We all have tough days, some things that worry us may seem petty or small later on when we put it in perspective, but in the moment they can bring our mood down. Sometimes bad things do happen and we cannot control them, such as an illness, accident, or losing our job. I try to practice the Power of Appreciation everyday and it has helped me through some serious tough times and moments of disappointment (which later seem small in the scope of life).
The first real lesson in appreciation which had an impact in my adult life, which I can recall learning from, was in my first years of college. I was attending college at San Diego State University and enrolled full-time in multiple classes (about 18 or 21 units, which was too much at the time), had two part-time jobs which were both related to my future career, and had bought my first car. I went to visit my maternal grandmother, as I often did. I had always enjoyed time with my grandmother, I still do, hearing her stories, getting advice from her, and learning from her, she is a very wise woman, which I respect greatly. I will never forget that day! She would always stop what she was doing to sit down and spend quality time with us when we would visit. This time, it was just her and I, we were sitting at the breakfast table in her kitchen area. She asked me how I was doing, about school and work. I started to vent, telling her how I was feeling tired, my days were so long, I felt stressed, was taking way too many classes in order to graduate in four years, was working two part-time jobs to get experience to add to my resume, and to pay for my car. She listened quietly and attentively, simply nodding her head and showing expression through her eyes. When I was done, I thought she would pat me on the back and congratulate me, sympathize with me and tell me how proud she was of me for being a good student, responsible, and a hard worker. She did say, “Well, that’s all very good and I am proud of you, but.” That “but” was the key to the important message that came afterwards. She said:
1- You know how fortunate and blessed you are to be able to get a college education? Not everyone has that opportunity. Many people don’t get to even finish high school, let alone go to college. On top of that, you have the opportunity to study in the United States. Lots of people aren’t even able to enter the United States to visit, let alone get an education there. It is one of the most advanced countries in the world and you get to study there. Your degree will be recognized not only in the US, but in other countries. You need to appreciate that opportunity and continue studying hard. Don’t take it for granted.
2- You have two jobs, not one, but two! Lots of people are unemployed and can’t even find one job. They can’t support their family without that job. You work because you want to work. Your parents have told you that you don’t have to work. They want you to focus on college, but you want to get experience, which is good, and you want to have extra income, so you choose to work. You work in professional offices, in good and comfortable conditions, where you are using your professional skills and learning new skills which will help you in your future career. Your work may be stressful, but it isn’t physically demanding, and these jobs will help you get a better job when you graduate. Plus, you make extra income for your own expenses, your parents don’t charge you rent or ask you to pay the bills at home. With that income you are traveling and buying yourself nice things, paying for your car, those are all things you choose to have because that is how you want to live your life. Isn’t that why you are doing it? So, be thankful that you not only have one job, but two! Keep working hard!
3- You have a car. Many people never own their own car in their entire lives! They have to take the bus, metro, taxis, walk, or use a bicycle. Have you ever needed to take a bus or public transportation? Wait around until the bus comes? No, you have a car and drive around in comfort, with air conditioning and drive from the door of your home to wherever you need to go in your own car. It is a nice car, a model you chose for yourself, it is a good car. Take care of it. A car is not a luxury, it is a necessity, so you should take care of it so it can continue taking you to the university and your two jobs. Feel thankful that you have a good car and the means to pay for it.
4- Remember, everything will pass in time. This is only a stage of your life. Enjoy it! Enjoy your college years and living in the comfort of your parents home! You will never get these years back. There are two sayings in Spanish that apply to this situation, “No hay mal que cien años dure, ni cuerpo que lo aguante. Y todo en esta vida tiene solucion, menos la muerte.” Translates to, “There isn’t a problem that lasts one hundred years or a body which can take it. And, everything in this life has a solution, except death.” Any situation, as bad as it may seem, will pass. Be strong and look at the positive side of things, try to find a solution to your problems, don’t dwell on them. You won’t gain anything by worrying abut them, take action. Help yourself and God will help you (also a popular saying in Spanish, “Ayudate y Dios te ayudara.”)
I remember sitting there in silence, taking in her words. Reflecting on what she was saying. She was right! I had so much to be thankful for. I should be counting my blessings, not complaining about them. After that day, even on the longest and most stressful days at work, I would tell myself, “I am fortunate to have a job I really like, where I am impacting people’s lives in a positive way, helping non-profits, and making a difference in my community!” And just like that, I would smile and feel a sense of gratitude. When I was working as Chief of Staff to the Mayor, I recall laying in bed early in the morning staring at the ceiling of my bedroom, feeling tired because I always worked long hours in that position, and just thinking of everything I had to get done that day, the back-to-back meetings, the reports, the calls and almost feel overwhelmed. Then, I would recall my grandmother’s words and quickly jump out of bed to start my day! Just with those words, I would remind myself how fortunate I was to have a well-paying job which I enjoyed and where I felt valued! When I started my blog and would write late at night, after a long day of work at the television stations and going to the gym, I would remind myself that it was my choice to write the blog. That I was living this lifestyle, and being sleep deprived at times, because this was my choice. I wanted to write a blog so I could share my experiences and lessons learned with others, I chose to exercise, to work full-time, to try to be a good wife, to live a productive life. So, it usually meant less hours of sleep, which I would eventually try to catch up on during the weekends.
There have been many other lessons I have learned in being thankful and practicing gratitude. I will share more later, but my grandmother’s words have stuck with me and had a big impact on my life. My faith and prayer have also helped me get through tough times and to try to trust in God’s will. I don’t always understand his plan for me when challenging things are happening, but know that in time it will all come together, and I will understand the lesson I was to learn and the blessing that is to come from it. Now, anytime I am feeling down or overwhelmed, I stop myself and think of all the blessings in my life, everything that I have to be thankful for, tangible and more importantly the intangible. That seems to make the thing that was worrying me seem small in the overall scope of life. With our pregnancy, we had to a fertility treatment, it was very exciting in the beginning, then it became emotionally and physically draining, and was also expensive, without any guarantees. On days where I would be in tears, worrying, or doubting the outcome, I would try to think positive. I would pray, rest in my faith, and be thankful that there was an option to do a treatment, all hope was not lost, and we could afford it! That would make me wipe the tears off, smile, and keep a positive outlook! And here we are today, expecting our baby!
I will write more about practicing gratitude and appreciation in future posts.
Do you practice gratitude? What are you thankful for? Has anyone had a positive impact on your life through their words, like my grandmother has had on mine?