Welcome to the November 2012 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Gratitude and Traditions
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children. This month our participants have written about gratitude and traditions by sharing what they are grateful for, how they share gratitude with their children, or about traditions they have with their families. The Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival will be taking a break in December, but we hope you will join us for the great line up of themes we have for 2013!
I have been thinking a lot about gratitude lately, as I feel that it's an important part of leading a balanced life, a content life. And that's what I'm striving for, as I'm tackling this depression head on. I do not think one should live a life of happiness, that's an overstated Western notion - for in the pursuit of happiness, we lose sight of what's important and tend to forget that life happens as we're pursuing happiness - happiness is the white spots among the many grey and couple of black ones. It's the grey ones we should aim to create: contentment, balance, mindfulness, call it what you wish.
When I lived in Ivory Coast, my cook was a Nigerian woman who permeated gratitude. Gratitude for her was not just an act as we Westerners seem to think it is, it was a characteristic, a way of life. She would truly surrender and accept life with a smile, even it's nasty sides when they stuck up their head.
I think partly, this attitude was due to the fact that she was religious - she was a devout Muslim, but that cannot be the sole denominator, as I know many muslims who do not live a life of acceptance and gratitude.
Another part of it may be that this woman had known many hardships. She had fled her country of origin at a young age, had lost her father early on, and lived in a country that had been torn by war twice in just over a decade.
And yet another part of the explanation is that she was raised by one of those extremely strong women I have oft had the pleasure to meet in Africa. This woman had fought to avoid her daughters from getting the tribal tattoos which were tradition in her Yoruba culture, she had fled her country of origin with her many children and started a new life for herself. She had lived an arranged marriage with a much older man and had managed to live it happily - sorry! - content. She had survived and healed from miscarriage before getting her last miracle child, Mariam, who ended up being my cook. At age 76, when I met her, she would still walk all the way to the city to get her merchandise to sell at her (flourishing) shop.
I have also found that - like many other Westerners - I do not permeate gratitude. I question life, what I get, I wonder if there's something better out there for me, I am not content. And this is a great way to set oneself up for frustration, anger, and ultimately, depression.
So how does one go from our Western notion of always wanting more, where gratitude is an act we commit a couple of times a year, when we're reminded of it, to living a grateful life?
8 steps to gratitude as a way of life:
- Accept every day as a gift
- Don't think that you're entitled to anything
- Delete all of your expectations
- Be present
- Express gratitude everyday, make it a mantra at meditation. You can wake up and just say: "I am thankful for this day", "I am thankful for my children, my family..." If you're completely uninspired, just repeat "thank you" a couple of times.
- Accept that you are part of something bigger (here it is up to you to see this as religious, or spiritual or just nature) and that you don't have all the answers, and surrender to this fact.
- Let go of control.
- Surround yourself by inspiring people. If you're around people you're grateful to be with, people who light your spark instead of dampen your spirits, you'll be more inclined to be thankful.
Thank you for reading!
Visit Living Peacefully with Children and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in next year's Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival! Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants: (This list will be live and updated by afternoon November 30 with all the carnival links.)
- Counting My Blessings — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama expresses the importance of reflecting daily on all of her blessings, a ritual she shares with her daughter. Jennifer also shares a few things that she is most grateful for. .
- Thanksgiving — It really is true that what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. Vicky at Single Mother Ahoy had no choice but to be thankful for all the things that had a good go at finishing her off this year!
- My little gratitude list — Stone Age Parent provides a summary list of all that she is grateful for in her life, including her son, her family, her home, her friends and her country.
- Baking Bread and Nurturing Wonder— Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work shares her way of keeping family traditions alive and nurturing a sense of wonder and thankfulness for food through preparing homemade bread during the Holidays.
- Going Inside for the Winter Holidays — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children reflects that going inside, both physically and figuratively, allows her family to enjoy the winter season in peace and reflection with plenty of time for appreciation of the most important people in her life.
- Traditions — Sustainable Mum discusses the difficulty of establishing traditions that were important in her own childhood for her own children.
- Giving thanks for parenthood — Can we truly give thanks for both the darkness and the light on our parenting journey? Shonnie from Heart-Led Parenting shares her perspective on how gratitude for all that life offers is possible and essential.
- A Tree for the Birds— Alisha at Cinnamon and Sassafras shares her family's new tradition of skipping a traditional Christmas tree in favor of one in the yard.
- Cultivating Gratitude In Children — Lindy at Poppy Soap Co. shares her unique plan for helping her son understand just how blessed they are as a family.
- Are You Truly Grateful — Laura at Authentic Parenting ponders about the ramifications of gratitude as a characteristic.
- Maintaining Traditions Through Family Changes — Jenn from Monkey Butt Junction talks about how changes in her family have led to changing traditions.