Thoughts on being grateful

photo (12)Thanksgiving is an American tradition I’ve grown pretty fond of. Ever since I moved here God knows how many years ago, I’ve had the good fortune of sharing this holiday with wonderful people I’ve had in my life throughout the years.

This year was no exception, but unlike other years I started the day with a special, two-hour yoga class at my new (cheater cheater!) studio.

I’m going to preface all this by saying that I’d been making big strides with the book writing all of last week, but when I got close to the 47,000 word mark, I started to feel a little stuck.

The heroine, Mallory (the twit – although she gets kinda ballsy in the end, so I may have to stop calling her that), is essentially trying to move on from one (non)relationship and to truly open herself up to having feelings for someone else. She gets herself dragged, while digging her heels in slightly, deeper than she would like into a relationship with Mark – the guy you all met in Hong Kong.

Mark is a really great guy – successful, nice, intelligent, caring, mature. Lots of good things. He’s also a good looking guy – definitely the kind you’d like to take home to your mother. But she’s just not feeling it, and she keeps going along through the motions thinking that she will eventually develop stronger feelings for him.

Anyway, so there’s a scene that I had been putting off writing because I was really struggling with explaining – given everything else that had happened in the story – why Mallory’s doing the right thing when it comes to Mark.

So anyway again, I was totally stuck when I went to this yoga class. And the owner of the studio, who was teaching the class that day, started it by doing a little bit of a lecture and a meditation on gratitude. She asked us to hold a mantra in our heads as we meditated (or in my case, sat there with my eyes closed). The mantra was: I am grateful for all that I have. She also asked us to think about the things we were NOT grateful for, but should be.

This struck the wrong chord with me for some reason. As I closed my eyes, I started immediately thinking about my book. I started thinking about my character and why I didn’t want her ending up with the “right” man. About how she was totally within her right to not be grateful for Mark. Her feelings were hers, no matter how illogical.

And then it dawned on me that our instructor had it all wrong in her positioning of gratitude, just like Mallory had it all wrong in what she was trying to do with Mark.

Enlightenment, peace. Being Zen is NOT about only having positive feelings. It was JUST like my anxiety treatment. It is not about NOT having anxiety, it is about accepting your anxiety without judging it. I will always have anxiety, I just coexist with it pretty peacefully.

Same thing with gratitude. It’s not about making yourself grateful for the things you “should” be grateful for. It is about accepting your feelings and making something positive out of them.

And then it was the same thing with Mallory. Her true intentions in opening herself up to Mark weren’t really about opening herself up to Mark – they were about getting rid of her painful and illogical feelings for someone else, because those feelings brought her pain and she wanted to get away from them.

After the meditation was over, our instructor asked us to introduce ourselves to one of our neighbors and talk about what the meditation had brought up for us. I met a lovely woman who told me she was grateful to have the opportunity to spend time with her extended family yesterday, but she was not grateful for the job she was currently in and she thought that she SHOULD be.

I really wanted to tell her that there’s no such thing as SHOULD, especially when it comes to feelings. If you don’t feel grateful for something the “enlightened” thing to do isn’t to force yourself to feel grateful! It’s to observe and recognize your feelings and then take action (or strategic inaction) wherever those feelings might point you. I forced myself to shut it because who wants to get metaphysical advice from a stranger in a yoga class on Thanksgiving Day??

Anyway, with that idea in mind, I finished the book today. I really didn’t want this book to be about me, but in a strange way it is. My character heals herself from unwanted feelings in the same way I healed my anxiety. She accepts that her feelings are flawed and just accepts herself – and them – and carries on with her life trying to find happiness despite them.

I don’t want to give away too much on the book in case you guys are ever tempted to read it, so I won’t tell you how the story ends or even try to clarify the jumbled plot I just painted for you up top. I hope the message comes through regardless.

It really is all about acceptance, folks. Whether you like what you’re feeling or not.

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