrome as the profound sadness some parents feel when their last child leaves home.  If left unchecked, it can lead to depression and anxiety, even alcoholism.

They offer the following suggestions to deal with this parenting inevitability.

  • Accept the timing. Avoid comparing your child’s timetable to your own experience or expectations. Instead, focus on what you can do to help your child succeed when he or she does leave home.  (Easier said than done – says me not Mayo Clinic.)
  • Keep in touch. Maintain regular contact through visits, phone calls, emails, texts.  (Be prepared that they won’t answer you, says me not Mayo.)
  • Seek support.  Lean on loved ones for support. Share your feelings.(Not a  chance, says me, not Mayo).
  • Stay positive. Thinking about the extra time and energy you might have to devote to your marriage or personal interests.  (OK, I’ll try, says me.)

 

Psychology Today adds, “Don’t expect to feel ‘excited’ per se at first. However, getting involved in new activities and interests will help accelerate your emotional adjustment.”

So whether you’re sad because of the empty nest or you’re distressed that your nest will NEVER be empty, the same game plan holds true–

-Practice self-care.  Meditation, yoga, walking, volunteering, reading, having drinks, coffee, a meal, anything with friends.

– Do NOT linger on Facebook images of perfect families, perfect lives!

-Stay curious. Plan trips. As hard as it is, tell your Comfort Zone to get lost.

-To the best of your ability, don’t seek out chocolate or cheesecake as solace.  Here’s a duh-thing from the NYTimes Smarter Living section  — giving in to food-temptations is oh so human.  Don’t beat yourself up. The trick is to NOT have the temptation within physical proximity.  If Ben and Jerry’s is in your freezer, then assume it will be in your mouth at 11pm.  Click the picture below for more.

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I am trying to practice what I preach.  (I love my comfort zone.) Our nest has been empty for a while, though Codie and Kacie are staring me down right now, obviously insulted, “What about US???”.  When I start to romanticize those Little Tykes days, I vow to open my Gratitude Journal — this IS a time to celebrate!

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Whether you have a full or empty nest, rejoice in the NOW.  It’s a gift from God.

-Also, remember that adage, “This too shall pass.”  Your Boomerang kids will eventually leave.  Make memories with whatever stage you’re in and KEEP BUSY!

 

Enjoy the Ride!  It’s the ride of your life!

xox

Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

YIPPEE Moments

Joy and I are big fans of Maria Shriver.  We look forward to reading The Sunday Paper – her inspirational essay that comes to us each week via email.   The writing style is engaging, the voice authentic, and the content both mind stretching and heart warming. Oh and it’s free.  (Click here to subscribe.  You will love it!)

 

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A couple of weeks ago, Maria talked about celebrating life’s daily “Yippee!”  moments.  Even in the midst of a dark season, such moments are there to be discovered.

“We all need more joy in our lives,” says Maria. Yippee-Joy, she defines as “a moment you consciously celebrate. It’s a moment where you decide that you get to feel joy-filled.”

Maria suggests we  recognize these Yippee’s at least once a day.  And the reason we DON’T do this, she adds, is a matter of where our focus is.

“Most of us are so bogged down getting through life and attending to life’s never-ending stream of responsibilities that before we know it, we aren’t playing anymore. We aren’t celebrating anymore. We aren’t thinking “yippee!”

Instead, we have our heads down in our computers or phones. We’re dealing with evolving relationships, changing kids, sick friends, our own health, aging parents, and bills. Lots and lots of bills. Sure, you can stay on this path and say, “well, that’s just life.” Or, you can consciously decide, like I have done, to find a daily “yippee!””

And in case you’re not in a Yippee mood, check out this research study from 2003.  There were three groups – one listed blessings; one listed hassles, and the third did nothing.  The results showed that the gratitude group reported improved happiness, increased motivation, and better sleep! It turns out there’s a causal relationship (not just correlational) between an attitude of gratitude and a better life.

The Bible tells us to “Rejoice always!” .  If we didn’t quite get the message (since we were too busy worrying), it reiterates, “Again, I say, Rejoice!”   Sounds rather like a command, doesn’t it?

So in the words of Becca, the Bachelorette, “Let’s do the damn thing!”

Here goes…

YIPPEE!  Spring is  here!  Buds are bursting from seemingly dead branches.  I’m seeing colors of unspeakable beauty, fat robins flitting and chatting.

YIPPEE!  Yesterday my husband AND my grown daughter took a walk through Millennial Park in 80 degree sun and then shared a meal at Veggie Grill.

YIPPEE!  I have 3 new library books sitting on my bedside table ready to befriend me.

YIPPEE! I am now enjoying 3 racket sports (pickleball, paddle, tennis) that provide the company of wonderful women – and cold beer.

YIPPEE!  Kacie, a cranky shih tsu lies at my feet, chilling in the morning sunlight.  Codie, of Golden love, stares me down, saying “Let’s do THIS damn thing!” Meaning, I should give over my damn cereal bowl so she can lick the remaining Grape Nuts.

These knucklehead doggies exude yippee-ness!

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So let’s embark on a 14-day YIPPEE Challenge.  Join Joy and me in the discipline of listing YIPPEE moments each morning.

AND THERE’S MORE…

If we also smile broadly while compiling our lists, then we will be exercising our facial muscles and REDUCING wrinkles. Some call this Face Yoga.   (Check out our post called, Exercising Your Face – It’s a THING!” )

The only response to that is YIPPEE!

 

 

Today’s Takeaway-

– Life is short.  Claim all Yippee’s while you can!  And then don’t forget to subscribe to The Sunday Paper. Click here.

-Maria’s essays are now compiled in a best selling book called, I’ve Been Thinking.  Click the book image below to order from Amazon.  $11.99 well spent!

 

 

Enjoy the Ride

xox   Barclay and Joy

When Life Shrinks: A Preview

Last January I was sidelined with an annoyingly slow recuperation to a mundane procedure.

I had ample time to process the phrase my hip gynecologist had casually tossed in, “If you were my mother…I would advise… blah  blah  blah.”  I lost her at “mother”.  Here I thought we were contemporaries…potential bff’s.

 

Here’s a picture of my gynecologist.  What was I thinking?

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So I was under strict orders to be a couch potato. I cleared my calendar. Oh the books I would read; oh the writing I would produce, oh the plans I would make.

 

Day 1 was liberating.  Brett was at my beck and call – grocery shopping, cooking, emptying the dishwasher, vacuuming golden retriever stage brush.   

Day 2 however had me staring at the window, a la Jimmy Stewart, wondering what life was like “on the outside”.   No evidence of reading, writing, planning.

Day 3 found me stir crazy.  A control freak somewhere on the ADHD spectrum.  And still no reading, writing, planning.

 

So it begs the question — how on earth would I cope with the inevitable shrinking of life?  When beloved activities are hijacked by the aging process.

 

I hope I cope like Mary.  

Mary just celebrated her 105th birthday.  She’s the life of the 3rd floor at the nursing home I visit. Her white hair is always coiffed; she wears brightly colored scarves and gobs of jewelry.  And now helium balloons adorn her wheelchair flopping behind her as she heads to Bingo.

“What’s your secret?” I  ask.

Mary is dismissive of such a silly question.  “Oh, Barclay, I am just too busy!” She peruses the activity board to check out the day’s options.  

Mary is probably the most positive person I’ve ever encountered –  in the most dismal surroundings I’ve ever encountered.  She’s thriving.

 

 It turns out our attitude matters more than our circumstances. 

So, let’s model Mary. 

And while we’re at it, let’s yell a robust “Bingo!” and fling some scarves in the air — just for fun.

 

Today’s Takeaway –

 

  • There are ALWAYS blessings to count.  Stop reading right now and hold up your hand and name 5  – out loud and with gusto.

  • BE ready so you don’t have to GET ready.  (I stole that catchy phrase from a sermon.)  Work on your attitude NOW while you can still move.  And a word about Bingo – we have to admit – it has stood the test of time!

 

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

Living in the NOW

In her later years my mother endorsed Eckhart Tolle’s best seller, The Power of Now.

Peggy saw no reason for dawdling in the past and rehashing the Done.  She grabbed each day – waking with the sun and attacking her projects – prepping for Bible teaching, planning the next party, volunteering at the day care center.  In her immutable style, she was fond of saying, “You have to get off your ass”.

Tolle would agree. “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.”

The Bible also speaks about living in the present.  “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.”

“THIS is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

The latest buzzword for living in the present is “mindfulness”.  And we retired Boomers have ample opportunity to practice this practice.

But first I have to admit – I am lousy at this.  I have befriended anxiety;  fear is my longtime pal.  And my glass is usually half empty.  God must look at me and sigh.

SO, in the interest of evoking a smile from God, I’m going to be intentional about living in the NOW. Want to join me?  Here are some “tricks” offered by  Health Line  to reduce anxiety and promote mindfulness.

 

Set an Intention

“Setting an intention can help you focus and remind you why you are doing something. If something gives you anxiety — like a big speech at work — set an intention before it takes place. You can set an intention to take care of your body before heading to the gym or to treat your body with kindness before eating.”

Turn Household Tasks into a Mental Break

“Instead of obsessing over your to-do list or clutter, let yourself relax into the moment. Dance while you do the dishes or focus on the way the soap runs down the tiles while you clean the shower. Take five slow breaths while you wait for the microwave to stop.”

 

Wish Other People Happiness

“You only need 10 seconds to do this practice from author and former Google pioneer Chade-Meng Tan. Throughout the day, randomly wish for someone to be happy.  You don’t have to tell the person, you just have to send the positive energy.”

 

The author of Health Line, Mandy Ferreira, also suggests we take walks, look up, pause at traffic lights, take a break from social media, lose our phones for a bit.

And then she adds an interesting point.  We can actually feel anxious about  not being mindful enough!  She says that Netflix has its time and place.  (Phew…I’d hate to forego the next season of the Bachelorette!)

So let’s channel Peggy and Eckhart and  enjoy the gift of NOW – while we get off our asses.

 

Today’s Takeaway –

  • Don’t let worry rob you of your NOW moments.
  • Pick one trick and give it a go.  I like the one about dancing while doing the dishes. No one’s looking.  Well maybe my golden retriever, Codie, will turn away in horror.

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

 

 

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