Last week, M (the boyfriend) and I had a discussion about Valentine’s Day. He made a comment along the lines of, “I like Valentine’s Day. It’s fun. But I also think you should celebrate your love for your partner every day, not just on a holiday.”
I absolutely agree with this sentiment. But, like, dear M, it is not every day that you gift me with such delicious chocolate that it was actually physically painful NOT to consume the whole assortment in the first five minutes of having them in the house. So, until M starts bringing me more chocolate on days that are not a holiday, I say, let’s keep the holidays and cram as much commemorative chocolate into them as possible. (Love you, M.)
The larger point he was trying to make, of course, is a point difficult to remember and even more difficult to implement when you are, like me, a busy person trying to balance and accomplish All The Things — we should celebrate our loved ones, our friends, all the little things in life that are easy to push aside in favor of that pesky to-do list, not just on holidays, but every day.
This kind of thinking aligns quite well with a couple of things I’ve been struggling with of late:
- Being patient with myself and my own path (as opposed to constantly comparing myself to the paths and accomplishments of others)
- Taking the time to appreciate what I have and what I have accomplished so far, and to be happy and content with that
The problem here is that I am, for all my scatterbrained qualities that have begun to emerge as I age, extremely Type A. I like spreadsheets, to-do lists, and quantifiable progress — whether that’s tracking my word count on a project, selling another book, or noticing that my clothes fit better after a period of consistent exercise. I am constantly striving to do better and achieve more — which is a good thing! But since I am so hard on myself, this personality trait of mine can lead to a feeling of huge dissatisfaction when I don’t live up to my own expectations, when something isn’t happening “fast enough,” or when I observe others surpassing me in some way.
When this happens, I tend to focus on the negative and obsess about it, rather than focusing on the positive and using that to buoy me forward.
- I have begun planning a new book project! BUT SO-AND-SO IS PLANNING A NEW BOOK PROJECT FASTER THAN I AM! I MUST NOT BE GOOD ENOUGH.
- I have unpacked all my books and arranged my desk in my new office! BUT I STILL NEED TO DECORATE THE WALLS, GET ANOTHER BOOKCASE, BUY CURTAINS AND WINDOW HARDWARE, ETC.! AND IF I DON’T DO ALL OF THIS TODAY THEN I’M A HUGE SLACKER.
- I ran three miles this morning! BUT I HAVE RUN LONGER DISTANCES IN THE PAST! SO OBVIOUSLY THIS RUN WAS A FAILURE.
Oh my goodness. So destructive, right? WHY, then, do I do this to myself?
Because I get so caught up in that Type A “achieve everything, and achieve it NOW” mindset that I forget two very important things:
Patience and Perspective
It is difficult, in these moments, to look at what I have accomplished, look at what I have, and be happy with that. To find contentment and satisfaction in life not as it could be someday, not as I want it to be someday, but as it is right now. To slow down, take a step back, and be thankful for the things around me.source
I am therefore starting something new today:
Every day for the next year, at around 11:00 a.m. EST (usually around the time I finish my morning work session and break for lunch and errands), I will pause, think of something already in my life — not something I’m working toward — and take a moment to focus on how thankful I am for that thing. This can be a friend, a project, an item in my house; my workout for the day, the birds outside my window, the weather, the cat on my lap, M’s smile, a phone call with my mom. It can be anything, really — as long as it is something already in my life.
I will also tweet about this thing for which I am thankful — using the hashtag #365thanks — and ask what others are thankful for that day. I encourage you to participate as often as possible, because I am a firm believer that you can concretely affect not only your own life but the world around you by infusing it with as much positive energy as possible.
And if we regularly stop to think about what we have to be thankful for — the more often we take a moment to reflect on how lucky we really are and marvel at the everyday things we often take for granted — maybe our little slivers of the world will become that much better.
Maybe, after a year of this concentrated positive thinking, my life will have improved — not because anything has changed (even if things have changed, which of course, they always will) — but because I have changed. I will have vowed to find more happiness in the life already in place around me. I will have been kinder to myself and the life I’m living. I will have learned, as my mom always told me I should, to be happy with my life as it is and not base my happiness on some intangible idea of what life could someday be.
I will have taught myself patience and perspective. I will have given thanks not only on a holiday, but every day.
Project #365thanks. Are you with me?
(*Mmm! Look at all the future perfect tense in that last paragraph! Oh, seldom used grammatical constructions, you bring me joy.)