Better & Bolder the Blog

Gratitude, days 21 - 25

Day 21, 30 Days of Gratitude. I misplaced my two favorite stacking rings last week and just now found them -- very grateful. What a happy moment that is, moving from that slight discomfort of not knowing where something loved may be and then discovering it --yea! my old friends! we're back together! 

I know it's a small thing, and that's the point: the constant awareness of the little ways we're blessed and the continuing appreciation for all that's good in our lives is what makes us happy. 

There's also a place in our lives for awe, the experience of being deeply moved by something very beautiful and profound. A good sunset will do it. There's a minute maybe where the light is just perfect and if we're there to catch it and notice it, we can open ourselves to awe.

That's all I'm going to ask of my Thanksgiving holiday (or really, I suppose, any day). I want a minute of awe and a bunch of little moments of delight. Delight because the food is yummy, and that particular bite is awesome. Delight because someone said something funny. Delight in the flowers or candle light on the table. 

One more thing: I'm missing my sister something fierce right now. Last night I couldn't sleep from it. She died when she was 30 years old -- a baby! It's been 23 years this January since her death from cancer. Cancer, as you all know, sucks. Anyway, when my heart is broken like this, when I miss her terribly, I know my heart is open. I'll be open to this grief, and so I'm open to awe. I'll be open to delight. I'll be especially grateful that I'm still around and kicking and especially grateful that others that I love and adore are still around to kick it with me.

Day 22, Thanksgiving, 30 Days of Gratitude. Grateful for Thanksgiving morning Nia class tradition. Grateful for the beautiful Studio Sway and the many people who support the studio. Grateful to live on the bosque and to walk in the sunshine and listen to the call of the geese. Grateful to be able to set a table with far too much food. Grateful most of all for this -- expressing my gratitude today directly to some of those who are dear to me.

Day 23, 30 Days of gratitude. I am grateful I was able to adapt today. We often talk about being flexible when we want to say someone is open to new ideas or willing to change. I like to think of it as mobility -- perfectly loose and responsive. I didn't wake up feeling happy and feeling well, and so I adapted my behaviors and my thinking. I guess it really was about seeking joy -- what was really going to nurture me -- and also not worrying about the outcome (I'd either feel better or I wouldn't). It was a good day.

Day 24, 30 Days of Gratitude. This is the anniversary of my father's death. I did not have a yarzheit candle so I lit one of those tall candles in glass, the ones usually featuring Catholic saints, though this one is just plain glass. Instead of lasting 24 hours, it will burn for days, and each time I pass it, I'll think of my father. The process of lighting the candle and seeing the candle is often fond, and then there's the moment when I pass and see the candle has burned out -- ah, yes. That's it then.

He inspired many with his courage and with his passion to be well. He was a runner (going so slowly, he said, that the cows and pigs and chickens were passing him) throughout his first treatment for cancer. In the 70s, he was meditating, twice a day, and visualizing himself well. He was doing yoga before doing yoga was cool. He defied his doctors' expectations and lived several decades beyond that first cancer diagnosis, though it was the third recurrence that finally ended his life. 

I'm grateful for my father's sense of humor. I'm grateful he brought music and dance to the house -- jazz music and partner dance, though I was terrible at allowing myself to be led. I'm grateful for his Jewishness; though he was strongly anti-religion, his humor, his voice, his swear words, and really his essence, all Jewish. 

At one point we were estranged, by my request. A relative, Paul, said to him he would regret it if he didn't try to reconcile with me, and I'm so grateful that Paul pushed him that way. And we did reconcile, and I'm grateful for those last few years. I'm grateful for the last visit, though it was clear he wasn't present and himself anymore. 

I'm not entirely reconciled. I'm grateful that even with that conflict in my heart and spirit, I am still grateful for what my father shared with me and the love he gave.

Day 25, 30 Days of Gratitude. I used to think I was a bad cook. That's because I'm not a great cook. If I wasn't great, I must be bad. Yeah, I know. 

I realized on Thanksgiving (yes, this year, that's how long it has taken me to realize) that I'm a good cook. The food I make is good. It's not great. Nobody says, "oh, that Beth, her food is fantastic!" Nobody ever said the best thing about a party

at Beth's house is the food (unless it's a potluck, which it often is, in which case, the food usually is fantastic). Just because I'm not a great cook, though, doesn't mean I'm not a good cook. 

A bad cook is one who won't cook. A bad cook is one who makes food that people do not want to eat. A good cook is one who is willing to cook. It's a bit like sex. Willingness is a huge part of the success. 

I'm grateful that this Thanksgiving, making greens, potatoes, and a wild rice dish (all of which were good) as well as a nut crust pumpkin pie (which was very good) that I let go of that old story about myself, the one that says I'm not a good cook. Be gone, unhelpful story! I'm forging a new and more better relationship with food - food! my guru! - and I am one onion peel closer to an essential truth when I stop telling myself I'm a bad cook. I'm grateful for a new perspective and a truer story.

Gratitude, Days 16 - 20

Day 16, 30 days of gratitude. Freaking glad it's the weekend. Grateful it's bed time. Really, it's the little things, or maybe those are big things. What it feels like is surrender. For the next 8 hours, if I'm lucky, I just let go, and rest, and sleep, and the world moves on without me pushing anything along.

Day 17, 30 days of gratitude. I made a bunch of poor choices today, and many of them are the same poor choices I've been making for a while now. I'm feeling tired of being myself making the same poor choices. The start of the cold season and the holiday season appears to be beating me up. There is only one thing left to do, which is to be grateful for those choices that were good: chicken soup with greens for dinner, sitting together with Bon and looking at a magazine, taking a short rest in the afternoon, reading some great articles in Vanity Fair. 

There's a great question I read somewhere, and I can't even remember where, maybe here on FB, and I keep it on my calendar so that every week I look at this question, consider it, and then move it to the next week. The question is what do I need to do to restore my authentic self? The answer all week long has been that I don't know. Perhaps a period of unrest is simply natural and inevitable. Perhaps it doesn't matter how long it takes me until I decide I do know the answer to that question. I'm very grateful for that question. It's my little lifeline to get me from this place of unrest, this place where I am not particularly enjoying being me, to the next place. 

There a whole ton of things on the gratitude list that are easy: family, friends, Lola, living here on the bosque, my warm home, having my health, having a job. Every day I can wake up and know I am blessed, wildly and beautifully blessed, and privileged. These things are the most important by far. I like digging below this list, too, so when it's late at night and I'm writing my day's gratitude, I have to answer what was the gift in today. What did I learn? How did I grow? Where did I f- up? Where did I succeed? And what deserves my thanks and praise?

Day 18, 30 days of gratitude. It's good to be healthy. I had a cold for about 24 hours, and it started suddenly Friday night, not too long after I'd gotten in from 30 minutes of sprints and hills, and then it was done just as suddenly, Saturday night, right after my bowl of chicken soup. Bon has the flu, and I'm holding out that it will be 24 hours for her, too. 

I didn't know if I could make it for my long run today; exercise is great for the immune system overall but it still taxes the body and it's not always good to exercise hard when fighting off colds and flus. I went out anyway and hit my goal, which was to make it to the Paseo bridge from my house and then back. This was just what my spirit needed: time in which there is nothing at all to do but put one foot in front of the other. 

In just one week, the leaves on the Cottonwoods have all gone brown. No gold left, no bright red on the neighboring trees, not even much green left except for a few large yards in the back of extremely large homes. It's truly November, but, folks, it's November in New Mexico, which means I was running under a very bright blue sky and the sun was warm and complete. For this, I am most grateful, for the sun.

I was nurtured by the sun. I was nurtured by a lovely conversation with Anna and Diane. I was nurtured by connecting with my family. I nurtured them in return, dosing out the appropriate meds (cut-this-flu-short homeopathics for you, don't-get-the-flu herbs for you). I'm a much happier person when I connect, and yet there are days, such as yesterday, when I really really really do not want to connect. I'm grateful for the connections, brief yet satisfying, and grateful to be able to nurture others, too, and grateful to nurture myself a bit as well.

Day 19, 30 days of gratitude. I'm very grateful my daughter is already feeling better. She used to get sick for days, and now sometimes she knocks it out in a day or two. So now we get to re-write that story, the one that said she was gonna be out for a week, and here's the new story: Bon knows how to take care of herself, and her immune system is FLY.

Ailin went to the store and bought treats for the party his Japanese class will hold on Tuesday. He worked out and then took a shower. Then he made himself dinner. I didn't have to remind him to do anything, and I didn't have to do anything for him. I have no nostalgia for the days when my kids needed me for everything, and I have great satisfaction and immense gratitude that they are becoming more self-sufficient. Healthier and stronger. 

It was a good day at work, too. I got to spend time working with one student. While the rest of the class was inside writing, we sat outside, in the warmth, and went over her essays and her options. We could talk. We weren't hurried. I really liked that. I learned something that I could do to possibly help her, and I liked that, too. I like learning from my students. I don't need performance portfolios and goals for each year and committees; just give me time with the students, really, and we'll figure out what we need. 

Another student was asking for my help with something for another class, and I thought, wow, that's great she trusts me enough to want my help with something. It's a delicious point in the term, before the intense rush and pressure of the last week, and also late enough in the term that there's some intimacy and connection with students. These guys are invested, and we can get down to work. 

I like progress. I like progress I can measure and observe. Maybe this is human nature and we all like it. I'm grateful when I see that movement. I'm grateful when I've had some small part of it, too.

Day 20, 30 Days of Gratitude. I'm grateful for things that tickle my fancy. The elevators at CNM announce going up and going down. The speaker's got an English accent. I can't imagine why, and it's such a delight to walk down the hall and hear a Brit tell me she's going down.I don’t think of myself as a writer, though I’ve become aware that I do an awful lot of it. 

Gratitude, days 11 - 15

Day 11, 30 Days of Gratitude. Seven for Sunday. I'm grateful for 1) my husband's embrace 2) my children's humor 3) my mother's generosity 4) Obama's re-election 5) another really gorgeous run 6) a closet full of clothes to keep me warm, and 7) ending another day tired, full-bellied, and safe. If it were just #7, it would be enough. So I'm grateful also for this excess, this bounty, this abundance of good.

Day 12, 30 Days of Gratitude. Today I asked students in one class to write down 10 things or people or places that made them happy. Then we each shared one from our list. It was like the whole classroom got a bit brighter. Then I asked the to write down 10 things or people or places or somethings for which they were grateful, and it couldn't be any of the same things they'd just written on their happy list. Again, we shared one each. 

There's this wonderful time late in the term when we've all gotten to know each other a bit, or we're willing to know a few more people in the class, and there's a tiny bit of sharing and intimacy. People also are helping each other with their work a bit more. They trust each other a bit. It's a very different atmosphere than the one we had at week one of the term. It's really very sweet.

The last essay of the term focuses on happiness. Martin Seligman says happiness is understandable, obtainable, and teachable. Happiness doesn't come to us; we create our happiness. We engage strategies, such as practicing gratitude, to move us to happiness. 

I like being happy. It sure as hell beats being depressed. It's easy for me to slide into feeling unhappy, uncomfortable, sad, irritated, and sometimes depressed. I've gotten pretty good at checking in. When I sense I'm feeling sad or depressed or overwhelmed, I often find I'm cold or tired or both, and that resting or getting warm will help immensely. I know. It's too simple. I'm very simple. 

I'm very grateful for Positive Psychology, which is the study of happy people. I've learned what I can do to be a happy person, and then, really, there's no excuse not to be (unless I don't want to be, though that's rare). I'm grateful and I'm guessing my family is grateful, too, since I'm pretty much a drag when I'm unhappy or depressed. I think maybe my students are grateful, too. It's nice to end the term on a happy note. It's also empowering. There's a whole bunch of research that doesn't just show us how to be happy but convinces us that happiness is up to us. It's not some great gift that lucky people get. It's not the result of great things happening to us. It's the result of how we perceive things and deal with our lives. It's about connecting, and being grateful, and living in our bodies, and using our strengths to create meaningful lives, which leads to happiness.

Day 13, 30 Days of Gratitude. I'm so cold this week. I'm grateful for those bags that heat up in the microwave. I take two to bed with me. Sometimes I focus on feeling miserable because I'm cold, and sometimes I focus on being grateful I have microwaveable bags. That's it for everything really: I can focus on the misery or the gratitude and the thing itself is unchanged. It's a practice, and it's also a choice.

Day 14, 30 days of gratitude. I'm so glad there are people who want to do the really important jobs I don't want to have to do. Our mail man is very nice and honks when we have a package; a great guy cleans my teeth twice a year; one time

I was late getting the trash can to the curb and the trash man waited for me -- how great is that? I don't want their jobs, and they do their jobs with kindness and care and then my life is better because of it. 

I'm glad somebody is a cop; I never want to be a cop. I'm glad somebody is a fireman; that's a scary, dangerous job. Then there are the exceptional, life-commitment jobs. I just read an article in More magazine ( about a woman who helps rescue girls and young women from sex traffickers. Dangerous and scary plus heart-breaking and never-ending. 

I am so grateful she's answered the call to do this work. I couldn't do it. It takes too much of everything: too much time, too much soul, too much courage, too much patience, too much hope. I don't want to have to give that much, and that makes me all the more grateful that someone is willing to step up and do it. Thank you, Dottie Laster, woman I haven't met except through your story (more gratitude! for magazines and magazine writers!).

Day 15. 30 Days of Gratitude. Here are some work gratitudes.

I have a great office mate. We barely see each other because our schedules are different. He teaches in a different subject area, so we rarely talk about our classes. When we talk politics, we agree, and our conversations are, like, 90 seconds long. It's the best ever. I'm so lucky.

Next week, I have Thursday and Friday off. I'm giddy.

We have three weeks left of the term, and then we take off for a month. I know!

I'm learning to be kinder, more understanding, and more patient. I'm a bit of a slow student in those areas, but I see improvement.

Gratitude, days 6 - 10


November 6, 30 days of gratitude. My children come of age in a time when the US elects - and then re-elects -- a black man as President. I couldn't have imagined this when I was their age. I'm grateful for what President Barack Obama accomplished in the first four years, including the simple and monumental task of winning our votes. I'm grateful for the Affordable Health Care Act, from which my mother, my children, my spouse and myself will all derive benefit. I'm grateful our troops came home from Iraq. I'm grateful to see the end of DADT. I'm immensely grateful that the next Supreme Court justices will be appointed by someone who believes in equality. I'm grateful we get to keep FEMA, PBS, and Planned Parenthood. Now I have to get off FB and downstairs because it's finally sunk in and my daughter has exhaled and is crying -- because she loves Obama and feels infinitely more hopeful that he's in office again.

November 7, 30 days of gratitude. I told Ailin to get his homework done tonight because he wasn't going to want to do it tomorrow night. He asked why, and I stared at him, waiting for him to get it. I had to tell him, dude, tomorrow is your birthday. He laughed, oh yeah! He's such a guy. He's way funny and always has been. He is terrifically rooted in what's just and what's manly. He's one of my reasons for living. I adore being his mom, and almost always he makes it very easy. We all feel this way about our kids -- enormously grateful for not just their health and their brilliance but that they are so particularly and spectacularly themselves. It's a blessing that we are family, the biggest, most whole, most complete and infinite blessing.

November 8, 30 days of gratitude. Sometimes, when I mention some way in which my kids are particularly wonderful, a kind person (like, my mom) will say I've done a good job of parenting. It may be true that sometimes parenting has something to do with it, but an awful lot seems to be just who they are and what they choose. Here's one thing that I think has zero to do with me and everything to do with them: they get along. They actually like each other. They're nice to each other. Maybe I should be thankful to the Universe for that, though attribution is not really the concern. I'm just so grateful. It's a pleasure to watch them together, so very different and yet in their own way in tune.

Day 9, 30 days of Gratitude. Today I'm thankful for running. 

First, I'm thankful for my younger self, the one who was willing to be led to ABQ, who knew to come live here by the bosque. Younger Self, I'm not sure I love all your choices, but this one was really good. Thank you. 

Today right after our light rain stopped (thank you for the rain!), I went out on the bosque trail and it was especially beautiful, though I say that on many occasions. The trees aren't quite as golden, though a few now are deep dark red. Instead, many of the leaves have fallen so I was running on a carpet of leaves while others were gently floating down around me. The sky do I describe it? Crisp? Bright? The light was so strong I couldn't look directly at the river, and it's as if the air around me was filled with this light. I also don't how to describe why it's so fun to run through the woods instead of walking (though that is its own pleasure too).

Day 10, 30 days of gratitude. 

Tonight my daughter helped me get ready for a party. My favorite part of a party is getting ready. Actually, my favorite part is when I imagine getting ready because dressing up always sounds fun. When it's time actually to dress up, it can feel a bit like work. It was easy with Bon, though. 4 pins in my hair and it was up and fabulous. She put on my eye makeup, loaned me her shoes, decided which belt and sweater worked best. Whew. 

Meanwhile, Ailin's friends came over to make him dinner. I think it was to celebrate his birthday earlier this week, but maybe they just wanted to make dinner. Another trip to the co-op for bacon, eggs, chicken, bacon, tortillas, cheese, and bacon. By the time I got home from the party, the house smelled like bacon and the kitchen was completely clean. I could say that today I'm grateful for my kids, and I am, immensely. Instead, this is about gratitude for friends. I'm grateful for my kids' friends. 

I'm grateful for my friends. Tonight we celebrated Shelia Duffy's white belt. Susan Goodan opened her home, and she's so good at this: a big table, a wonderful green chile stew, perfect lighting, enough of everything. We all talked, a lot and loudly, and laughed, and philosophized a bit. We reminisced some or got to know someone new. 

Before Siobhan helped me with my outfit, we were looking through photos and I found my HS yearbook. I thought I'd gotten rid of it -- really? I'm gonna read what we thought about when we were 18? -- and it turns out, it's pretty darn interesting to review my yearbook with my 17 year old daughter. What sports were big at our school? I dunno - surfing and skiing? 

I pointed out people she knew: there's Neil, there's Susan, there's Tia Nanette. Siobhan hasn't met Neil, but she's heard me talk about him. I think I've known him since kindergarten. I really couldn't have made it out of high school alive without him. That's because I often felt alien, or depressed, or simply un-understandable, and with Neil I simply felt understood. And accepted. I was okay as I was, however that was, and assured that things would get better.

Nanette and Sue and I have been friends since, I'm not sure, first grade? One year, we got our families together for five days at the beach. Every few years, we meet up in California and I'm amazed at how much we seem to be in sync. There is an ease I have with them that I may not ever have with any others because we have been friends for 45 years. That's, just, wow. 

Bon read through the notes friends had written in my yearbook and then found the typed sheet we called our "Last Will and Testament." Here's what I wrote: "I, Beth Byron, give to dear, wondrous friends all my love always -- with joyful thanks for the limitless love we share. You will never leave me." 

We get to choose our friends, but it's not usually that simple. We're thrown together through school or common activities and we lean toward some people more than others. There's a gravitational pull. We share more with some than others, and with a few we become intimate and interdependent. It's a luscious thing, that -- intimacy and interdependency -- and it keeps us whole. 

I have known Sheri nearly my whole life, known her since her birth just a few months after mine. We didn't choose each other; our mothers were friends. They didn't choose each other, either. Our fathers grew up together so they were friends. So when we left for college, we could have chosen to fall out of touch. Instead, we kept choosing to be friends. There's a lot of history between us, so there's that, but there is what's most powerful about love, and that's choosing to love. I think that's part of what makes friendships so powerful, that we keep choosing each other.

Writing the Gratitude

I don’t think of myself as a writer, though I’ve become aware that I do an awful lot of it. I am also aware, and a bit in awe, that sometimes other people like what I write, for which I am happy, grateful and a tiny bit sheepish. Why, then, do I write? Why am I writing if not for others to enjoy my words? Apparently, I write as a way to track my thoughts and feelings. I write to clarify and perhaps to solidify, and that’s one of the things that scares me. If I write it, what if I change my mind tomorrow? What I wrote yesterday no longer will be true of me but there those words will stand. I have had to become comfortable with putting myself out there, through my words, and knowing that I will change my mind, that I will write something that later makes me cringe, and that I will have mistakes, typos, errors, and things I wish I hadn’t said. And, it will be okay.

I suggested to the Better and Bolder email list that each day we write down something for which we’re grateful. The best way to do this is to tell someone to whom we are grateful why we are thankful for that person. We share the love directly. It’s also good to write it down, not just think it in our minds. I decided to write mine on FaceBook. It started small and then the posts lengthened, eventually becoming much more like blog posts. I’m guessing more people read me on FB than here on my website, and FB is set up for comments and Likes, so I have been seeing daily response to my posts. Friends, the pressure is on. Now I know 1) I can’t skip a day and 2) I better say something meaningful. What have I done? I’m tempted to say one day, “Wow, umm, grateful for peanut butter, I guess.” On more than one night, I’ve wanted to say, “Actually, I’m just really tired and don’t feel like writing. I’m cold and tired and feeling a bit of self-pity for no good reason (as if there ever could be good reason for self-pity). I’m not feeling grateful and can’t even fake it. Good night.” Of course, I don’t. I write about something or someone for which I’m genuinely grateful. Soon enough, I’m feeling a bit better. That’s the point. I’m writing for me, and then I publish and take others along for the ride. That’s all.

Here are the first five of the FB gratitude posts. 

November, 30 days of Gratitude. Day One: I'm really grateful that my husband listens to the news each day so that he can explain to the rest of us what's going on. Thanks, Hugh, for explaining Syria to Bon for her Model UN prep. For some things, there's Google. For others, we just Hugh-gle it.

November 2nd, 30 days of gratitude. I am hugely grateful to live in a country where I have the opportunity to vote. I have access to a huge amount of information (yes, disinformation, too, and I had a great public education so I could learn

how to sort one from the other). Lucky and blessed. I have painted my toenails blue in honor of the upcoming elections! Now to create a playlist for tomorrow, M & Saturday to honor democracy! Say Yes!

November 3rd, 30 days of gratitude. I just spent 20 minutes answering emails for a few of my CNM students. This is such an exciting part of the term. They're struggling with some new work, and they're engaged and motivated. I can see them getting it, even as they're wondering if they're doing okay. 

Learning is really difficult work. It requires we leave a happy place, the place we believe we know what we need to know, and move into a state that feels wobbly and unsure. It takes such courage to do that, especially for students who haven't been told they're smart, good learners before. 

I love my job! and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to do this work. One of the parts for which I'm most grateful is when I can hold up a true mirror to a student: here, you are really smart, you work really hard, you are being courageous and persistent, and you are really good at this learning stuff. I'm not a sweet kind patient teacher; I push and push. It's all that much sweeter when I can show students how strong they've become.  Grateful! Grateful to spend part of my Saturday answering emails.

November 4, 30 days of Gratitude. I received so much support this week. Some of it was the little stuff -- my husband helped me with the tire on the Elliptigo, and the great guys at Performance Bike fixed the tire quickly and cheaply and said all sorts of helpful things. I got acupuncture on Thursday and rolfing on Friday, and I'm so grateful for that very physical support. Some of it is more subtle. Sarah got me out of the house and to the Valley for Dia de los Muertos. Nancy reframed something for me by telling me I overcompensate; I thought, no, no, that's not it, and then I thought, hmm, that's really interesting to consider. I got support this week from my mom. I got support from my students. And the thing is: I got it. I let myself be supported. I received. It's good, and I'm grateful.

November 5, 30 days of gratitude. I'm so tired right now, and there's something very delicious about that. It feels good when I'm very tired or really hungry. It's clear and it's earned. I'm grateful that Nia has helped me become more intimate with my body's sensations. I'm still learning how to be neutral with them rather than having all sorts of stories and emotions around them. If I have to have a story, though, this is a good one: that my sensations are my true companions. Thank you, Nia, for keeping me mobile, for allowing me to dance and dance, for fueling my desire to know my body well, for always reminding me to return to joy as a choice and a great place to hang out, for being a wonderful way to create community and make wonderful friends. I am so grateful to this movement form, to its creators and teachers, to those who teach with me, to all who dance with me.