Month of Gratitude – Day 8

I’m up early and today I’m really grateful for the arrival of the fall.

This spring and summer were brutal. When day care closed in March, it was already hot. Usually we can cool off in the sea but between the vehicle going down, the lockdown and curfew, and wanting to avoid crowds, it was more difficult than usual this year.

Now though, the mornings and evenings are chilly. The days are still warm, but not oppressive. Spending the day at home is no longer such a sweaty proposition.

Another reason to be grateful for autumn is that soon the Atlantic Hurricane Season will be over and we’ll be able to breathe a little easier.

Getting close to the end of the year is also an opportunity to begin assessing what I’ve accomplished for the year.

Looking back on 2020 so far, there are a lot of things that had to be cancelled or adjusted for COVID-19, but I can see that I’ve built some good habits for myself and my family. We cook together. We walk together. We workout together. It’s just nice.

This time of year also reminds me of the potential of the year to come. A new year will bring new opportunities, plus, I feel optimistic that I can try again with some of the things that didn’t work out the way I’d hoped they would this year.

Welcome fall! I’m so grateful for the opportunity to reflect and reset.

Month of Gratitude-Day 7

Today I am grateful for my job, which lets me support my family and use my talents to educate and inform my community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a lot of the world into economic uncertainty, so employment itself is worth being thankful for. I am particularly blessed because I earn enough to support my little family in a comfortable, if humble, lifestyle.

What’s more, I am blessed to work with folks who — faced with significant challenges of their own — extend a great deal of understanding and grace in my direction. My peers help me celebrate wins, my supervisors save me from my own mistakes, and the folks I work with in the community are engaging and supportive.

Gearing up for a hurricane preparedness session

Since writing is a huge part of my identity, it’s delightful that so much of what I do is writing. Far more fulfilling is the work I get to do with people. I get to speak to youth and church groups, help other agencies get ready for emergency drills, visit businesses to talk about hazard preparedness, even assist schools with being safer and greener, and I love it.

Looking back, I have been very blessed indeed in my work life. At just 18, I learned how to work hard in a restaurant. Because it was a company that values progress and development, my college courses and later, my internship and even my first reporting job, could all be accommodated in my work schedule.

I was a drive thru queen

Some folks look down on “burger flippers,” but I learned a ton there, from cash handling to food safety and from dealing with complaints to managing inventory. I still get compliments on how friendly I sound over the phone. My voice was perfected over long hours working the drive thru speaker.

I’ve now made it one-quarter of the way through the month of gratitude. It’s been nice sharing here, and even nicer noticing how many things there are to be grateful for as I go about my days. I hope you are finding reasons to be grateful too!

Month of Gratitude – Day 6

Today is Halloween, also known as All Hallows’ Eve, so it seems like the right day to be grateful for my ancestors.

I was blessed to get to know my grandparents and even one great grandparent growing up. To hear even a little about their varied lives has gifted me with a sense of history and progress as I’ve set and achieved goals for my own life.

I was far from the only student of color who learned the whitewashed version of World War 2 in high school; but thanks to my grandmother’s efforts throughout my childhood to secure the veterans benefits that had been promised to her father and the other Filipinos who joined the US Military in that conflict, I also learned about systemic racism and one way that it played out for a generation of Asian and Pacific Islanders.

Great grandfather wasn’t the only one who had fled his birthplace to begin a new life. His daughter — my maternal grandmother — married a military man and eventually resettled in a new state, hundreds of miles from her family of origin.

My other grandmother had stories of waiting tables before she became a civil servant. She taught me to love cats and that you could survive trauma with grace.

The grandfathers are a colorful bunch. One became a hobby photographer, and I have many old photos as well as his name as a legacy. When, as a very old man, he developed Alzheimer’s, it was very healing to me to witness the way he managed to make peace with his adult children.

Another is a charming gent who dotes on his biological daughter with calls and letters. To me, his most precious gift was to relinquish his young wife to a romantic rival without a fuss, making room for my Papa to raise my mom and her siblings.

Papa was the best. He spoke better Spanish than any other white dude I’ve met. He took me to my toddler dance classes and later to all-ages concerts. He fed me my first donut and gave me my first driving lessons. He used to somehow not get wet when it was raining (he told me he ran between the raindrops! How?!) and of course, if anybody needed a Santa, Papa was always the guy.

I’m so grateful that I stand the shoulders of these and other courageous, resilient ancestors.

Month of Gratitude – Day 5

Today I’m grateful for music.

Some days I need to hear cathartic, sad songs. Other days I need some high energy soca tunes to motivate me to climb hills. Lately I’ve appreciated some of the music that I used to enjoy as a teen and young adult, when my eternally patient grandparents supported my hobby of visiting all-ages venues and damaging my hearing listening to live music.

Good music helped me bond with my dad, stay awake on incredibly long car rides in graduate school, and connect with friends in dance classes. When I got into songwriters and started really studying lyrics, I think music helped me become a better writer.

Whether it’s facilitating my emotional processing or helping me find joyful movement, music has uplifted me in ways that are easy to take for granted, but this year and especially today, I am so thankful to have it.

Get Your Gratitude

I was having one of those mornings. You know the ones: it was raining, the roads were covered in rocks, puddles were hiding the new potholes, and to top it off I got stuck behind a trailer truck blocking both directions of traffic because its wheels had lost traction as it was backing into a driveway.

Then I remembered that not so long ago, it would have taken all day to get from where I live in Josiah’s Bay to Frenchman’s Cay and back because Irma mashed up so many of our roads. And not so long before that, I would have been making the trek via bus or several thumbed rides because I didn’t have a car. And then I remembered that I’m fit enough that even if there were no charitable drivers to be found, I could always walk, an option not everyone has.

thank god

And thank you, Lil Jon.

In other words, I remembered how fortunate I am to have problems like an inconvenient commute. Suddenly I was giving thanks for the same thing that was annoying me just a minute beforehand. Getting in a grateful head space is an instant mood lifter for me, but did you know there’s a lot of science showing that gratitude is good for you?

There’s the Northeastern University study that found a link between gratitude and more patience and better decision-making. One Swiss study found that people who were more grateful also took better care of their health. A UK study showed a link between more gratitude and more sleep. Yet another study on people with chronic illness found that those who kept a daily gratitude journal experienced fewer painful symptoms than their counterparts who didn’t journal. Then there was the study that found grateful people also have better self esteem than those that aren’t as grateful. There have also been a bunch of studies that show that the more you count your blessings, the happier and less depressed you feel.

So grateful people feel better and happier, which is pretty great, but in all this research I saw another theme emerge: gratitude actually makes you a better person! In one study of people in Germany and the US, those who said they “regularly and often” experienced gratitude were also more likely to do “pro-social behavior,” social scientists way of talking about good deeds. Another study, this one in Kentucky, found that grateful people are kinder to others, even when faced with unkind treatment themselves.

All these PhDs seem to agree that the best way to get more grateful is to practice gratitude daily with something like a gratitude journal. I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m going to start mine tonight!

This column appeared in the May 3, 2018 edition of the Limin Times.