Almost 4 weeks back, I turned 42. While I hope I am not officially middle aged yet, it certainly is an interesting time and concept. Portrayed as the over the top, dramatic, Corvette buying, cheating on your spouse cartoon like stereotype (which I guess does happen to some people), I have found “middle aged” to be something much more deep and serious. If you haven’t “grown up” by your 40’s these are the years of the crash course. It’s when life gets really real. People you love get old, get sick, some of those people die, life and relationships get more and more complicated… One starts to consider that you are nearing “the second half” and that realization in itself is kind of mind blowing for a lot of people.
Year 39 was my intro into the so called middle ages. It was a difficult year of loss that flipped a lot of my world totally and completely upside down. I tried all the standard “cures”… crying it out (exhausting), getting a tattoo (pretty good, and no, I don’t regret it), therapy (some great some not so great- truthfully, its not so easy to find the perfect match therapist off the bat. When you do, its great. When you don’t it could be a disaster and make things worse. I had both experiences.)… Months went by and on December 31st of that year I decided to re-visit journaling (thank you, Oprah) in the new year. I had kept journals for years in collage and then my photography hobby and the business of “real life” kind of squashed journaling for me. Since the digital age took over, I wasn’t as inspired to write in a notebook every night. I downloaded an app on my phone called Day 1 and began a gratitude journal that I simplified for myself with a starter sentence “The best thing about today was…”
The biggest thing I learned that year is that gratitude is a practice. Sure, you can be one of those glass half full people, a born optimist like me- but some life events really just have a way of handing it to you. On those extra sad days I had to force myself to look for the greatful moments of each day. Some days it was something small like a delicious cookie, or silly like an hour on the couch watching Grey’s Anatomy*… Some days it was bigger things… like the birth of my Niece, or her first cookie or crawl, an incredible sunset, the perfect hug… For one full year I made myself record “the best thing about today” practically every single day. It helped put things into perspective and the sadness lifted.
This year I started making gratitude journals for my friends and even the kiddos in our life. I certainly don’t mean to lecture anybody but if I am going to be a person committed to “spreading the love” I really couldn’t keep this to myself.
I also have found these little journals to be a sweet little gift. It may look small but if the person receiving it “gets it”, they will thank you for years to come. If only I knew about the practice of gratitude years ago! (Note to self: add this tip immediately to my letter to my 16 year old self.)
Here’s to a happy year 42! Here’s to lots of love and gratitude! Xo Dani
* I wrote this post BEFORE last night’s episode which- in case you are wondering- I am not feeling gratitude about! Really Shonda Rhimes?!? Really?!?