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Gratitude

This may not seem like a very fitness-y blog but to create context I have been having a slightly challenging year within my business, within my home and within my physical body. I have previously written about how tough the last 12 months have been. For those that missed it, brief summary here (with emoji support):

  • Tony’s work has been very unstable for over 12 months (i.e. he’s had more new jobs in the last 12 months than he has in the last 13 years😣)
  • Lots of financial pressure (i.e. scraping by week by week and praying for no big bills🤞)
  • Marriage pressure (i.e. marriage is tough❤️)
  • Business pressure (i.e. why am I not a millionaire already🤷‍♀️)
  • Children pressure (i.e. Felix and Andrew are determined to age me prematurely 🤦‍♀️)
  • Body pressure ⚡️ (i.e. I’m getting old and starting to accumulate injuries faster than you can collect the Coles miniatures)

This basically resulted in me feeling very overwhelmed and wondering if there was any relief coming and whether or not I was cut out for business.

However, just like a welcome ray of sunshine on a miserable grey day, a beautiful friend shared this analogy with me:

When you’re on top of the mountain, it is exhilarating and it’s amazing but you’ll notice at the peak of the mountain, vegetation is sparse as it’s not a suitable environment for growth. The air pressure, temperature and soil are not suitable for most plants so growth is limited. So then, where does the real unfettered and abundant growth occur? In the valley!

How true is this of life?! When we’re down in the valleys and hating everything about it, we need to remember that we are on our way to to the top of the mountain and when we get there, all the growth that occurred in our valley will make us appreciate our time on the mountain. You just need to make sure that you are not going around and around the mountain but that you are in fact, going UP the mountain!

Ok, enough mountain analogies. Real talk (as Sarai used to say to me).

So this year has been very challenging for me and it has been hard to not get a chip on my shoulder and become a serial complainer. I am in a constant battle with my lesser self to not sulk and sook and wallow in a massive pity party. As a part of our children’s bedtime routine, every night we say our bedtime prayers. Something I have prayed for my children, since they were born, is that they would be grateful. As someone who has spent most of my life looking at what everyone else has and being dissatisfied with what I have, I can tell you it’s not a fun way to live. Even as a child, I can remember always thinking everyone had it better. My Dad was the sole income earner in our house and my Mum stayed home with us (and I promise you that my Dad had the easier job 😉) and as such, we didn’t have the same level of finances that other families had. Being the delightful child I was, I certainly made sure that I showed my appreciation of this. I can remember especially hating that we had a Toyota Tarago as I felt it publicly labelled us as being a large, “poor” family!! Sadly, as a child I never appreciated that my Mum came to every sporting event or dropped us off to school and picked us up every single day. I never appreciated that every school holidays were spent at home with my family not at vacation care and I never appreciated that my Mum gave up her own career to be “just a Mum”, as my parents felt this was the right thing to do for our family. So my ingratitude is a life-long personality flaw, well cultivated and very hard to ignore. In all honesty, I feel that my ingratitude has really shaped my attitude to life in that I find it hard to celebrate other people’s successes – not because I’m not happy for them but because I want it for myself. Ingratitude is insidious – it starts with small things and builds into something that can take over your life, if you let it. So for the last few years, I have been really trying to focus on everything that is good in my life (of which there is much!!). I have made a conscious effort to not worry about what anyone else is doing and focus solely on my life and what I am doing. This year has been the hardest year to hone this skill BUT you absolutely cannot learn a skill without the environment to practice it in. So whilst my current situation is unbelievably frustrating and at times very disappointing, I am grateful for the opportunity to practice gratitude and thankfulness in the face of suckful situations.

I have also learned a couple of things over the last years and namely that social media breeds dissatisfaction and I would really encourage people to get off it as much as possible. We tend to compare our life to someone’s highlight reel – a sure fire way to make you dissatisfied with your own life. Another thing I’ve also noticed is that staying away from the shops (and not getting junk mail) helps me to be more satisfied with what I have. Nothing creates more imaginary dissatisfaction than realising there are all these products you didn’t even know you needed to have! And you’ll never be satisfied with your purchases as there’s always something new, better and shinier. In 2005 I broke up with Andrew’s dad and I had no car, no job and I was going back to full-time uni study. I can remember thinking how wonderful life would be just to have a car and how I would be so thankful and appreciative of it. Well I got my car and then I started thinking how I needed a slightly bigger car and how much better my life would be with a slightly bigger car. So I got the slightly bigger car and then started thinking that I really needed a bigger car again (but in no way was I having a Tarago haha) so I got the bigger car but once again the mind wanders and you start thinking about a nicer car again. I’ve come to realise that the chances are, I’ll never really be satisfied. And it’s not just cars, I’m likely to get feel the same about just about everything in life – houses, clothes, TVs etc. And in a lot of ways it’s not entirely our fault – the world is designed to turn us into consumers. We are constantly under the barrage of marketing that tells us we need this and our lives are not complete without the latest and greatest. As we’re told all the time “You are worth it”! And you know what, you are worth it! But you’re worth not buying into the lies that stuff make us happy and buying things will make us feel good.

So what I’m getting at is I am choosing to be content and grateful for everything in my life because I am alive and that’s a pretty good starting place for gratitude. When my kids wake me during the night I am grateful that they’re alive and healthy. When my arm/back/knee/neck/butt hurts from training, I am thankful that I am healthy enough to injure myself in this way. When my house is a pig sty, I am thankful for the roof over my head. When I’m sick and tired of cooking, I am grateful to have food in my house. When I’m sick of being inconvenienced by other drivers/temperature/idiots/(insert first world annoyance), I am grateful to live in Australia where I have every luxury under the sun available to me. When Tony and I fight, I am grateful that we care enough to fight and that we were lucky enough to find each other in the first place. When Andrew and Felix give me grey hairs, I am grateful that my parents showed me how to be a good parent and that I have skills and knowledge to deal with them; and when I don’t have the skills and knowledge that I know enough to seek help for them.

It may seem obvious but the payoff for gratitude is immeasurable. My outlook has changed, my attitude has changed, my anxiety is mostly gone, I am happier and slowly my temper and frustrations are waning. There is a great gain with contentment and gratitude. So whatever journey you’re on today, whether it’s frustration with slow weight loss, whether it’s a chronic condition, whether it’s wanting to be like some fitness guru on social media or even if it’s not got anything to do with health/fitness at all; choose to find the good in your situation. Choose to be grateful. I promise you that the effort is well worth it.

PS the photo below is of me and Felix a few years ago, very early in the morning. Between him and the twins, I was exhausted. On this morning, I was trying to get a photo of the two of us and I managed to snap this. Even though I can see in my face how tired I was, I was still so happy and the look on Felix’s face just about makes my heart explode! If this photo doesn’t show me what I have to be grateful for, then I don’t know what will 💜

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