The Surprising Thing You Have to Be Grateful For

{Etsy poster by LotusLeafCreations}

{Etsy poster by LotusLeafCreations}

At any given moment these days, you’d hear a shriek, a shrill, a scream at my house. The 3 S’s every parent’s familiar with. But one day when the bean’s all grown up, I’ll miss those sounds.

It’s just one thing we often take for granted.

This past weekend, we had family over. Instead of white noise or “pink” noise, I’d say we had yellow noise. The happy sounds of laughter, sighing, and chatting-the background noise of loved ones all around. It’s what we take for granted. But it’s what those who are alone, crave most.

But it’s also the quiet that enthralls me. I’m not talking of the silence, which is absence of sound. But the stillness that accompanies trips in the forest or weekends spent in the country. It’s a sound so deafening it burns your ears until you get used to it.

It’s not a dream job, nor a fairytale romance. But it’s the seemingly insignificant moments that we most miss when  gone.

While you’re awaiting something grand to be grateful for, take a pause today and see if you can appreciate the absence and the chaotic symphony that fills your life.

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The Key to Having More

{Etsy print by wickedpaper}

{Etsy print by wickedpaper}

Everyone wants a better life. They desire bigger homes with huge lots, more money, a better job. But when it comes down to it. What we’re really after is more love, deeper relationships, a more meaningful life.

And you can easily get all of those things. You just have to focus on what you really want and stop getting distracted with all the other stuff.

Watching Oprah interview Nate Berkus on Super Soul Sunday was a great validation of that. She talked to him about his newest book, The Things That Matter. I love the title for its simple play on words and its breaking down of the stereotype that things don’t matter, that they are superficial. It also brings attention to the things and people that really do matter. Once you get clear on that, you’re that much closer to getting what you truly want in life.

On Letting Go

One of the reasons why we don’t have what we want at this moment is that we’re holding on to something-a memory, a belief, a relationship-that just doesn’t serve us anymore. We hold on out of fear that we won’t get anything better. We hold on because what we know is less scary than what we don’t know. We hold on out of a lack of faith that we can’t get what we want. We hold on because a foggy past can easily meld into an idealistic memory if we aren’t too careful.

I love what Oprah says about holding on:

“Most people are trying to hold onto wanting the life to be what it was. One of the greatest spiritual lessons I’ve learned from anybody who’s sat in that chair [for Super Soul Sunday] is that when you are resisting the reality of what is that is where all of your suffering comes from. You’re wanting the moment, the time, to be something that it can’t be is what causes the suffering. And your ability to transcend and accept that that is gone, and now I must move on and create a new normal is the real great spiritual lesson no matter what it is you’re going through.” [If you want to watch the entire show, Oprah has the full episode on her website.]

Once we let go of what was, we make room for what is. Life is such a gift if we stand out of our own way and let it happen.

On Gratitude

When we focus on what’s not working, life can be a real bummer and love sucker. When we immerse our selves in what’s working, it’s as if the world opens up like a budding flower. Suddenly, you have a lot more than you think you did. Your friendships may not be working or your job may suck, but you have an understanding partner or feel safe and comfortable at home. Every single person can find something to be grateful for even if it’s for this single breath. When you devote time to what’s working in your life, your life grows.

If you want more in your life, you can create a wish list/collage, you can gripe to your friends about it, but don’t forget to work on these two things. If you do so, you’ll be surprised by how much things change in beautiful and unexpected ways.

What matters to you? Is it your family, your health, your pet dog? What are you most grateful for? Let’s share the love and let it grow here.

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People Who Inspire Me

2013 has already started with a few unexpected surprises.

One started with this little comment I wrote for O magazine. It was the second Q&A comment that got selected in the past few years only this time I was writing from Kailua instead of San Jose. And that’s not the only thing that was different. The first piece got a sweet compliment from my mom who generously bought a copy. But not much else.

This time, however, I was overwhelmingly surprised.

When it got published, I didn’t even know it made it to the January issue. In Hawaii, magazines take longer since they got to come all this way to a little island. It was the comment from a stranger, someone named Jan who left me this comment on my writing site:

“I am reading the current “O” mag and if you are the Brandi-Ann on page 20, I’d just like to say that your wish for a superpower that would allow you to respond to any situation with complete compassion had me saying “YES”, that’s the one I have been looking for also. Thanks for putting it so beautifully.”

The idea that this person took the time out to find me on the internet to leave me a note like that brought tears to my eyes. It meant that someone actually read what I wrote. But not just that. It meant that someone got what I was trying to say and was affected by it. As a writer, you couldn’t ask for a better response. I was so grateful for Jan, the random stranger who made my day!

And then yesterday, I got another love bomb. A personal card came to me via snail mail. It was written by a woman who also read my short letter. She wrote about how reading it was an “ah ha” moment for her and how it changed the way she saw her business. This was my favorite part:

Thank you card thank you card inside

“Thank you for the courage to be open enough to share with the rest of the world your innermost thoughts…Thank you again for helping change my life!”

I don’t know if the short paragraph I compiled for O really had that much of an impact on the lives of these two women. But I know this for sure. Their letters changed my life. I wish I could thank them the way they took the time to thank me. It reminded me why I write and it inspired me to keep going.

Has anyone inspired you lately?

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Making Peace With Where You Are Right Now

I’m going to confess something that I’m sure 90% of you won’t understand or agree with. Here it is. I hate living in Hawaii. Okay maybe hate is too harsh of a word. “Strongly dislike” or “difficult to adjust” may be closer to what I mean.

Yes, I know griping about a place with year-round summer weather and presidential beaches (Pres. Obama does come here at least once a year) sounds like a whine from a hard-to-please 4-year-old. It sounds ridiculous to my own ears. But having lived here my whole life and having come back, I am completely sure that being here isn’t exactly for me.

I actually miss the brisk autumn weather, the smell of firewood, the golden color of fall leaves. I miss cuddling up on the couch, the change of the seasons, the freedom to drive somewhere fun on a whim.

That being said, I can gripe and pout (which I swear I’ve done enough of already) or I can see this as another opportunity to stretch my comfort zone. I realized last night that this was again another lesson to be learned. I could begrudgingly go on as I have been or try to find a purpose for being here.

Maybe you love where you live, but don’t feel at home in your own skin, at a job, or in a relationship. It’s all the same. When we’re feeling unwelcome in an environment and when we think we “should” feel comfortable, that’s when suffering begins. On a larger scale, it’s being okay with where you are situationally as well as physically and emotionally. It’s all the same whether you’re in a job you hate or you’re stuck in a state you don’t mesh well with like me. How do you find peace and happiness when where you are is not where you want to be?

Practice patience. Patience is something I grapple with often. But I realize that’s probably why I’m being tested with it again and again. On days when I can’t wait any longer for things to settle, I remember that it took me 3 years to love California, so 5 months is hardly enough time to like it here. How do I practice patience? Meditating helps as does being out in nature. Any activity that forces me to focus on the present moment instead of how much I’d rather be somewhere else is essential in moments like these.

Learn acceptance. Acceptance isn’t the same thing as settling. It means accepting the moment that you’re in right now. You might not like it, but so it is. Once we stop resisting and accept the situation we’re in, something wonderful happens. Some of the pain of being where you are dissipates.

Find the silver lining. Maybe your job is tedious or your apartment is noisy. But if you look hard enough, you might find that what you do love about your work is your co-workers or that where you’re living is convenient to stores. Even I have to admit that being within 15 minutes from the beach is a blessing. Every situation has its good and its bad. It just depends how you look at it.

Be grateful. Where you are currently isn’t exactly where you’d like to be. But there is still something to be grateful for in every situation. You have a job and a roof over your head. For me, it’s being near family and to the beach. When we focus on the little things we have to be grateful for, we attract more things to be grateful in our life.

Visualize what you do want. Incessant complaining won’t get you far. If you want to change your situation, do what you can to make tiny changes to get to where you want to be. Spend a few minutes every day dreaming up your best life. What does it feel like to be there? Who’s with you? What are you doing? Even spending a little time in your dream life can raise your mood, empower you and draw hope back into your life. All necessary ingredients for getting you to where you want to be.

What helps you feel better when you’re unhappy with where you are?


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7 Unlikely Things to Be Grateful For

{flickr photo by Kate Ware}

Most people would list their health, their relationship, the fact that they have a job as reasons to be thankful on Thanksgiving Day. {All worthy reasons to be grateful btw.} But there are a handful of other things that often get neglected when turkey season comes around. This post is dedicated to them. So here’s one for you “unlikely list to be grateful for.”

1. Bumps in the road.

If you were to dream up your most relaxing luxurious vacation or best life, you would most likely leave out the word “challenge” from your activities list. But you would be missing out. Here’s why. Life is jam packed with unexpected ups and downs. It’s what makes life so exciting. You never what you’re going to get handed out to you. And even though your inner couch potato would rather things go exactly as planned, it rarely does and that’s a good thing.

I didn’t expect, for example, that I’d get thrown a broken toe, plantar fasciitis, and a rainy vacay when I planned my visit to San Jose last week. But it’s what I got. And I’m so grateful for it! It meant lots of time sleeping in, writing, reading, drawing and that recovery time healed my foot. Hence, I got to shake my butt in zumba and hit yoga 5 times in the 10 days I was there. Woohoo! It was better than I expected.

Of course the same goes for life challenges as well. It can feel scary, disappointing, unnerving when obstacles meet your path. But it’s always those type of heart racing, “oh-my-God-I’m-not-going-to-be-able-to-make-it” tasks that make me feel strong, courageous, and resilient. That’s why I’m thankful for them.

2. The Party Poopers.

I’ve said it before and I’ll proudly say it again. Although I wouldn’t welcome them in my life on a daily basis, these guys help motivate me to keep going. “What did you say? I’m not a good writer? I won’t make it in this competitive world?” Okay, [rolls up sleeves] I guess I’ll have to show you!
Thank you past Party Pooper because had I not heard the disbelief coming from your lips, I might not have had that challenge I was just gabbing about.

3. Imperfections.

This may be my favorite word. Why? Imperfections, flaws, the things that make your prose, your appearance, your work less than are what make you human. It’s the stuff we’re all made of. Yes, it hurts like heck when someone points out that your finger is crooked, your mouth is full of teeth and your guilty of wordy prose (all stuff that people have told me btw). But I’d jut smile with full teeth and say, “Yep, that’s me.” For the latter, it might be best to work on it. But it doesn’t mean you don’t celebrate your differences while working to “pretend” your flawless and inhuman.

4. Disagreements.

It would be nice if everyone got along perfectly all the time. But it ain’t going to happen. And why would you want it to? When you don’t see eye to eye on an issue, it may feel uncomfortable. All the better to just hold your tongue to keep the peace. But expressing how you feel and listening to others’ point of view will stretch you were you didn’t think was possible. It can either bring you closer in your relationship or it can alert you to one that’s just not working. But being afraid of being who you are is the one way you isolate  yourself. In order for people to really know you, working through discord is mandatory. Those who really love you will continue to love you anyway.

5. Life.

We complain a lot about where we live, what we’re doing, and even the temperature can warrant major griping. But truthfully, one of the biggest, most overlooked thing we all have right now to be grateful for, is our life. Thank you for this day I have to breathe, to be, to spend as I see fit.

6. Slow starts.

Everyone’s always in a rush to get things done, to be the fastest, to achieve the most in the littlest amount of time. But this prayer of gratitude is inspired by nature, that takes it time, that unfolds with patience and that relinquishes control to what is rather than what it wants to be. Sometimes I forget that life is not a computer. And that some of the best things come after a slow start.

7. Starting over.

Being fired, jilted, leaving friends and family are not easy. But these situations give you the opportunity to start over. It might not seem like the best thing that ever happened to you when you’ve just been laid off or you’re saying goodbye to old friends, but there is unexpected beauty in fresh beginnings. Sometimes when we let go of something that’s not serving us, something better comes along. But we will never know it, until we let go.

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Gratitude for the Naysayers

I never in a million years thought I’d write this. Because I’ve spent most of my time warding off the side effects of a killjoy, I didn’t have any energy to see their purpose in my life. Until now.

Recently, I was speaking to a particularly potent party pooper (say that 5 times!) and this person shocked me for two reasons. For one, I realized that most of the time people who wag their finger at your creative endeavors, your ambitious ideas or your nontraditional way of living, often point their finger back at themselves. You can’t be critical of other people without being self-critical. Those who are accepting of themselves similarly are much more accepting of others.

Secondly, all the naysayers, the mean teacher, the pessimistic co-worker, the unsupportive friend, have had significant roles in my success. They’ve given me motivation to step outside my comfort zone. If only to prove to them that I could do exactly what they believe I couldn’t.

Who knew that someone disbelieving in you could have the same power as the constant supporter?

For that reason, I really can’t discredit their impact. Their doubt, negativity and failure warnings have actually helped me to work THAT much harder. I couldn’t rest on my laurels to get me a job or believe that my talent/experience were adequate to pull me through. These guys reminded me that I didn’t have any or that if I did, it was far from being good enough.

While you’ll never want to seek them out when feeling down, you CAN use their grumblings to shoot you higher if you’ve let yourself get too comfortable lately.

Basically, you have two choices. You can play victim allowing anything nasty anyone has ever said to you as an excuse to stop pursuing your dreams or you can use it as fuel to succeed. Something tells me that if you follow the latter, you’ll not only surprise yourself, you might even inspire that disbeliever (who I think secretly wants to be a dream seeker like you!).

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Gratitude Even If You Don’t Like It

Water or…

waterfall. Photos by The Inspiring Bee.













I’ve been listening to Deepak Chopra’s 21-Day Meditation Challenge (By the way, it’s free. You can sign up for it here). Just this morning I listened to Day 12: The Gratitude Heart. In it, the speaker says, “We can be grateful for a situation even if though we don’t like everything about it allows us to be thankful for the opportunity to learn something new.”

It’s something we all know logically, but rarely do we choose to live our lives this way.

There is so much abundance in your life. There is so much wealth. If you allow yourself to truly see what you have instead of focusing on what you don’t, you will let in more things to be grateful for.

In my own life, it reminds me that I control my mood and my days on this earth by what I choose to bemoan or to view as a gift.

Hearing today’s meditation I realized that you don’t have to wait for life to be perfect to be grateful. You can still be searching for the right job, the right mate, the right place and have every right to say, “Thank you!”

In fact, it would serve you (and me) to do so.

That means I can temporarily forget that we still haven’t been able to use our car (that got a little worse for the wear on the ship over here), have yet to find a comparable gym or zumba class or additional writing gigs to jump for joy over.

What I can say is that I’m grateful that the warm sun and slower paced of living has physically healed me, reduced my sugar levels and mellowed me out. In writing about it, I realize the latter is so way more important than the former.

The other things will come in time. I guess the point is to grab what’s gratitude worthy now and be mindful of it. Be mindful of all the things you’re loving in your life because they won’t always be there.

No matter what you’re going through, I hope you can find something fabulous about your life, search for it in the clouds, in a field of flowers, in your child’s smile, hold them close, embrace it and say, “Thank you!”

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