I read an article on line that sourced Dr. Andrew Weil as saying that being grateful can lead to good health and boost our immune systems. It’s the fall time, cold and flu season on its way and Thanksgiving is approaching, so I thought I’d give it a go. I’d venture out most mornings with the dog for what I called a “gratitude walk.”
October through early November couldn’t have been more perfect here in the Pacific NW. Abundance sunshine and unusual warmth, the maples and birches blazing in glossy reds and scorching yellows, fanned against the plush douglas firs and stiff pines. The dog nosed his way through the dewy grass, his body skimming the ground, collecting dirt and leaves on his belly and paws. I thought I was walking my dog not pushing along a Swiffer.
I walked briskly, purposely leaving my IPod back at home, only the sound of an occasional car, a breeze bustling through the trees or the creek water spilling over rocks and branches. I used the occasion to give thanks for the time alone without interruption and appreciation for the discipline to stay in the moment without letting my mind wander too much into the tasks of the day or the worries that seem to always sit nervously on the edge of my mind. I gave thanks for the sunshine that lit the trees and made the tips of the grass sparkle and kept my cheeks and hands warm. At the end of the walk I’d wash off the dog and make a hot cup of coffee and sit still at the dining room table watching the scrub jays fight over the bird feeder on the back porch.
Now it is mid November and the rains have returned. I am determined to continue these gratitude walks, even though the dog looks like a drowned rat by the end of the walk (as do I). The trees have given up the fight, like tired women stepping out of their evening gowns, the once vibrant leaves sit discarded in crumpled piles on the lawns and road. At times, the rain comes down almost sideways and stings my face and hands (if I have forgotten gloves.) I soldier on. I dig down and give thanks -- for the time and strength to move forward, to continue even when it’s dark and cold and seems hopeless.
This time of year begins the start of a struggle – for daylight, sunshine, happiness, fresh air and harmony. Sean and I are often out of sync with each other – cooped up and fighting cabin fever. I’m trying to be less cranky and more optimistic, not just for me but for Sean. I don’t want to lose sight of what matters and get lost in the sadness and busyness that often sneaks up this time of year. My edginess spills over to him and makes him more stressed.
Two weeks ago I was in Target and found myself trapped in an aisle of boxed Christmas cards, wrapping paper and ornaments while “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” floated down from an overhead speaker. The next aisle over was Halloween candy and costumes on clearance. I had the sensation of a pinball pinging back and forth, my head rattling and I couldn’t escape the aisles fast enough.
It seems to me in the rush to accomplish everything, there’s little time to enjoy the process. We don’t let anything unfold organically anymore – it’s all rushed, bigger and better. We don’t anticipate, or let anything soak in, marinate. We are too busy moving on to the next “big thing.”
I hope to continue these gratitude walks regardless of the weather getting worse or the season of Thanksgiving passing. For forty five minutes a day, I am engaged in the world at a natural, unscheduled pace, free from interruption and noise and unnecessary stress. I am guided by my little dog who experiences each new morning with such renewed purpose and wonder.
I’m sure my brain is much larger than my dog's (gosh let’s hope) but his sense of wonder and adventure hasn’t been spoiled or altered by unrealistic expectations, dread or a lust for instant gratification. He’s just thrilled to be outdoors, being in the moment. And for that gentle reminder I give thanks.
Currently, I am fulfilling the duties of Mom. Before this role I used to write and read poetry at the Poetry Slams at the Green Mill in Chicago and other cafes in the city. I am trying to find my way back to that, trying to incorporate this journey that I am on with my love of words and poetry.
I have two great boys, an equally great husband and a fairly lazy, unenthused cat. Add to that, I have lots of good, creative friends (one that manages to get me to go to the Shakespeare fest in Ashland,OR every year!!) and wonderful parents and siblings.
I am trying to learn to live in the moment, to jump in without too much analyzing and thought. This is new to me as I have always been considered a "worry wart". Wish me luck.
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Whom should I contact to get more information? Emily Champoux, Project Coordinator Toll free: 1-800-994-9701 or 206-616-2889 Email: email@example.com Additional SSC information available at: http://depts.washington.edu/uwautism/research/simonssimplexproject.html