This concept was first thrust into the forefront of my mind while reading This Is Not the Story You Think It Is by Laura Munson, and it hasn't left me since. Her words have pounded the pavement of my thoughts, stalking me, haunting me, calling me toward a new way to live: "Suffering is a relative term, and [it] is only important as it ultimately pertains to you -- that is, if we want to change the world. And I do. But before we can do that, we have to start with what we can control and be responsible for." In other words, the only thing I can control in my quest to change the world is me, and the only thing you can control is you.
What sounds rather simplistic in theory is daunting in practice: taking control of only my actions and thoughts, and only in this moment. This isn't an easy endeavor when faced with physical ailment, spiritual or emotional turmoil or incredible amounts of stress. That which plagues us sends us a very strong message: you are a victim. But that which plagues us is quite often out of our control, and when it is, we are given only one option: dwell on it and the hurt caused by it; or, do that which will bring us joy or peace on this day and in this moment., for we are not merely victims.
And the key to creating our own happiness is taking stock and giving thanks.
That which we cannot afford, cannot fathom or cannot undertake is not within our control, thus it is not part of the happiness that we can create. We must do the best with what we are given. And, in order to create beauty and joy amidst chaos, fear and pain, we must come to peace with what we can afford, fathom and undertake. We must appreciate it for what it is and see the power and beauty in the simplicity of it. And we must appreciate it every day. Not to devalue our own experiences or to hide our pain in shame. As Munson reminds us on many an occasion, "Pain is pain is pain." It is the commonality of it that we must be reminded of, not its perspective. It is the recognition that everyone has his/her own pain, but we are all in this thing called life together.
I welcome you to join me in this project -- to walk beside me in this endeavor to find 500 reasons to take stock and give thanks. 500 reasons to be grateful, 500 reasons to be humble. In 365 days. 500 ways of viewing life with a slightly different perspective: one not based on what has happened to us but on joy, beauty and happiness by our own creation .
It's a powerful idea, and a powerful way to live. It's also a day-in, day-out commitment.
In the scheme of things, who I am is unimportant. I have not stellar good looks, impressive finances or professional renown and power. On the one hand, I'm just an average person (even though I often think the world revolves around me). On the other I am fabulously beautiful to my mother, powerful in my own life and rich in the knowledge that I am in control of my own happiness (even if just for this moment).
Thank you, great population of the interwebs, for reading. Thank you for joining me. Thank you for inspiring me. Thank you for being my first reminder (#1) that I should be humbled and grateful: the world is infinitely bigger than I think.
Please feel free to share your own reminders to take stock and give thanks in the comments.