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Living Well - Gratitude

For most of my life, I have been the type of person who walked through life waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. I believed that whatever I possessed was possible by happenstance alone and it could disappear or be taken at any time and without any real recourse from me. I believed this because I had witnessed a pattern of this throughout my life and, if you have been reading my blogs you know core beliefs are an important aspect of how we see the world, I had developed a core belief that I did not deserve good things or for good things to happen to me. When something fell into my lap or something good happened, I did not feel gratitude because, to me, it was an accident or it wouldn't last long enough to feel grateful anyway. There was no point, in my mind, to wasting energy on gratitude when there were always so many other negative things occurring in my life that overshadowed those fleeting moments of happiness. Consequently, what do you think I spent most of my time thinking about? Negativity. Ergo, decades of self-propagated misery and suffering ensued.

What do we deserve?

This is a fascinating question because the answer should be internal, personal, reflective. But, that is not from where we draw the answer to this question when answering it for ourselves. First, let's look at the definition of the word: verb; to be worthy of, qualified for, or have a claim to a reward. If we are not defining for ourselves the parameters of what it means to be deserving, then who is, and why do let them? I believe the problem with feeling unworthy and undeserving when speaking of gratitude is if we believe that, we are incapable of ever feeling gratitude. Unfortunately, this then creates a chain reaction of negative consequences because if we never feel grateful for what we have and we only focus on the bad things that happen to us, then we are perpetuating only the negative elements in our lives. We virtually keep all the doors to positivity, happiness, joy, and abundance closed while we consciously step aside and let all the negativity flood our physical and emotional selves.

Let's take a moment to think about who we allow to discern our personal worth. I obviously cannot speak for everyone, but as an addict, I believe I can at least speak to many of you who have used addiction to mask the frustration and despair that accompanies the feeling of worthlessness. For me, it began at a very early age.

Familial denotation

I was raised by an authoritative father who learned his parenting skills from a more authoritative dad then he was. In their mind, the way you corrected behavior was through pain and humiliation. I can honestly say that I do not believe my father was consciously aware he was doing this, but he was doing it nonetheless. Receiving painful punishment for mundane mistakes and behaviors really only has a couple of outcomes: fear, confusion, and inadequacy. The fear of making a mistake pretty much curtails any desire to experiment with the unknown. Without the unknown, we cannot grow. Confusion clouds our minds and causes us to invent unrealistic and irrational thoughts about why we are receiving negative feedback. No learning can take place in a place of confusion. Inadequacy leaves us feeling unworthy and if we are unworthy, we cannot expect or even want for good things to occur in our lives. We feel we do not deserve them.

Societal denotation

Every day of our lives we walk through a world that attempts to define our worth based on what we wear, what we drive, where we live, what we believe, who we associate with, and other inconsequential aspects of our personal being. We are never bombarded with visual and audio confirmations about the good things we do every day for ourselves, people we care about, strangers, and the community. There are no billboards made for us on our drive to work that says, "Thank you Mr. Smith for helping your community by volunteering at the school." There are no commercials that thank us for being active members of society. There are no books written about the daily contributions made to the world by Joe Shmoe who is trying to make it a better place. No, we are only bombarded with repetitive information whose only purpose is to make us feel inadequate, unremarkable, ordinary, inconsequential, and unworthy. Therefore, here is this new product that will instantaneously change all of that the moment you make the purchase. What is worse is that we believe it and we make that purchase. To be fair, it's a proven fact that the repetition of information has the ability to shape our core beliefs over time, and if we do not interrupt those incoming signals with opposing viewpoints we will begin to believe them to be true. It is up to us to thwart the barrage of false information being thrust into our consciousness every single day of our lives.

Self denotation

The above list goes on and on but for the sake of the positivity of this post, I will assume you can ascertain for yourself all the different people, organizations, communities, and beliefs that negatively affect our self-worth. Until we take the time to discern the parameters for ourselves of what it means to deserve good in our lives, we are only left with what others tell us we deserve. As addicts, this is very difficult to do by the very fact that the poison we put into our bodies virtually makes it impossible, on a physical and emotional level, to feel worthy of anything. The first step in opening ourselves up to learning who we are and what we deserve is to let go of the thing that keeps us held down and unable to see past a life of misery and suffering. Once we walk away from our addictions, we immediately begin to feel and see what all those advertisements try to promise us, that there is a better life out there, and we do not have to purchase anything to enjoy it. We simply have to believe we deserve it and then begin taking steps to bring more of it into our lives.

There is one crucial ingredient though, and it is non-negotiable. Once we believe we deserve good in our lives and we begin to see it occur more and more, we MUST consistently show gratitude for its presence in our lives. Thankfully, we can now do that because we believe we deserve it. It does not surprise us anymore when positive things happen to us, in fact, we expect them to happen because we are living well, showing gratitude, and living a life worthy of positive outcomes. There is a saying, "It's not happiness that brings us gratitude, it is gratitude that brings us happiness." - unknown. The book, "The Secret" talks about having an attitude of gratitude, which basically means developing a habit of feeling thankful for everything and everybody in our lives. It means we need to say thank you to everyone that helps us no matter how menial. It means to say thank you for every good thing that happens in our lives (to god, the universe, or whatever or whomever you believe). It is a lifestyle that you have to consciously choose to live, and that is the point.

Unfortunately, it is a choice and it is not an easy choice to enact at first. I can attest to this after living forty plus years with an attitude of shmattitude. I have found that I have to consciously make myself remember to be grateful for what I have. One of the ways I have done this is by giving thanks for what I have every morning, the minute I wake up. As I walk downstairs to make coffee I go through the list for what I am most grateful. Given that I am half asleep when I first wake up, my list of gratitude at that time is pretty mundane and repetitive but I still give thanks for those things in my life that mean the most; I give thanks for my wife, my son, my house, my car, and my job (and my soon to be new career). Then, once I wake up more, I post on Twitter five things for which I am grateful. By this time the list evolves and is more specific. I have grown to appreciate this routine every day because I enjoy learning what comes up for me in terms of gratitude based on the events occurring in my life. While the Twitter idea might not be for everyone, I like it because it feels like letting something go out into the world, electronically or not, I believe I am releasing it as positive energy.

At first, living with an attitude of gratitude is not easy, but it does get easy every day. This is especially true when you begin to witness the positive consequences that come with your new attitude toward life. Some of the things you will see change for the better are small, some are big, but all are a direct result of the way you are now choosing to live your life. Letting go of substances that held you captive for most of your life is the most freeing thing you will ever experience and with that freedom comes a zest for living that virtually craves gratitude. You can't help but feel it, want it, and enjoy expressing it because you know that it is the reason you are now able to finally believe that you deserve good to happen in your life.

Live well by living a life of gratitude.

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