Wednesday 22 September 2021

Seven Things I'm Grateful for This Week (And One Extra Special One at the End)

I was inspired to write this post when the topic of gratitude came up twice for me in as many days. The first was when I was discussing journaling and gifting with my friend Brynn. It reminded me of the gratitude journal I was gifted a couple of years ago. I used to carry it with me everywhere and wrote in it regularly, but it’s sat on my desk for a while now, unused and rarely opened.

The second was when I opened Spotify to play some music on one of my evening walks and noticed a podcast on radical gratitude by my friend and fellow blogger Liz Kay. I’d added it to my Spotify library a few weeks ago but hadn’t got round to listening to it. I played it on my walk, captivated by Liz’s gentle passion for the subject, and have listened to it several times since. If you’re at all unsure about the benefits of gratitude, I recommend giving it a listen. There is a blog version here, if you prefer to read rather than listen.

To be honest, I wasn’t feeling much in the mood for gratitude at the time. I’ve been flat, low, and empty for a while now and had considered exploring that in a blog post. It seemed churlish, however, to reject the invitation to think more positively. So here, in no particular order, are seven things I’m grateful for this week.

Sexy Rexxy

I enjoy computer programming, but my day job as Associate IT Services Manager offers little opportunity to put my skills to use. It wasn’t that way in the past but things change. Chances to do fun stuff like that are few and far between. Nevertheless, this week I created one. I’d been pondering how best to validate a particularly complex file I’ll be receiving from another team in the near future. I’ve done it manually before and it’s tedious in the extreme. It occurred to me I might write a program to generate an equivalent file of my own, against which the new one could be easily — and automatically — compared.

No one had asked me to do so and I wasn’t certain the idea would work, but I figured it was worth the couple of hours it would take to find out. I spent a happy afternoon coding it in Rexx and can honestly say I had a great time doing so. It worked, too, and led me to investigate some anomalies with format of the files I’d not noticed before. The exercise lifted my mood and left me feeling more engaged than I’ve been in a while. I’m grateful to work for an employer where that kind of exploratory, ad hoc, enquiry is encouraged.

Positive Response to My Masking Article

I’m grateful for any response to my weekly blog posts, but last week’s article High Masking or Faking Fine? The Masks We Wear and Why We Wear Them received a far more positive reaction than anything I’ve written in recent months. I’m particularly grateful to Dr Carla Groom, whose talk on neurodiversity in the workplace inspired the article in the first place. She told me she was touched I’d been moved to write the post, and generously suggested some changes to align it more closely with what she’d said in her talk.

My article attracted very positive responses on LinkedIn, with one reader calling it “[a] fantastic read — inspiring, thought-provoking and poignant.” Another said it was “[a] powerful read from a perspective you don’t hear about very often.” I logged into work that day to find one reader had been moved to share it with colleagues across the organisation. Other recent blog posts have also been well received and shared at work within our Mental Health First Aider community, including my piece on men and mental health, and an article for World Suicide Prevention Day.

At times, I doubt the value of my writing. Positive feedback like this reassures me that, sometimes at least, I get it right.

Good Food and Good Company

Last month, I wrote a blog post on safety, responsibility, and trust inspired by a drive I took with a friend. We met again last weekend and took another drive out to a lovely pub for lunch and a catch-up. We’ve been friends for a number of years and it’s fair to say things haven’t always gone smoothly, but we are in a good place now. I’m immensely grateful for our friendship, and look forward to our next trip out together.

Friends Who Notice How I’m Doing

I’m fortunate in having friends who notice when I seem a bit off, and ask if I’m OK. Aimee did so the other day:

“Are you ok, Marty?”

“Kinda flat/low.”

“I did wonder …”

She asked if I could pinpoint any reason for how I was feeling. I couldn’t, but it helped to be asked, and in a way that didn’t put pressure on me to explain or share more than I felt comfortable doing.

I had a similar conversation the same day with my friend Brynn, which brought a little levity to the situation. She asked how I was and I said I was feeling flat, low, and empty. This led to me coining the word flempty, which I’m sure I will use again! I’m grateful for Brynn’s friendship and the fact we can talk about serious things one moment, and crack ourselves up laughing the next.

It’s the Little Things

Sometimes it’s the little things that mean the most. I’ve written about this before, and Liz mentions it in her gratitude blog and podcast:

DON’T DOWNPLAY THE SMALL THINGS! As they come up, just try to consciously think to yourself “hey, that was actually kind of cool!” By making a habit to acknowledge the small things as they arise, you are working to engrain thoughtfully thoughtless gratitude into your daily life and practices.

There have been a few “actually kind of cool” things this week. Aimee has been sharing photos and video clips of how her new bunny Luna and her cat Emmy are getting along. I don’t think I’ve ever typed “awwwwwww, cute!!!” as many times as I have to Aimee in recent days! I’m grateful for these behind-the-scenes glimpses which bring a touch of warmth and delight, no matter how I’m feeling or what might be going on for me.

In a similar way, Brynn shares photos and videos with me of her beloved dog Beckett. We also exchange YouTube music videos. She’s far more musically knowledgeable than I am — as she says, “I’m a music person, Marty!” — and loves to introduce me to artists and tracks I’ve never encountered before. It’s fun for me, too, trying to find songs Brynn may not know.

Turning the Page

Back in 2017, I wrote about how Fran and I read together; more specifically, how I read aloud to her. Over the years, we’ve read a wide variety of books: fiction, nonfiction, long, short. At some point, for no particular reason, we stopped doing so, and I’ve missed it.

A friend of ours, award-winning arts writer and journalist Bob Keyes, who interviewed us in 2019 for the Maine Sunday Telegram, has a new book out about American artist Robert Indiana. Fran and I watched a couple of Bob’s interviews when the book came out, and it felt natural to read it together. So that’s what we are doing! I’m grateful for the opportunity to read to Fran again, and to learn about an artist I knew nothing about.

First Leaves of Autumn

I went for a lunch time walk last Thursday and for the first time this year found a drift of dry fallen leaves to walk through. There’s nothing like that first crunch of autumn! It was a moment of simple delight and joy, which I shared with Fran in a photo. (In retrospect, I should have recorded a video so she could hear it too!)

Last But By No Means Least

I’ve listed seven things I’m grateful for from the past week, but I’d like to close with a special mention for Liz Kay whose podcast on radical gratitude inspired me to do so.

Liz — we don’t know each other very well I guess, but please know that you mean a great deal to me. I remember us first connecting early this year when I was on one of my local walks, and the voice messages you sent me. (I’ve just gone back through my messages and replayed some of those — which brought warm smiles of remembrance.) Whether it’s through the medium of your blog, or your podcasts, in personal messages, or in your Facebook groups, you share so genuinely and honestly, and always from the heart. I’m grateful, happy, and proud to call you my friend. Bless you.

Check out Liz’s social media links here.


Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash


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