Pity Parties and Discovering Gratitude

"Joy is hiding in gratitude." - Ann Voskamp

Photo of the Encouragement Crew at the October 2014 Making Things Happen conference in Chapel Hill by the fabulous Emily March Photography.

Photo of the Encouragement Crew at the October 2014 Making Things Happen conference in Chapel Hill by the fabulous Emily March Photography.

Confession time: I've been really good at feeling sorry for myself lately. I've let the ugly monsters of greed and jealousy and comparison overtake me and steal my joy. After all, I've worked hard and done everything the way I'm supposed to and I try to be a good person, so I DESERVE everything I've ever wished for immediately, right? (If you didn't know that I'm an only child, now you definitely do.)

That's no easy thing for me to admit ... I've hit the delete button on the keyboard approximately six times, and we're only four sentences in.

I generally consider myself a glass-half-full type of gal, and I really make an effort to make the best of anything. But the past month has proven to be one of the most chaotic times I've experienced in a long while. I was recently telling a friend that I feel like I've been in the midst of a tornado - I'm just standing in the middle and everything is spinning around me and despite my best efforts, I simply can't grasp or control any of it. 

Last week, in the midst of said tornado of life and being up to my ears in editing and behind on all my work, I drove to Chapel Hill to serve on the Encouragement Crew at the Making Things Happen Conference. I wasn't happy about the 5 a.m. wake-up call two days in a row or leaving the office with a mountain of work, but let me tell you, I'd do it all a thousand times over because the shift that happened next: that's the important part. You see - those two days were not about me at all - they were about SERVING others. They were about listening to and encouraging attendees. They were about providing speakers with what they needed - whether that was a glass of water or someone to babysit their phone in case they got an important call. They were about getting up at the crack of dawn to set out pretty notebooks and pens for those who would write their biggest, scariest thoughts and aspirations on those pages and just maybe change the trajectory of their entire lives.

Honestly, I've never really served people. Sure, I've volunteered my time or resources on many occasions over the course of 15 years or so, but I've always somehow managed to make it about me - what kind of great connections I could make that might grow my business or how people might perceive me or getting credit or even the feel-good, give-yourself-a-pat-on-the-back energy I felt after helping others. So for the first time in almost 28 years, I actually gave of my time and energy for the sole purpose of providing something for someone else, and let me tell you, I was given more in that experience than I could possibly have imagined.

There are many things you'd expect to feel after two 10+ hour days - exhausted being the main one - but what I really found myself feeling was GRATEFUL. I was grateful to spend time with some of my favorite people, I am grateful for all the opportunities I've been given, and I am even grateful for all the crazy, challenging, off the beaten path roads that have led me to this day. Slowly, the attitude of feeling sorry for myself that has engulfed me for months is slipping away, and I am experiencing joy because I am blessed beyond measure.

And in the words of Melody Beattie, "Gratitude turns what we have into enough."

As we enter November and approach the season of Thanksgiving, I encourage you, like the trees, to shed the old - let go of everything that is weighing on you (for me, that means writing it out and calling it what it is) and begin replacing those words with ones of gratitude. I'll be journaling all that I'm thankful for right along with you, and occasionally, sharing my thoughts here, too.

Today, I am grateful for clarity, for "not yet's", and for long conversations with the dearest friends. How about you?