“Stina’s 366 Leap Year Days of Gratitude”

Well, good grief ‘yall, and Happy New Year! It has been a while hasn’t it. I’m not sure why I feel the urge to return from my blogging hiatus now, but I do, so here I be. Now, I just need to decide where to begin. I have so many things that I feel I want to say. My hiatus was born of the feeling that I was bursting with things to share but wasn’t quite sure where to start. Or more accurately, I wasn’t clear on the most appropriate way to articulate things that weren’t appropriate for all audiences. You know, trying to avoid hurt feelings and all. I was feeling so overwhelmed with life and the changes that have happened that I experienced a bit of journalistic paralysis. I had some inner processing to do before “going public.”

Over the past year I’ve come to realize that I still have a lot of work, mourning, etc. to wade through after my divorce. My health continues to be somewhat of a moving target and, because I never do anything half-way, I returned to school just for fun. And yet, for the past several weeks I’ve felt the stirrings of pen and paper (or laptop and screen as the case may be.) I always progress through my emotions better when I take them outside of myself and examine them as though I were a third party. It is the logical thinker in me that benefits from such examination. I realize that most of you are probably reading this to make sure I’m still alive. I hope you’ll indulge me as I do a little “update processing” (or some catchy name like that.)

Appreciate everythingIn November it is not uncommon to see people posting on twitter or Facebook their “30 days of gratitude.” Well, I’ve been struggling with depression these past few weeks and I’ve decided that I need a more positive outlook on life. So I’m launching what I’d like to call,” Stina’s 366 leap year days of gratitude.” I’ve decided that for me, 30 days wasn’t enough. I think this should be more of a change in my over-all outlook and 30 days just won’t cut it. My efforts are going to look a little different because I also believe in being totally real and honest with my gratitude. What I mean by this is that some days are really dark and I’m stuck in the muck of life, so finding anything to be grateful for seems impossible. On these days you might see a post from me that says something to the effect of “I’m grateful for the rock that I didn’t trip over today”, or “I’m grateful for the straw that I’m grasping at to find something to be thankful for.” There will certainly be those days when all seems relatively good and appreciation for life in general will come easily. Then there will be those mundane days in between when I’m sick of doing laundry so I might turn it on its head and say, “I’m grateful that I have clothes that must be laundered for without them I’d be naked and no one would be my friend.”

Now, isn’t that a novel concept. Turning grumpy into happy with gratitude! I’m not talking about Snow White’s dwarfs here, I’m talking about the idea that there are gifts in our trials and adversities. It could be as simple as expressing gratitude that I have hair to brush rather than moaning about how it looks even after I’ve attempted to wrangle it into submission. It may be more complex; instead of complaining about my lack of health I might decide to be grateful for how this trial pushes me to grow and gain character as an individual. Crazy, I know, the thought of turning what we think are our greatest trials into our greatest gifts. The idea that we can even find something to be grateful for in the things that we supposedly hate the most about life. For instance; I hate cleaning the bathroom but, when it comes right down to it, I’d rather have a toilet to clean than have to go in a ditch and then, knowing my luck, I would wipe with poison ivy or get bitten by some fatally poisonous spider. Even then I suppose I might be able to find some gratitude for the poisonous spider who puts me out of my “poison ivy induced fire down under problem.”

See? If I could find something to be grateful in that scenario, it can’t be that hard…

Can it?

Of course it can, because had that really happened you can bet that I’m going to feel pretty ornery about my circumstances and there is nothing more difficult than finding gratitude when you’re feeling that cantankerous!

Hmmm…

On second thought this might be easier said than done.
I wager the effort will be worth it, though!

One thing I promise as I undertake this project is to always be honest and real. So you might hear all about why I’m feeling really grouchy first and then I’ll tell you how I’m battling the inner grouch with gratitude. Because I believe that in order to truly appreciate the reasons for my appreciativeness (thank you lame thesaurus for that…) I’ll need to divulge the struggles. After all, how can you truly understand joy unless you have felt great sadness; how do you appreciate your health until that health fails.

Handle lightning and taste thunder

You get the gist…

I don’t, however, promise that there will be no repeats. I may be thankful for the fact that I opened my eyes each morning for several mornings in a row. Let’s be honest people, I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggles some days to find the silver linings in life. They’re there but, as I was recently telling a cousin of mine, sometimes I have to don the 3 or 4 inch heels to find it over the apparent gloom of the day. We’re talking 366 days here so repeats are a given.

Whew! What have I gotten myself into?

Let’s just say that some of these might be quick posts on Facebook and others might turn in to my typically long rantings and ravings in a blog post. We’ll see, I’m not going to put too many expectations into this, I don’t want to over-complicate it and then overwhelm myself back into silence.

Now for the good stuff, my very first day of gratitude. Hold onto your britches folks it might be a game changer!

First, some background and catching up. Remember a few sentences ago when I warned that I’d be real? Well here goes, because that grouch I mentioned earlier is about to rear her griping head.

My health…

At this point I think that no more needs to be said on the subject really. I feel like that horse has been beaten to death, resurrected and crushed again, then dug up and brutally slaughtered for good measure. Sooooo, I’ll just sum it up in 5 words, for a change.

It’s bad and getting worse.

Seriously, they are giving and taking diagnosis away like they’re gambling with my life. I feel like the doctors are placing bets with this or that med, this or that diagnosis, but they can’t all agree so I’m stuck in the middle playing dealer at the table wondering if I should just call security and have them all thrown out.

Moving right along. Divorce is hard and whoever thinks that getting a divorce solves all your problems is seriously delusional!

Don’t get me wrong, I do not regret my decision. I have no doubt that it was the right thing to do and I am unequivocally better off. However, divorce leaves you feeling totally unsure of life, of yourself, and of how to proceed. I’ve been dating like a crazy person and I’m also remembering why I hate being single.

At first it was fun, loads of fun. But now? Seriously, not fun. I’ve met some really great guys and some really crazy guys and some really great ones who turned out to be crazies. I hope that sometime one of the great ones will pan out for me. For now, even the really great ones scare me so much that my insides twist and turn with bald, unyielding fear. I mean, after divorce I feel completely unsure of my ability to choose a guy to insert into my life. Look what happened last time. Obviously my radar is way off, or my guy picking skills are lacking. I’m totally feeling off kilter about choosing men to date let alone someone to get serious with. And now I have children to think about as well.

That scares me more than anything. The thought that I might bring someone into all of our lives that won’t see my boys for the gifts that they are.

Oh! And don’t even get me started on the fears I have about dating single fathers and meeting their kids, then having to possibly blend families, and what if they have a crazy ex… oh dear, I’d better quit before my head explodes.

Not only that but, let’s face it people, my health problems will probably scare the poop right out of any poor schmuck worth pursuing. Plus, I live with my parents and have no way out of that situation any time soon thanks to my health and the well-being of my children. If all of that doesn’t scream “RED FLAG” to a man than my name’s not Stina.

Argh!!!! Do you see my predicament?

*Sigh*

Whelp, gratitude here I come!

I think?!?!?

Actually, I had this really great idea for day number one, thanks to my awesome dad who is currently my hero! He and I have been talking a lot about the fact that during times of stress and depression I become an extreme “black and white” thinker.

Know what I mean?

Let me see if I can explain. For instance; I am stressed about school right now. I currently have a 4.0 GPA which I am holding onto by the hairs of my chinny chin chin. (Just for the record if there are any hot, single, men reading this, I do not have a hairy chin.) Each time I arrive at a midterm I freak out and go into hiding trying to cram every bit of knowledge I can into my tired, mushy, over-mathed brain. It freaks me out because somehow, probably long ago during some twist of childhood fancy, I decided that my grades in school defined my worth.

Silly, I know… but I can’t be the only one who feels this way. Come on my fellow geeks and nerds, give me a shout out!

Anywhoooo, this leads to some pretty faulty black and white thinking on my part. I start to feel that anything less than an A is failure. So an A-, B+, B and on down will not do. If I get even an A- I feel that I have catastrophically failed. I feel that this makes me unlovable, less than, and ultimately worthless.

See? I start thinking in extremes.

My dad has been slowly introducing me to the idea that there are grLearn a new way to thinkey areas, even areas full of color that should be explored in between all of this black and white that I like to gravitate toward. In an effort to embrace this concept I’ve been working on what I like to call “living in the colors.” It is not easy and, in no way am I even close to getting the hang of it. It is taking practice, this is a skill that is so foreign to me during times of stress, fear, and emotional discomfort that I’m literally having to reprogram my brain to think differently.

In all fairness to myself, when I feel calm and at peace, when I know that my focus is on the things that are truly important in life, my logical brain is in control and I am a very “colorful” thinker. It is during times of strain and anxiety that I drain all of the color and life begins to look like an old black and white movie. I’ve decided I need to teach my logical brain to temper the feelings of fear and impending doom because, in truth, things really aren’t all that bad. Logically I know that earning an A- or even a B is most acceptable, even praiseworthy considering my major, but my heart would have me believe otherwise. What can I say, I’m an overachiever, even when I’m not?

Don't try to figure me outI’m not even sure that made sense to me, and that’s my point! Extreme thinking doesn’t ever really make sense. Most inner fears are born of irrational thinking but try convincing yourself of that truth when you’re stuck in that senseless loop. From the outside looking in it might seem absurd but, as I’m sure we’re all aware, when we’re stuck in the middle of it those fears don’t seem that ridiculous, they look very real and very scary.

So, on day one of “Stina’s 366 Leap Year Days of Gratitude” (I decided to capitalize it, makes it seem more official) I’m grateful for colors. I am so thankful that there are more than just the extreme black and white choices in life. I’m thankful for the fact that when faced with a decision I have so many sources to turn to for help and advice; my friends and family who help me see the colorful options that lay ahead. I’m thankful for a logical mind that helps me temper my fears and find rational solutions. Most of all? I’m grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ, who atoned for my sins and mistakes and through that great sacrifice pours colors and possibilities into my life.

My wish for all of you is that this year will be a colorful year full of the wonders and joys of life!

Love and peace out!
Stina

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