‘Gratitude is the open door to abundance’. This is printed on a tiny piece of paper, the tag off a tea bag I brewed and drank a long time ago. I keep it on the window sill above my kitchen sink as a reminder, and when it catches my eye amid the endless cycle of dishwashing in my house, it never fails to resonate.
I think there are times over the past few years I maybe wanted this to work as a magic spell. As in, ‘yes! I am thankful, sooo very thankful, okay!? Now…bring on the abundance!’
It doesn’t work that way, obviously.
Because I’ve learned, and am still learning, that, like the tea bag says, gratitude is its own form of abundance. When I concentrate on my old Craigslist dining room table and chairs and how ugly they are and how decidedly un-Pottery Barn they are (or how un-mid-century Danish they are, whatever your thing is), I feel I’m lacking something, and it’s a mental drain. When I look at that same table, even in all its horrid faux wood glory, and see it’s the perfect size for my tiny dining room, that it’s not that bad once you throw a table cloth over it and that hey, it’s a table with food on it and my children sitting around it…well, I’m more energized for whatever job comes next (which is probably the dishes again).
This was a really literal example, but I’ve found this type of thinking has made a huge difference at times when money was tight over the past few years. Worrying got me nowhere and actually paralyzed me, where concentrating on my family, my education, and the fact I had the basics covered energized me to a point where I could take some important steps forward.
There were times over the past few years I might have liked more of a social life but cultivating one wasn’t a priority. I can’t lie, some of those nights after the kids went to bed seemed really long. However, when I’ve adjusted my perspective to one of profound gratitude, gratitude for being able to put my kids to bed each night in cozy beds in a nice enough home in a city I love, well, then sitting at home brewing herbal tea bags with motivational sayings on the tags seems pretty wonderful. (Throw in an episode of ‘Call the Midwife’ or a good book and I’m in heaven. Seriously.)
For me gratitude is always a work in progress. I think we’re probably programmed in a primitive part of our brain to focus on what’s lacking, what we feel we still need to acquire or accomplish, whatever that may be for each of us.
But when we have the basics covered (food, shelter, physical and emotional safety, health) we have something. We have a place to rest and a place to start over each day, or even every five minutes if we need to.
My half empty glass is suddenly overflowing, creating a mess I don’t mind cleaning up one bit. Bring on the dishes, bring on the chamomile nights.