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Posts Tagged ‘appreciation’

I spend a lot of time feeling relieved.

For me, relief goes hand in hand with gratitude, so I also spend a lot of time feeling almost absurdly grateful.

I had an ex once who didn’t like it if I said anything about how lucky something was. I think he saw it as tempting fate, that if we spoke about the good things in our lives, that would somehow make them go away. I began to feel the same way, like my noticing and appreciating would be what caused something to be taken from me, snatched so rapidly it would be gone before I realized it. It wasn’t a stretch for me, this attitude, raised in constant vigilance watching for the other shoe to drop, waiting for the next crisis to hit.

But I don’t actually believe in that. I don’t think me noticing goodness, feeling grateful and lucky, means I’m more likely to lose. I think a lot of bad things that happen are kind of random, or else they’re due to choices like being a smoker or spending a lot of time driving too fast or eating nitrates, which I guess increases your risk of getting pancreas cancer. But I don’t think bad things happen because we don’t take the good ones for granted.

As for my vigilance, it’s still present. I can feel it scanning my life the way my laptop looks for a wifi connection. And it doesn’t find anything.

And it doesn’t find anything.

And it doesn’t find anything.

And I am so fucking relieved I don’t even know how to put it into words. It suffuses me until I feel almost giddy.

And my relief turns to gratitude turns to happiness because I don’t take the simplest things for granted.

Sometimes I sit on my couch at night, and I’m reading, and I’m texting, and I’m maybe watching a show. It is quiet. I feel peace steal into my heart, and then I go upstairs to bed, and it’s all simple, so completely un-noteworthy. And I am so happy about all of it. Because everything is okay, and there are no crises I have to deal with, and I can just … be.

Space

Space

I am so happy about dancing, I often don’t want to shut up about it. I stay up too late. My enthusiasm is written plain on my face and body for anyone to see. And I want to take you all by the hand, one by one, and I want to say, “Don’t you see!” Because I couldn’t dance at all–AT ALL-for years. My ankle, my knees, my back, my neck, my body was as twisted up in knots as my life was. And I couldn’t dance, and I couldn’t even afford to think about dancing because the grief would have been too much for me.

And now I get to dance every week, sometimes more, and it feels like an honest-to-God miracle. My bodyworker/trainer hugged me after our session today because he knows. He’s been working with me for five years. He says he’s never seen someone’s body turn around the way mine has. I am so relieved I want to curl up in the corner and bawl my eyes out. I’m so grateful I can hardly contain it.

It’s as if I spent my entire life living in one of those dystopic environments–Robert Silverberg’s city tower or Sondheim’s department store or Ray Bradbury’s Venus–and I’ve finally made it outside. I feel the sun warm my face, and the air tastes like fresh cold water, and everything smells like baked bread and honey. And I’m still in awe that this is even a place that exists, let alone that I get to be here.

I spend a lot of time feeling relieved. I spend more time in simple appreciation.

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Definition of kindred spirit:

“A bosom friend–an intimate friend, you know–a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul. I’ve dreamed of meeting her all my life.” – Anne to Marilla in Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomerie

Theodora Goss recently wrote about soul mates, and when I read her post, I recognized what she was talking about. Her idea of the soul mate is my idea of the kindred spirit. And when we use either of these phrases, what we’re really talking about is connection.

I really like the idea of practicing being a kindred spirit, both to yourself and to others. Because if you are not a kindred spirit, how can you expect anyone else to be? And being your own best kindred spirit plays right into the idea of loving ourselves, which is incredibly important.

And there are so many different kinds of kindred spirit. One of the things I like about the Anne books is that we get to see Anne discover many different types as she grows up. There is the romantic kind, the kind we’re most likely to think of when we say soul mate. And there is the best friend kind, in whom we are perhaps most likely to confide. But there are many other kinds as well, just as there are many different ways to support and appreciate each other.

Some of them run deep, right through the core of who we are. Others (like Mrs. Josephine Barry in the Anne books) are closer to the surface but still marked by the hallmarks of a kindred spirit: a sense of understanding or kinship, along with a sense of appreciation for who the person is. What this sense of understanding revolves around and how widespread it is will vary from relationship to relationship.

It interests me that with many people, we never have the opportunity to share our entire souls, or even a large portion of them. But we often have the opportunity to share a piece of our soul, to shine a ray of ourselves or open one of a hallway of doors. Even if it’s a very little door, its opening still has meaning as it creates its feeling of connection.

I wonder if this is why we sometimes think it’s harder to make friends as adults. With old friends that you’ve known since childhood, we share the understanding created through a shared past. When we make friends in school, it is often also through a shared context and experience (taking place during a period of transformation, oftentimes), which can persist for the rest of our lives. When we’re adults, we have to work harder to find that shared understanding, but it is often still there if we decide to go looking for it.

Of course, now I know many kindred spirits with whom I’ve bonded because of writing. A shared passion can be a powerful magnet. Shared passions or interests, shared past experiences, shared personality traits, sometimes even shared social groups can be enough to light the first spark. I even have my blogging kindred spirits: Rahul Kanakia and Theodora Goss. I rarely get to speak with them in person, but I often talk about their posts here, sharing my own thoughts on their ideas.

One thing that most of my kindred spirits have in common is that they LISTEN. Some of them are better at it than others, but at least some listening on both sides is key. That is the only way to create the necessary understanding. It is the only way to actually get to know someone, and we can only truly appreciate someone if we know at least some part of them. Similarly, we can only be a kindred spirit to ourselves if we learn to listen to ourselves and pay attention to what we hear.

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” -Anne in Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomerie

What does being a kindred spirit mean to you?

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Guess what time it is? Birthday week! I’ve been spending the past week celebrating, and there will even more celebrating through the weekend. (Battlestar Galactica the board game! Fancy tea! And also frozen yogurt!) And today is my actual birthday, so I am spending time doing fun things…and also revising. Because revising seems to be a never-ending process in my life at the moment.

For the last couple of years on the blog, I’ve made a birthday post listing five happy things. But today I’d like to take a moment to think about one BIG happy thing: gratitude.

The reason thinking about five happy things every day is supposed to increase general happiness is that it helps us cultivate a sense of gratitude. This year has been a tough one for me, and what I’ve learned is that in the face of adversity, feeling gratitude is even more important. It’s so easy to get caught up in a tidal wave of difficult emotions, but being aware of all the positive parts of life helps keep things in balance. And because of the contrast, the good and the sweet and the special feel even stronger and more important than they normally do.

So today on my birthday, I am feeling gratitude and appreciation. There are so many wonderful people in my life, many of whom will be reading these words today, and my life is so much richer because of you. Whether I am learning from you or having fascinating conversations with you, having super fun times with you or offering and receiving support, you make a difference in my life. I only wish I could see those of you who don’t live close to me more than I do.

Taken during birthday week! Nala is too excited to hold still and look at the camera.

Taken during birthday week, by Yvette Ono. Nala is too excited to hold still and look at the camera.

I have been lucky this past year in many ways. I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time doing creative work that is important to me: revising The Academy of Forgetting (and revising some more), starting on the Space Novel, thinking of future story ideas. I’ve gotten to spend time in Seattle and New York and Boston, Chicago and Toronto and Detroit. I’ve reconnected with some people who matter to me, met some new people who have been fantastic, and deepened my existing friendships. I’ve been on the receiving end of a whole lot of generosity.

I live somewhere I feel comfortable and safe. My knees have been cooperating, and my allergies have improved. My friend Ferrett survived his triple bypass. I learned a lot about myself, and I’m on the path to creating the life I want. I have a little dog who brightens every single one of my days.

So here’s to another year! I know there will be challenges, but there will also be so much joy and gratitude that I get to be here experiencing life in all its glory.

What do you feel grateful for today? Let’s spread the happiness around.

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