The summer of 2006 was not my finest hour. There was one light that I kept turning to over and over again during those difficult months – Nelson Mandela’s book Long Walk To Freedom. I bought it as I prepared for a class trip to South Africa with my business school friends the following March and it changed my life. From the moment I started that book, I committed myself to living my life as fully as possible in every single moment. I would never again say that something was impossible. He showed all of us that sheer will and the refusal to give up is enough to accomplish anything. Anything. To this day, that trip to South Africa is my favorite trip of all time. I knew when I left that I’d return there many times over in my life. It’s one of the very few places I’ve considered living if I ever live outside of the U.S. It is a magical country with some of the kindest people I’ve ever met.
When I heard the news of Mr. Mandela’s passing yesterday, I was home writing. My eyes immediately teared up and my heart felt heavy. Tears of gratitude mixed with tears of sadness. His light was so bright that I thought it would go on forever. And in many ways, it will. His light is alive in every person inspired by his actions and words. Against all odds, he shifted the world toward justice, acceptance, and fairness. Through his enlightenment, he enlightened all of us. How lucky we are to have had someone so good with us for so long.
“Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.” ~ Native American Proverb
Every day I wake up with two thoughts – “Thank you” and “Today something amazing is going to happen.” I’m thankful that I get to wake up at all, that I’m healthy, and that I spend my time doing things I love. I’m a news junkie and one of the wonderful / awful side effects of my news addiction is that I hear a lot of stories of hardship and struggle. This keeps me from taking anything for granted and it motivates me do things to help make this world a better place.
I recently added the “today something amazing is going to happen” bit to my morning meditation. I believe in the power of intention and I’ve seen that the more often I intently look for blessings, the more likely I am to find them, create them, and recognize them when they cross my path. This belief restores my faith every day in our ability to attract wonder and absorb magic so that we can pass it on to others in our words and actions.
Every day behind the scenes, the Universe is working on blessings to send our way. So long as those blessings find us deeply engaged in work we love, we have the opportunity to hitch our work to the shooting star that races across the sky of our lives. This is the thought that keeps me going and will keep me saying thank you every morning that I have.
The act of giving thanks is powerful. And contagious. When we give thanks for one thing, we inspire others to do the same. And as we see one blessing, others begin to come into focus. Joy is what bubbles up when we realize there is always something to be grateful for. We don’t need to seek happiness. Once we start giving thanks and happiness will find us.
There is so much to do on Thanksgiving. So much to consider, celebrate, and embrace. We’re cooking, setting the table, welcoming guests, traveling, and giving thanks. I’m thankful for all of you because we cheer each other on, encourage one another, and keep the light going in every circumstance. Every day I feel more fortunate than I did the day before and that’s because of you. Wherever you are, whatever you do, whomever you’re with today, I hope you find love and gratitude and joy in every single moment. Happy Thanksgiving.
Some people think of Spring as a time of renewal. For me, my renewal happens in October. When this pumpkin-, apple-, and chilly weather-filled month rolls around, I breathe a little more fully, dream a little more freely, reflect a little more gratefully. Here’s to October, and all that magic it brings.
1.) Making 9/11 a national holiday
2.) How to ask for help when in the midst of personal crisis
4.) Apartment Hunting in NYC
5.) How to maintain top website load times
6.) Health-supportive cooking
8.) Doggie daycare and boarding
9.) The value of digital marketing for start-ups
10.) Drones for journalism
11.) Pest control
12.) Voice-controlled image editing
13.) Book reviews – how to get press for your start-up, how computer programmers maintain a healthy lifestyle, and learn to program by building video games
14.) A fundraising appeal letter for an animal shelter
And then I’m going to wrap up the next edits for my first full-length play and work on Your Second Step. This is the life and career I’ve always dreamed of. Gratitude doesn’t even begin to explain how I feel. I wish for everyone, everywhere to have a heart this full.
Have something you want me to write about? I’d love to hear from you!
Things I didn’t care about yesterday:
1.) The heat, humidity, and poor air quality
2.) The noise
3.) The guy in the park who cursed at me when I smiled at him as we made eye contact
4.) The too-loud musicians on the train as I made my way home after a long day
5.) The uncertainty of a freelance life
6.) Being up until the wee hours of the morning writing to meet deadlines
There were over 3,000 people who didn’t get to have yesterday, and they won’t get to have today or tomorrow either. 3,000 people who would give anything to be able to walk these streets that they loved as much as I do. 3,000 people who would have been as happy to see their friends yesterday as I was to see mine.
The term 9/11 leaves an ache in people’s hearts. I can’t imagine that will ever change no matter how much distance we get from that awful day. There will always be something lost. But for those of us who are left, there is something to be gained, too. The inconveniences caused by the cycles of life don’t matter. In the grand scheme all that really counts is that we get today and we get to decide who to spend it with. We are so fortunate to have the time we have and there’s no point in wasting it by filling our heads and hearts with laments about our current condition. Conditions will change; they always do. What’s important is that we make the most of whatever we have before us.
“What matters most is how you walk through the fire.” – Charles Bukowski
4 years ago today, my apartment building caught fire and I lost almost everything I owned. I got out of the building just in time. A few moments later and I might not be here writing this post to you today. On that day if someone told me I’d be grateful for that fire, I probably would have punched them in the nose. Now I know better.
I’m more grateful than ever for that experience. Through that healing process, I found out what I’m made of, and I found out what so many other people are made of, too. I emerged from the other side of that grief a far better person than I was before. It was difficult, and many times it was awful and painful. A big part of me wanted to give up on remaking my life. A small part of me refused to give in. I listened to that small voice. I fed it, and eventually it grew loud enough to drown out the doubt. And if knowledge is power then I’m more powerful now than I ever dreamed I could be.
It doesn’t matter what challenges we face. What matters is how bravely we face them. It doesn’t matter how much nor how little we have, but how much we do with anything we have.
Every morning, Phin and I take at least an hour-long gratitude walk. On our walks, I think about all of the blessings I have in my life. I worked for and live a magnificent life. I’m grateful for good work, good people, and freedom, for the sunshine and the blue sky and the trees. For the ability to feel such a wide range of emotions so fully and authentically. I’m most grateful for my inability to take any moment for granted; I know too well how swiftly it can all disappear without warning. I’m grateful to see opportunity everywhere and be able to action against those opportunities for my own benefit and the benefit of others.
Every once in a while, I ask Phin what he’s grateful for and he just looks at me and smiles. “Back at ya, buddy,” I tell him. He lives in the moment more than anyone I know. He loves fiercely and freely. I try to follow his example. If anyone knows the value of time and gratitude, it’s Phin. He’s an amazing teacher.
Enjoy your barbecues and picnics today. Celebrate this day off from work and surround yourself with the people and activities that you love. And then take a small quiet moment some time today and say a heartfelt thank you to the many brave people who made the ultimate sacrifice. We are the land of the free because of the brave.