Gratitude makes the ordinary extraordinary. — Judie Sigdel
In April of 2016, my corporate job, among many others, was “discontinued.” I had been there 17+ years. I was totally blindsided and absolutely devastated…for about a week.
I quickly decided to turn the situation into an opportunity. I had started writing a book in January, but, since I wrote technical documents at my job, I didn’t have much creative energy left at the end of the day. When I was laid off, I had ample time to concentrate on my book. Seven months later, I finished Faith without Labels — a Guide to Eclectic Spirituality.
In mid-April, I received a Fitbit for my birthday, so I started walking, logging nearly 500 miles in a few months. I would walk along the East and Hudson Rivers, the High Line, around the city, everywhere and anywhere to log my miles, soaking up the sunshine and discovering, to my great surprise, that I, a former couch potato, enjoyed exercise.
Because I hate the cold, I recently joined a neighborhood gym so I wouldn’t lose muscle or momentum in my fitness program. There, I learned that serious cardio, strength and core training are my friends. My excess couch potato weight started to melt off and now my target weight is clearly in sight. Moreover, simple tasks that had been difficult for me, such as getting up from a chair, are now effortless; I can even meditate on a cushion again after years of meditating on a chair.
Today, for the first time in my adult life, I have abundant leisure time and complete control over my schedule. I can stay up and write all night if I like. When I venture out into the world, I appreciate — and am grateful for — “people, places and things.” I say hello to the security guards at the gym and make small talk with people in the elevator. That may not sound like much, but, as an introvert, those are things that take some effort for me. I’m grateful for each tiny connection and hope that a smile or moment’s exchange will make the other person’s day just a little brighter. And because of my mindfulness meditation practice, I am conscious of my surroundings — the blueness of the sky, a flock of pigeons gyring as one, spring-green buds on a tree — and that, too, fills me with gratitude.
I frequently do a gratitude list while I walk. The only “rule” is that I truly have to be truly grateful for what I add to the list; I can’t add it just because I feel obligated to do so. If I was feeling down, which is exceedingly rare for me these days, a gratitude list pulls me right out of my doldrums.
I have been content for many years. I am a type-A personality and love to work, so I enjoyed my previous job and let it define me. Now, I am happy, day after day. I am a writer working full time to find a publisher and to build my social media platform, but that doesn’t define me. I trust that I will be successful in this endeavor, but my potential success doesn’t define me or my happiness on any given day.
Rather, it is the small things, the everyday gratitude.
At the end of my evening meditation, I spend a few minutes thanking the Divine for my day and the specific things for which I am grateful. Usually, my list is quite mundane — a productive workday, pleasant interactions with strangers, my body getting stronger and healthier, my husband’s love and support, my beloved pets — but at the end, I am always flooded with a sense of the extraordinary. For ordinary life is extraordinary. Gratitude is the lens that shows me that this is so.