On Being Thankful, by Shira Anthony
Sometimes we should express our gratitude for the small and simple things like the scent of the rain, the taste of your favorite food, or the sound of a loved one's voice. —Joseph B. Wirthlin
Gratitude is a gift in and of itself. It’s a gift we give others. Gratitude is also something we must learn. More importantly, gratitude is the path to happiness. But happiness is also the path.
I hit a “big” birthday a few years ago. One of those birthdays that gets you thinking about your own mortality. It didn’t help that around that time, my family and I lost a very dear friend to cancer. Lanie hadn’t even turned thirty. She’d survived a battle with breast cancer. She’d only gotten married a few years before her first diagnosis. She died less than a year after she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy the doctors never thought she could conceive. I was devastated. A few years later, I lost both my uncles. I nearly lost my father.
I can’t say I reacted well to any of it. I was angry. Frightened, too. I felt human. Fragile. I watched my parents and my husband’s parents grow older and weaker. I watched as time moved forward, and I knew what was coming for me, for them, for all of us.
Last summer was one of the hardest and darkest times of my life. A good friend of mine died suddenly and far too young. So much promise, so much talent, and he was just... gone. I learned of his death on the first day of a three week sailing trip. That loss overshadowed my trip. How was it fair that he was gone, his loving husband left alone, and I was taking three weeks off of work to sail? There were other challenges and losses as well, all of which left me shell-shocked and sad. The summer ended with my saying goodbye to my youngest as my husband and I left him at college in Colorado.
I took nearly three months off from writing. I licked my wounds. I kept moving forward, but without real joy. I’d love to say I had an epiphany and that my attitude about life and happiness changed overnight. It didn’t work that way. I didn’t wake up one morning and shrug off the gloom.
But one morning something did happen. I woke up and realized my husband was still standing there beside me, loving and supporting me. That I love him deeply, even after all these years. I realized that I have friends who love me and whom I love. I realized we’d raised two wonderful children. My old dog, whom I thought wouldn’t see 2015, rallied and is doing well. She greets me when I come home and makes me smile. I have two living parents who are enjoying their lives. I have a real life job I can be proud of and that makes a difference. I write books and people read them.
Those were the big realizations. Things I am incredibly grateful for. But the journey toward gratitude didn’t end there. I started looking around for a change, rather than looking inward. I noticed tiny things. Things I hadn’t even noticed seemed to make themselves known to me. Things I’d taken for granted.
I remember standing in the break room at my office, waiting for my lunch to heat in the microwave. I’d left my phone in my office and there was no one around at the time. I had nothing to do. I looked out the window at downtown Raleigh. It had been raining on and off for nearly a week. Clouds hung low over the tall buildings. And instead of thinking how I was sick and tired of the rain, I noticed how beautiful the clouds were. How the trees were particularly colorful this year. That night, when I walked to my car, I took a deep breath and inhaled the wonderful scent of the fallen leaves and the rain.
Each day now, I try to focus on the little things. The beauty in the world around me, even if it’s just a single flower growing in the cracks of the concrete.
And I am so grateful to be alive.
With each little piece of gratitude comes the greatest of gifts: happiness. Because when I focused on the beauty, whether it’s a cherished memory of a loved one who is no longer here, or the simple pleasure of inhaling the salty air from our boat, or the wag of a dog’s tail because she’s happy to see me, I started reclaiming my happiness. Piece by tiny piece.
A simple shift in focus. Finding the beauty and the happiness that has always been around me. Being grateful for what I have.
Buddha is quoted as saying, “Happiness does not depend upon what you have or who you are. It relies solely on what you think.” Taken one step further, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way.”
No matter what life brings us, there is happiness to be found. Sometimes we have to look for it. But it’s there. And for that, I am so incredibly grateful.
I’m sharing a bit of my gratitude with everyone by offering up an ebook or paperback copy of one of my books (paperbacks for US entrants only). Comment on this post and tell me what you’re grateful for, and you’ll be entered! I’ll pick a winner on New Year’s Day! Happy holidays and a very happy New Year to everyone. –Shira
Shira’s next release, First Comes Marriage is now available for preorder from Dreamspinner Press. It’s part of the brand new Dreamspun Desires line from Dreamspinner. Sweet, romance front and center novels that feature all the classic tropes category romance: mistaken identity, second chances at love, marriages of convenience, secret lives, exotic locations, and lonely millionaire bachelors. Dreamspun books are available individually or by subscription at a special discount.
Blurb: When struggling novelist Chris Valentine meets Jesse Donovan, he’s interested in a book contract, or possibly a date. The last thing Chris expects is a marriage proposal from New York City’s most eligible bachelor!
Jesse’s in a pinch: to keep control of his company, he has to marry. So he has valid reasons for offering Chris this business deal. In exchange for living in a gorgeous mansion for a year, playing the doting husband, Chris gets all the writing time he wants and walks away with a million dollar payoff. Surely Chris can handle that. He can handle living with the most handsome and endearing man he’s ever met, a man he immediately knows he wants in the worst way and can’t have. Or can he?
You can subscribe to the Dreamspun Desires line at Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=7224&cPath=1583
In her last incarnation, Shira Anthony was a professional opera singer, performing roles in such operas as Tosca, Pagliacci, and La Traviata, among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle.
Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs, and when she’s not writing, she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children. When she’s not working, she can be found aboard a 35’ catamaran at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel.
Shira can be found on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter (@WriterShira) or on her web site, http://www.shiraanthony.com. You can also contact her at email@example.com. You can find Shira’s books at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and All Romance Ebooks.
What an outstanding post, Shira! You describe many of the struggles I've been going through with my family and my own sense of impending age. This past year was rough on me when I tore my rotator cuff and I found myself having to revise my opinion of what I could do. I've always taken my health for granted, but in the last few years I've received some rude wake up calls that not only can I no longer do that--but I have to accept there are some things I shouldn't be doing anymore, even as I see my parents' increasing frailty and know this too is my future.ReplyDelete
One of the things that has helped me has been just what you mentioned--finding the little things in each day that bring you joy each day. I'm so pleased you returned to writing and that you found your joy again.
Thank you Sarah! It's ironic that you have to work to find happiness, but that it's actually closer than you think.Delete
Wow what a great post. I think we all could do with looking at the little things. Glad that you got back to writing. HOpe you have a great Christmas and a Happy New YearReplyDelete
Thanks Denise! Little things really do add up. :DDelete
This has been a tough year for me. But life does go on. I am going to look to 2016 for better things.ReplyDelete
I hope 2016 is a good year for you, Debby. Keep looking for those little rays of sunshine. They're around, even though sometimes they hide behind the big, difficult stuff. :DDelete
You have written a wonderful post, Shira. I really do try to focus on the good things in life. I know how fortunate I am and I don't want to take anything for granted. Happy Holidays to you and your family. :)ReplyDelete
Thanks so much, Lisa. I hope you have a wonderful 2016!Delete
In the last month my family lost an Uncle (brother of my father) and Aunt (sister of my mother)and your post really hit home for me.
Thank you for sharing this with us.
Those types of losses are so difficult, Angela. *big hugs*Delete