Friday, November 25, 2011

Being grateful for what is, not always wishing for what isn't...

Lorraine and Tony celebrating their 25th anniversary
Chance favors the prepared mind said Pasteur and it seemed that way this morning as I read Tuesday's New York Times Science section and came across this headline: "A Serving of Gratitude May Save the Day." After the gloom of the last post when I was admittedly down in the dumps myself, this sounded promising:  A new study shows that cultivating a feeling of gratitude has been linked "to better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction with life, and kinder behavior towards others, including romantic partners." The study also found that feeling grateful makes people less likey to turn aggressive when provoked.

Well, good god, let's do some of that!


Because though the day (starting on Wednesday the day before the Day) started out with me feeling depressed--my daughter was not only adopted, she committed suicide, my granddaughters are far from me and have other places to be--after shedding a few tears and feeling sorry for myself, I found a sweet and short email from a good friend, saying she was grateful we were friends, which gave me as a spurt of happy adrenalin, as did a nice message at Facebook. I called my two brothers in Michigan (as my mother used to call all of us on every holiday in the morning), made my pies (Praline pumpkin and bourbon pecan), went for a short walk with my husband, packed the pies and went over to a friend's house where 14 gathered--mostly friends I see a couple times a month, or nearly so, and most of them close enough I could call in an emergency. Because of the particular nature of New York City (I'm basically in a 100-mile away weekend Manhattan), the majority of us were were from other places, as far as London and as close as Queens. We ranged in age from the forties to the seventies. And except for the daughter of the host and hostess (who in her late 40s just got engaged to a guy we all adore), no one's children were present. (All right, several childless folk were there.)
My pie mit schlag

I had a great time, sitting between two good friends, at a abundant spread (even the Brussels sprouts were delicious) that we all contributed to. I felt grateful that I knew these people and they were my friends. I know about this one's mother in a mental hospital, another's financial/housing problems, one who just buried her cat that morning, another's sadness because she had to put down her dog that week, another whose job is changing with a great deal of uncertainty and anxiety involved. I felt accepted and loved. So I ended up the day feeling much better than it started. Was it because I had found things to feel grateful about?

Possibly. The study referred to above is the work of Robert A. Emmons, of the University of  California, Davis and Michael McCullough of the University of Michigan. They suggest that to get things rolling we start out with "gratitude lite,"a journal where we list of five things we feel grateful for, no matter how simple, from a friend's generosity to a beautiful sunset, every week. The entries can be just one sentence. Sounds pretty simple, right?

But after eight weeks--and done only once a week--significant effects were found. Compared with the group which did not keep a gratitude journal, the people were more optimistic and felt happier. They reported fewer physical problems and spent more time exercising. "If you want to sleep more soundly, count your blessing, not sheep," Dr. Emmons advises in Thanks! his new book on gratitude research.

So I'm not waiting any longer. We will always feel a certain sadness--sometimes greater, sometimes lesser-- because we relinquished our children, or if you are adopted, because you were relinquished, but there is life after adoption. Here's my list for this week--I'm going to leave all adoption related things out--and I encourage everyone to add theirs in comments. Later on I will add some of them to the post:

  1. Exceptionally good friends I shared Thanksgiving Day with.
  2. My partner. He's raking leaves, I have to make lasagne today for the birthday party for him I'm hosting tomorrow with his family, whom I love and feel they love me back
  3. Today it is sunny enough and just warm enough to hang up the sheets outside, something I love to do. Yes. I am washing clothes today.
  4. A couple of sweet messages from people (some of them strangers except through Facebook and FMF) yesterday.
  5. That I live in a place where I can buy eggs about 30 feet where from where they were laid.
Et tu? And you? What you are grateful for? --lorraine, quite grateful today
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See: "A Serving of Gratitude May Save the Day."

34 comments :

  1. I am glad your day turned out well. Holidays can be tricky. I used to have a friend who worked in an ER and she told me that holidays were always busy at her ER because so many people lose it.

    I love the feeling of gratitude although sometimes it is tinged with guilt for me.

    I am super grateful today that it is officially Christmas season and here comes the march of the nutrcrackers down from their plastic bin. I am grateful that I don't have to put up the Christmas lights.

    I think I will make my Christmas cards today and watch really bad television. Oh that sounds lovely.

    Hugs to you Lorraine.

    xoxoxoxoxo

    Joy

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  2. Hi Lorraine,

    You and I must have had similar experiences yesterday while reading the morning news. I, too, came across an article about the psychological benefits of gratitude and the work of Robert Emmons. I left a comment about this yesterday over at Megan's blog where she put up a great post related to gratitude. I feel grateful to have enjoyed a wonderful day with good friends and a hubby of 41 years! I'm glad your day was filled with good things.

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  3. Thanks Lorraine,


    I've been doing quite a bit of work around the power of attraction laws - studying the work of Ernest Holmes and his book and philosophy entitled "Science of Mind". I even joined a non-denominational Religious Science church since I've moved to Phoenix, that is based on his teachings. It's also the church Louise Hay who has inspired me for years, is a practitioner at.

    Basically we are taught that our thoughts have the power to change everything around us - even how we perceive experiences, trauma, etc. For me, this has changed me profoundly even to the point of not wishing to focus on the negative aspects anymore of the loss of my son to adoption.

    I'm not suggesting this is right for anyone else, but I can tell you that having Gratitude for the good in my life instead of the pain has given me a new sense of joy and peacefulness that everyone who knows me notices.

    Here's a beautiful little video that was shared Thanksgiving eve at my church along these sames lines.

    http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxSF-Louie-Schwartzberg-Grati

    By the way, I am thankful to have wise, articulate and compassionate women like you, Jane and so many others who shared that same painful journey; in my life.

    Peace and Blessings,

    Carol

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  4. I think I'm going to try this weekly exercise of listing five things. And here is my first one. I am grateful for blogs like FMF which provide a safe place to express real feelings and experiences with adoption. A place free from the usual "adoption is a win win win" attitude heard everywhere in American society.

    @Carolc,
    Did you know that Louise Hay is a first mother?

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  5. I made the lasagnes and tonight I am going to watch really bad television too.

    I think I have a Prime Suspect I can watch.

    xxx

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  6. Grateful to know I am not alone in what I did and how I feel standing in this world. Thanks for being here, Lorraine. Thanks for your courage and your voice.

    sherri

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  7. I am grateful for the son I do have, who is my sole support system here in New York. No friends, no family; but my son who loves me no matter what. Yes, I am grateful.

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  8. Robin, yes I do know that Louise lost a daughter to adoption. She talks about it in her film. However, she had the baby while using the adopter's name in the hospital and it's my understanding that she agreed to never search. If that's still the case, it's incredibly sad.

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  9. Lorraine, I loved this post and I am glad that your day ended better than it started.

    I am grateful for:

    1) my husband and sons

    2) their health and my own

    3) our sweet animals

    4) a warm home

    5) my friends...those I see nearly daily and those who live in places I've never seen or been to, but who have touched me with their kindness

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  10. Love it, Lorraine,

    1) My grandaughter Anaiyah, who looks just like me.

    2) A career that makes me feel valuable, and keeps me challenged.

    3) Women! The fairer sex never fail to amaze and startle me with our depth of strength, compassion and fierce desire to take care of each other.

    4) Men! Because... er,.. they are fun? No really, grateful for a loving son, and brother, and the extreme kindness of an ex boyfriend today.

    5) Internet holiday shopping, which enabled me to stay far far away from "Black Friday" (whew)

    Have a great night!

    Tamara

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  11. I'm grateful for wonderful friends that love me just the way I am.

    I'm grateful that my FIL is alive and kicking at 90. He is incredible and quite an inspiration.

    I'm grateful that in the worst economy in 80 years, I have a women's boutique that is still open and somewhat thriving.

    I'm grateful for my daughter, who is such a confident and amazing fifteen year old. Can't wait to see what an incredible woman she's going to become.

    I'm grateful that I am alive and healthy. Although I have had my share of struggles financially, and adoption relatedI,I have my health. That is a huge blessing.

    I am grateful that I can use my business to help others by donating left over clothing and creating a giving tree that my customers can use to help me give gifts to abused women.

    Laurie

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  12. Hi Lorraine,
    Wow, since I'm new here, I didn't realize that your daughter committed suicide. I'm so sorry to find that out. Yes, I totally agree about the gratitude thing. Yesterday, for example, I was at choir practice for the relatively small, friendly choir I'm in and I discovered that the woman I've been sitting by for months is also a first mother. Her daughter hasn't spoken to her in 8 years. Mine in a year and a half. We are planning on coffee after Christmas and I'm sure we'll have lots to talk about. Oddly enough I'd been trying to locate a support group in the area, but no luck. It seems that Canadians don't do support groups. Sigh. So, I now have two first mothers in my life who I can have mini-support groups with. Certainly something to be thankful about.

    Thank you for your posting.

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  13. @Carolc,
    It's incredibly tragic. Ms. Hay is in her 80s and time is marching on. It is terribly unfair for her to be held to something she did in her teens. If she knows the family's name she should be able to locate at least some of them. I guess it depends on whether this is something she wants to do or not.

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  14. Angela: Candian Triad group:
    http://www.parentfindersottawa.ca/

    First mother Monica Byrne is one of the leaders.

    Canadian Council of Natural Mothers
    http://www.ccnm-mothers.ca/

    They have an online forum.

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  15. Lorraine,
    I think I read Louise Hay's personal story in her book "You can heal your life". There is also a movie of the same title.

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  16. I am grateful

    *every moring when I wake up.

    *that I have a man who gets me and treasures our time.

    *that I have a comfortable home, and friendly neighborhood to live in.

    *that I have universal health care.

    Lorraine - years ago when I was still working long hours, each morning on my way to work I found myself thinking how tired I was - so instead I started telling myself how much engergy I had, and how much I looked forward to getting started. For whatever reason it worked.

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  17. Louise Hay believes that M.S is probably caused by "mental hardness, hard-heartedness, iron will and inflexibility".
    There is more than a suggestion there people with M.S do it to themselves.
    I think anyone who puts out this kind of message is scary and dangerous.
    Was Louise Hay actually diagnosed (biopsy, etc) with the cancer she supposedly cured herself of with happy thoughts?
    I'm really not knocking the power of positive thinking. A positive attitude is enormously helpful in dealing with adversity. But I am thankful for my skepticism about such new age woo. If I had bought into it the chances are that I'd be no longer here.
    It didn't work for Steve Jobs.

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  18. I sure don't think happy thoughts cure everything...but maybe cut down on the...common cold?

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  19. A positive attitude can't hurt, and often helps...except when it is substituted for real medical care, which many gurus like Hays espouse. Plus when things do not go well or go away, this philosophy makes it all too easy to blame the victim.

    Given her beliefs that thoughts control everything, why does she not just think the right thoughts and her daughter will appear on her doorstep?

    All things in moderation.

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  20. I am grateful for my soul mate and husband of 21 years...
    grateful to know that my daughter is alive and well (even tho she doesn't want contact) - she is happily married with a son... (I'm a Grandmother!!!)
    And SO grateful to Lorraine's and Jane's blog...

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  21. Lorraine, here's a link to info about her film.

    I am not trying to push any kind of New Age thinking or Louise Hay on anyone. I merely shared that her work and others such as Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Wayner Dyer etc have helped me heal.

    I've never heard Louise preach "have happy thoughts" all the time or even claim happy thoughts cured her cancer - although as a cancer survivor myself - I have seen the power of positive thinking work miracles personally.

    What I learned that helped me with my adoption loss was about acceptance of "what is" and using our traumas, pain experiences etc. to help others...

    I was merely sharing what has worked for me, Heavens to Betsy. If you are skeptical, please know that I respect your right to believe whatever you choose.

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  22. http://www.youcanhealyourlifemovie.com/about/index.php

    Sorry forgot the link..

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  23. 1. I get to decorate my house for Christmas with my two young children who are way fun.
    2. Business is going well and I'm optimistic that things will continue to improve.
    3. I have been either loosing weight or maintaining for the last six weeks. I'm on a roll.
    4. Today I'm happy.
    5. I saw my 93 year old friend today.

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  24. We had a similar exercise in reunited mother's support group at the CUB retreat. This group was for ongoing reunions; there was another for rejected or stalled.

    One of the women suggested that for one session we focus on what is good about our reunions. We had already gone through the problems. This proved to be both enlightening and uplifting, and we all left feeling better about our various situations. Looking realistically at the positive in a situation does help, as long as it is not viewed as some kind of magic.

    I am grateful for the same mundane but necessary things as everyone else apparently, all my kids, that they and my husband still have jobs, and my husband still puts up with me, my cats, my house and land inherited from parents and grandparents, my friends in real life and my friends on the internet, that my oldest son communicates with me. Also nieces and nephews. the ocean, and health.

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  25. I am grateful for all of you who comment here. Even when I don't agree.
    It is a safe place to learn and say what's on your mind. I place to feel that you are not alone and no longer have to be silent about adoption and how it forced itself on our lives.

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  26. I am grateful for the people in my life most of all my brothers and sisters and their families , for all the cats and kittens that I feed (They help me keep going more than they know) and,yes, for my son who still isn't talking to me Also, I'm grateful for this past weekend when I went away to a place with no TV or internet and cleared out my head-plenty of fresh air, exercise and good food.

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  27. Several years ago an old friend of mine posted 3 things she was thankful for every day in November on Facebook. I loved reading them. One time it was just the fact that she had gotten through the day and it was over. She inspired me to start a gratitude notebook. I have been writing in it (almost) daily ever since. Sometimes when I am overwhelmed with life I read through that notebook. It helps me to refocus on what I have and how very blessed I am.

    I am grateful for my wonderful husband, my daughter (lost through adoption), my 5 amazing and crazy sons, my mother and father and siblings and all of my friends. I am grateful for support I feel from other first/natural mothers online and in real life.

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  28. This column makes me angry. I feel like I'm in a therapy group where for the last few years, the counsellor has been telling me "How dare you be happy You should be angry and miserable like the rest of us" Then, when I finally succumb, they say Gotcha be grateful. Must be some politically correct orders from 'the leaders' so that we can all be in the holiday mood(not allowed to say Christmas spirit) and go out and spend money. Then, come 2012, they'll tell us how awful we're supposed to feel again.

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  29. I have been feeling so low for quite a while that the newspaper story I read made me feel like I had to pick myself up and so tried to.

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  30. I'm sorry. I wasn't referring to anyone in particular. and am grateful to have this column to vent. Maybe I'm feeling like when I finally gave in to Cathy Sob.... my social worker(won't spell out her name) It was around this time of year when the tug-of-war began. I would love to find her and spit in her face.

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  31. I'm grateful for First Mother Forum and all the lovely mothers who are supporting each other in this lonely journey called adoption.

    I'm grateful to have a home in a nice community.

    I'm grateful to be learning to exert control over my life and not have to apologize for making choices that are in my own best interest.

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  32. I am grateful to live in a house with a large yard that gives me leaves to rake in the fall.

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  33. I see so many new names on here lately, welcome to all who recently stating posting comments! I read all the comments, often multiple times to try to comprehend and demystify the many facets of adoption and reunion. Thanks to all who are sharing here.

    Lorraine and Jane - you are doing such a wonderful job at giving mothers and adoptees a place to vent and process our hurt - thank you!

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