Calendars are flipped over, it’s 2023 now. It has become a tradition for us to celebrate the New Year with sparklers, and though it’s the end of January as I write this, I’m still thinking about the start of a new year. I’ve been thinking about the challenges of the last few years, and the challenges ahead. For much of my life, I’ve gravitated towards and read many stories that took place during challenging times throughout history- the Great Depression, war times- or just about challenging experiences in general, like living off the land or survival in the wilderness. Sometimes the stories are heartwrenching, but rather than finding those stories or time periods depressing, I’ve always been incredibly inspired by reading stories of people facing those challenges with such humbled gratitude, resilience, ingenuity, and grit. Different characters, different experiences… but all with a fire in their spirits that kept right on burning.
As we enter 2023, it’s been something that’s been on my mind and in my heart… cultivating that inner strength of our spirits to face challenges. In all those stories of survival and perserverance, there were common themes I noticed with the characters who fared the best- they didn’t give up, they were constantly searching for solutions, they were willing to think outside the box and get creative, and they were incredibly hardworking… to name a few. I also noticed that their journeys were much better all around with gratitude. They simply appreciated things. A single piece of bread. A roof over their head, even for the night. An old pair of shoes. A rainstorm to water the garden. It didn’t matter what it was, just that they appreciated it.
And that’s the thing with gratitude. Gratitude has nothing to do with what we have or what circustances we find ourselves in, it has everything to do with constantly looking for things to appreciate around us. I’ve known people who were blessed with so much, yet didn’t appreciate any of it, and others who had incredibly hard lives most couldn’t imagine, yet were grateful for every little thing. The one who has gratitude in their heart will always enjoy their experience more.
In December, I said that I would let the words Be Grateful Every Day carry me into the new year, and I meant that. When I find myself drifting (and I do), I bring myself back to those words like a mantra. That’s why I’m writing about this, as a reminder to me, as well as you, to practice gratitude every day. I feel like we’ve grown accustomed to so much abundance in our modern life, and ease of aquiring things, that it’s easy to take many things for granted. Can you imagine how grateful our ancestors would have felt for things like running water? Hot water? An indoor toilet? And yet we hardly think twice about most of those things nowadays.
Gratitude is not the only thing on my mind, I’ve also been thinking about connection, and working together more. The last few years have been very challenging and isolating, and many of us have felt more alone. A lot of people are having a hard time right now. You might see someone in your life and not realize how much they are struggling, or how much they could use some help or encouragement. You might be the one facing each day as a lone ranger and putting on a brave face, but needing that same help and encouragment yourself. Sometimes all we need is someone to listen to how we feel, not try to fix anything, but simply to care. A good conversation with someone we love can make all the difference. Other times it’s that project- that in our stubborness- we’ve been trying to do alone, but that actually requires more than one person. You know what I’m talking about.
Right now I feel the importance of the same things I’ve valued for years- spending money wisely and being thrifty, learning skills and doing things with our own two hands, producing more and consuming less in whichever ways we are able, sharing our skills with our communities and trading/bartering more. On this blog, I’ve always wanted to encourage others to do the best they can with where they are right now, and I feel that cultivating that kind of spirit will serve us well. There is so much we can do, and each little step we take matters.
Hard times can bring out the best in us, and they can bring out the worst in us. Whenever I’ve felt discouraged witnessing disappointing human behavior, I think about the people and stories that have impressed me. I think about their resourcefulness, determination, willingness to adapt, and the warm hearted generosity I’ve seen, and I feel much more hopeful. We need to remember how strong and capable we are, how creative we can be, and how much we can be of service when we share what’s in our heart with others.
Keep your spirit burning bright, my friends.