Fifty (plus) Things of Happy: an exercise in Gratitude for the Longest Night

I owe this post to the inspiration of one of my favourite bloggers, Fish of Gold. The instructions for this challenge are as follows:

If you’d like to join in, here’s how it works: set a timer for 10 minutes; timing this is critical. Once you start the timer, start your list (the timer doesn’t matter for filling in the instructions, intro, etc). The goal is to write 50 things that made you happy in 2015, or 50 thing that you feel grateful for. The idea is to not think too hard; write what comes to mind in the time allotted. When the timer’s done, stop writing. If you haven’t written 50 things, that’s ok. If you have more than 50 things and still have time, keep writing; you can’t feel too happy or too grateful! (OK I confess my time may have been a bit off the 10 minutes because I was interrupted in the middle, but you get the idea…)

To join us for this project: 1) Write your post and publish it (please copy and paste the instructions from this post into yours) 2) Click on the blue frog at Tales From The Motherland  3) That will take you to another window, where you can past the URL to your post. 4) Follow the prompts, and your post will be added to the Blog Party List. Please note: the InLinkz will expire on January 15, 2016. After that date, no blogs can be added.

Please note that only blog posts that include a list of 50 (or an attempt to write 50) things that made you feel Happy or 50 things that you are Grateful for, will be included. Please don’t add a link to a post that isn’t part of this exercise; I will remove it. Aside from that one caveat, there is no such thing as too much positivity. Share your happy thoughts, your gratitude; help us flood the blogosphere with both.

In latter years, I have begun to feel the cosmic turning point of the winter solstice as a more fitting start for the “new year” that the arbitrary turning of the calendar page that takes place on January 1st. The solstice is, after all, nature’s new year. The day the days begin to lengthen towards the spring. It has been so unseasonably warm here this fall that it seems a bit odd to think of the days returning when we have scarcely gotten started on winter, but still it is nice to look forward to the day when we don’t both arrive at and depart from work in darkness.

When I came across this challenge on Fish of Gold’s blog this evening, it seemed like a fitting way to mark the turning of the sun towards a new year.

So here I go with my list of things that made me happy in 2015.

  1. helpful catDark chocolate
  2. Raspberries
  3. My kids
  4. My sisters
  5. My mom
  6. All my nieces and nephews.
  7. The rest of my amazing and slightly wacky extended family.
  8. My cat, even if she is evil incarnate.
  9. forestWalking.
  10. Trees
  11. Walking in the trees.
  12. Listening to my sister sing.
  13. Writing—just about anything.
  14. Young adult science fiction. Yes, really.
  15. Anything at all by Margaret Atwood.
  16. school booksTeaching teachers.
  17. Making collages.
  18. Making pie.
  19. Making chocolate chip banana muffins for my niece.
  20. My sister’s Facebook statuses.
  21. My other sister’s impromptu dinner parties.
  22. The call of a loon.
  23. Any body of water larger than a mudpuddle.
  24. Houseplants that don’t ask a lot of me.
  25. Creative coworkers.
  26. A manager who makes things happen so that I can get things done.
  27. Good butter chicken.
  28. Coffee with a good friend.
  29. Lunch with a good friend.
  30. Dinner with a good friend.
  31. Heck, just all the good friends. Old and new.
  32. Brilliant musical theatre.
  33. The sense of accomplishment I felt from driving all the way home from Toronto by myself.
  34. red bootCousins.
  35. Small indulgences.
  36. Red wine with spinach pizza. (see above.)
  37. Anything that involves Feta cheese.
  38. Not having lymphoma (long story!)
  39. My artificial hip.
  40. Jeans that fit.
  41. Red boots.
  42. Shedding my mortgage.
  43. Rocking chairs. Just in general.
  44. Did I mention trees?
  45. And water?
  46. And trees by the water?
  47. My favourite black shirt.
  48. Tattoos.
  49. backClassic videos on YouTube.
  50. Used bookstores.
  51. The full moon on a clear night.

Happy Solstice!

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Opening gifts

Layers

gift - unwrappedA favourite activity at the various little-girl birthday parties that I hosted when my daughters were young was a game we called “pass the present.” The game required a fair bit of preparation on my part – in fact it often took longer to prepare than it did to play.

The preparation involved selecting a prize – usually something simple, but appealing to the particular age group attending the party. I would then wrap the prize as though preparing to give it as a gift. And then I would wrap it again. And again. And again. The more layers of wrapping, the longer and more exciting the game. I always made sure there were at least as many layers as expected party guests.

When the time came to play, all the participants would sit in a tight circle and pass the gift around while I played music. It worked like a reverse game of “hot potato”—when the music stopped, rather than being out of the game if you were holding the gift, you were instead rewarded with the opportunity to remove one layer of wrapping. As the controller of the music, I always cheated just a little—strategically pausing the music so as to ensure that everyone got at least one turn to peel off a layer.

The game always involved a lot of excited shrieking, as well as much melodramatic slow-motion passing executed in the hope of enhancing one’s odds of being the one to remove the final layer and reveal the treasure within.

Of course the final “unwrapper” would get to keep the prize. But for the most part, it seemed that the fun of the game was in the suspense and anticipation – the sense of possibility – that accompanied each round as the players waited in expectant agitation for the music to stop.

Uncovering

gift - handsA woman I know insists on opening gifts in private. If you give her a gift, she will thank you graciously, but she will politely refuse to unwrap it until she is alone. She explained to me once that she worries that her reaction to a gift might hurt the giver – that, try as she might to always appear grateful, any inadvertent disappointment she might feel regarding  the contents of the gift will be instantly betrayed on her face.

My friend’s anxiety highlights a certain intimacy surrounding the giving and receiving of gifts. Peeling the wrapping off a gift is a disrobing of sorts. In the moment where we first uncover the truth about what lies beneath the decorative exterior, both the giver and the receiver may find themselves revealed—perhaps uncomfortably so.

How will my reaction to this gift impact the giver?”

What does the gift that is chosen for me reveal about the way I am perceived by the giver?

What does the gift I choose to give reveal about me?

A mindfully chosen gift uncovers both the giver and the receiver a little, even if only to reveal a deeper layer of wrapping.

Gratitude

gift - wrappedAnother woman I know likes to tell a funny story at her own expense. She was working her way through opening a small mountain of gifts at a bridal shower held in her honor. With each reveal, she made a point of voicing an effusive “Thank you,” punctuated by the declaration that the object in question was “just what she wanted.”

She got on a roll, caught up in the chaos of the conversation around her and the rhythm of the gifts passing through her hands, until suddenly she heard herself once again enthusiastically declaring, “It’s just what I wanted!”

Except this time she had not yet unwrapped the gift.

She was mortified, certain that her guests would now read all of her expressions of gratitude as insincere because of this slip.

I think there’s another way to look at it. What if her premature outpouring of thanks is evidence that her gratitude was as much for the simple fact of having received a gift as it was for the nature of the gift itself?

Sometimes we don’t get the gift we were hoping for.

gift - openSometimes we get something better.