Thanksgiving is a tricky holiday*. The biggest travel day of the year, the expectations, the family, the cooking, the stuffing of birds and tummies… The history of this holiday is fraught as well, if you care to dig deep into history. But what I find trickiest about it is the prescribed gratitude.
Mothers are often told to count our blessings. And sure, being grateful is good for you, makes you a good person and all that. But gratitude can be hard to access. Especially when you are exhausted or in pain. The nature of being human, of being a mother, is that even if life gives you plenty of roses, it also throws skunks at you, and when under the influence of the skunk, the scent of the roses doesn’t stand a chance.
Thank goodness we can’t smell anything forever, right?
Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of gratitude. But being supposed to be grateful often leads to feeling we are not grateful enough. The thought “If I were truly grateful, I wouldn’t be struggling/crying/nagging/
That’s nothing but perfectionism talking. It’s the same sort of thinking that makes you feel guilty when you are mad at someone you love. It’s just more of the same “never-good-enough” culture we live in.
So today I’d like to share a self-kindness kooky (this is what I call my coping skills, I dish them from a kooky jar): You don’t have to actively FEEL the gratitude in order to BE grateful. I hereby grant you permission to not feel your gratitude all the time.
It seems kind of silly to have to grant this permission, but it’s powerful.
Here is an analogy to help this sink in:
Gratitude, and love, are like the sun.
And I’m not telling you to stop WANTING to feel grateful, that’s useful as long as you are not “shoulding” yourself. Wishing for gratitude works a lot better than forcing it. Forced gratitude tastes like Guilt. Yuck!
Instead of judging yourself as not grateful enough, try playing hide-and-seek with gratitude. Play being te operative word here. Wishing for gratitude vs. forcing it is a potent form of self-kindness. This shift made all the difference in the world for me: When you are in pain, when you are in fear, you don’t have to feel gratitude to have it. Nothing can help you feel the nourishing kind of gratitude faster.
Trust me love, you are kind enough, and good enough, and smart enough, and yes, also grateful enough.
So: if this thanksgiving finds you hurting, you might find everything on TV, the FB status updates from your oh so grateful friends, all the gratitude that seems to be pouring effortlessly from every which way, well, it can all feel like some giant proof of failure on the third Thursday in November if you live in the US of A.
So if you know what I’m talking about, I’m sending you guilt-disarming hugs, and
A Self Kindness Spell: the Pebble Ritual.
I think of ritual as the process of imbuing an act or an object with meaning and comfort. Still with me? Here is how it works:
Find yourself a stone. I like smooth pebbles, but any stone you like holding in your hand will do. Next time you are able to feel some gratitude (however small), hold your stone in one hand, cover it with the other hand, and bring both hands to your chest and rest the stone on your heart. Breathe. Try finding your own heartbeat. Imagine that your gratitude is flowing from your heart, through your chest, your arms, your hands, and seeps into the stone with your love.
When you do this, the energy of your love penetrates the stone. The stone is now forever altered — what is the opposite of contamination? I don’t mean that the stone is purified, I mean that the stone is made better: it is everything it was before, plus your love on top. Because when something is touched by love it is transformed. No, I can’t point you to scientific research with data and proof and such, but I firmly believe this stuff, and it helped me heal.
Optional: if you want, you can write a word, like gratitude or love, on the stone with a pencil or a crayon. Or you can splash your pebble with your favorite scent: I rubbed a drop each of the essential oils of tangerine and rosemary into my stone, and it smells heavenly.
Where were we? Oh, with a stone on our heart. Now what? We need to say some magic words, of course.
And in this kind of magic, there are no right or wrong words. It’s not about having just the right spell, it’s about tapping into what is truly meaningful for YOU. Here are words that worked for me. Try them on. If they don’t fit, feel free to alter to your heart’s content. As long as you have words that hit the spot, um, I mean, kiss the spot, or tug gently at your heart-strings, the magic will work.
I invoke the quality of gratitude and summon it into this stone.
This peace of the earth now carries the love of my heart in its core.
From this moment on, whenever I touch this stone, I touch my own gratitude.
May this stone forever serve as proof that I am grateful enough.
Say this three times, or seven. The number doesn’t really matter, but repetition is important. Speak, chant, whisper, or just listen to yourself in your mind’s ear, you decide, they all work. When you are done with your spell, hold onto the stone for a few more minutes, and when you feel like you had enough, put it down where you will find it when you need it again. (Mine lives on my bedside table, and I have another stone (for playful inspiration) by my computer. Yes, I have more than one ritual pebble. Yes, this magic works with other qualities that you wish to attract. Yes, please feel free to do this for every quality you desire. Yes, I will write more about this soon.
So if this Thanksgiving day was hard on you, please know that you are not alone. Far, far from it. Thanksgiving is second only to Valentine’s day in its potential to make us feel like ungrateful messes. If that’s you, huge but gentle hugs for the hard. And let me tell you a secret: if you wish you could feel gratitude today but don’t have access to it right now, you can still perform the pebble ritual. If waiting until the next time you can actually feel grateful feels like you might as well give up now, know this: you can invoke and lock whatever quality you desire into your stone, by the sheer power of your yearning. Wishing for gratitude renders you capable of gratitude. Just like wishing for joy renders you capable of joy; Just like wishing for comfort renders you capable of finding it. What you wish for with your whole heart is what you become, if you only allow yourself to hope and trust. It is all about giving yourself permission to heal through wishing and hoping and allowing, rather than fighting your emotions.
Oh, and one more thing: fresh out of pebbles? A stick will do (make yourself a gratitude wand) or a toy (a gratitude Teddy bear? Sign me up!) or even a piece of jewelery (a gratitude ring has a nice ring to it…
You get it, right?
Much love, and buckets of permission to feel everything that is coming up for you, today and every day.
And As always, your comments are more than welcome, and I will be very grateful for each and every one of them.
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And while we are on the subject of gratitude:
A few thank you’s are in order:
1. Thank you Toni, (@mamalikemymama on twitter) for the sun hiding behind the clouds analogy you offered on my blog post on the absence of love: when not bonding with baby. Much love.
2. Thank you to everybody who has been super supportive of my advocating for my home-country on facebook. The past week was super hard, and being able to voice my support for my country on facebook and geting so much love in return, inspired a whole lot of gratitude from me.
3. I am grateful every day for the Mama’s Comfort Camp facebook group, and for every single mama in it, and for the Den Mothers who help me with it. A multitude of gratitude to everyone involved, and if you are not already a member of the camp: an invitation to join us there.
*In a perfect world, I’d have written a fresh post for Thanksgiving, but the escalation in the Middle East, plus oral surgery on monday, got in the way. So If the ideas in this post sound familiar, it’s because I shared some of them last year, on the ppdtojoy.com blog and in a guest post on Just Be Enough. Since I had much fewer readers back than, this might very well be fresh for you. Happy holiday darlings.
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