Four Reflections of Gratitude in 2020

I usually never participate in thankful posts. Reason, well, I’m thankful every day. I say “Thank you” on a daily basis, and honest, I mean it. I’m grateful when someone holds the elevator for me, or for the pleasant, talkative cafeteria worker who rings me up, or that my daughter is dressed on time for school, or when the dishwasher is emptied without me reminding anyone to do it. There are so many things that happen daily that I am profoundly grateful for.

But what 2020 has really done for me in the way of gratitude is realizing what I take for granted.

Gratitude for Live Events

In February of this year, I attended LTUE, a writing symposium and one of my favorite places to hang out with my writer friends. One of my best friends flew in from Florida just to attend this conference. I went to lunch and dinner with several of my writing friends that I hadn’t seen in months. We all talked projects and creativity over pizza and Indian food. I treated this con like I did other cons, enjoying connections, sharing books and writing tips, complaining about the little niggling annoyances that come and go.

How was I to know this was the last time I would get to enjoy an event like this. Those off the showroom hugs that I casually handed out as I left different places, could have been more. It wasn’t goodbye, I was going to see these people in a few months. This thought makes me more sad every moment.

Me and author Aly Grauer at LTUE 2020

I did not know how dependent I was(am) on the simple joy of shared creativity. Writing the language of art is a shared gift, and those that also speak this language understand that it’s important to be understood. Everyone at this conference shared my drive to imagine; to share stories; to teach those spurred with the appetite to write what they envision on paper.

Virtual events, though informative and more convenient, miss the personal connection that fuels me as an author. I have deeply missed that part of my life. I cherish the relationships I have developed over the years and yearn for their connection once again.

Gratitude for Deflected Creativity

As the world grew still and unsettling, so did my spirit and energy. In March, as schools and businesses closed, I had to continue on to my job at a hospital. For months, I pushed myself up and out the door, facing the quiet unknown daily. My quarantine experience was very different from other peoples. Some Fridays, I would attend a Zoom lunch some writer friends would have, and at this lunch I felt so out of place. In many ways, I wished I could be home not feeling the anxiety and isolation the hospital was at the time.

And the last thing I wanted to do was write. I couldn’t be creative. Reality was too shaky for me to pretend. My brain switched over to survival mode and I went into simplifying what I could control. I still ached to be creative, but it just wasn’t writing that was going to get me through this. Finding a new expression while being in a simplistic form helped me cope with life’s new challenges.

Many people felt this, I’m sure – this expression of deflected energy. I started playing the piano again and sketched a few pieces. I’d always loved interior design, and after looking at my walls that had 15 years of raising kids all over them, I repainted and redesigned my entire house. We moved a TV into the front room and began retro gaming, teaching my kids the value of Earthworm Jim and Final Fantasy X.

Played a concert for my mother over Facebook Messenger

I’m grateful for the chance I had to re-evaluate the nexus of me, for rediscovering the talents I boxed away. These newly dusted parts of who I am will not go quietly back into the box, but are now incorporated into the creative life I had before, like little accessories I left in a drawer and rediscovered.

Gratitude for Expression

Months before March, I felt very comfortable with how I lived and where I spent my energy. But the months that continued on in the unsettling silence, brought about a wave of change I hadn’t seen coming. How I view it is – I saw others grow taller before my eyes.

This wave of change swept through my nation and awoke every soul in a way I’ve never experienced. Such a stirring within the core of us, ignited fires that lay quiet and suppressed for years. The transformation is enormous, whether we see it now or not, we have lived through historic, generation defining times.

Posted near my desk at work

The Black Lives Matter movement, the LBGTQ rights threatened, the riots, the protests, the masks, the virus, the votes… have given all of us reflection on where we were in our comfortable, complacent lives, to strengthen us as people to be taller and braver than we thought we were.

The expression I mention is about our own personal courage we have each acquired. We have faced things that we never thought would ever be a problem. The fears your mother planted in you about running out of toilet paper actually came to fruition. All the skills you learned in Home Ec about baking bread are suddenly useful. Watching my kids play and get along was monumentous. I’ve also watched my children grow in courage: standing up for friends, becoming more aware of what’s happening within the world, staying informed. This generation growing now is brilliant, given so much insight at what we are now and what we have the potential to become. I’m grateful they can see the ugliness we have shown as humans, to steer us to a way brighter future.

Gratitude for Sunrises

I call myself a Night Owl. I’ve always been a Sunset girl – the completion of another day, a pat on the back, “Good job, you.”

But here I am, writing a blog about gratitude on the brisk Thanksgiving morning. It snowed last night and night never truly got dark. My alarm went off at 5:50 AM, like normal, even though I don’t need to get up for work today. I shut it completely off, but never went back to sleep. I didn’t want to waste my morning sleeping. The morning is full of sentences and I didn’t know that until this year.

Autumn Sunrise

As a writer, I used every space in the day to write what I could. It often led me to writing at night after the kids went to bed. My role as a parent has changed now as I have teenagers, both of which use the night time to tell me about their day or their drama. The time is now theirs when before it was mine.

Mornings are what I’ve claimed as mine. This is time I get to sit, reflect, read, write, drink hot cocoa, pet the cat, and watch the sunrise. Starting my day in the calm reflection of possibilities has brought me peace in this storm I am in. During the summer, I actually spent time on my deck doing yoga or mediation, to prepare myself mentally.

I didn’t know how much I needed this time. These moments are private, between me and the sunrise, and I feel blessed for listening to the whispering morning. It was right. I don’t regret giving up my Night Owl ways, but the morning in me stirs bright and appreciates the calm a sunrise can bring.

Quiet Reflection

Quiet reflection in a blanket

I am very grateful for all of you who stick with me on this journey. May you find the courage to be taller; to seek the treasures in your life and bring them to the surface; to delight in the simple and cherish the time we get with one another. Spend time with a sunrise. Breathe. Be better than you were yesterday. And remember, this is our time, we are experiencing this together. You are not alone, and I’m grateful you are here with me. 

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