Gratitude. It's a loaded word, isn't it? There is an inherent guilt feeling that comes along with gratitude. Reminding oneself to be grateful for what is right in life instead of focusing on what is wrong, implies that our focus is flawed to begin with. However, the powerful messages from the dominant culture and other external sources can not be brushed aside. It's not popular to be satisfied and still, and a contented state of mind certainly doesn't drive our consumer economy. Considering how we are bombarded with these messages multiple times each and every day, it is no wonder that my past relationship with gratitude has been superficial at best. But I can feel change and transformation afoot in regards to being grateful. Real, deep perspective shifting change. And I am...well...so grateful!
Our 2 bedroom, 1000 square foot apartment in the middle of a dense urban center is never where I imagined my 40 year old self living and raising our family. But alas, here we are. The truth is, it's not a black and white issue, and I think that is why we have chosen to stay in this unlikely spot for the last few years and certainly for the immediate future. There are many factors at play that we've considered when making this decision, and I'd say the most prominent being the freedom it affords us, because quite frankly our long term dreams vacillate between two very polar extremes. On the one hand we would like to dig in to a large piece of land, 10 acres or so and make it our own, homesteading for the rest of our days. On the other hand, we would like to buy the perfect van and travel the world full time and long term. I know. We dream big and in different directions. In the meantime, we are living nothing like those 2 dreams, and I've learned to love, enjoy and accept where we are right now. I think the key to moving toward those goals, is to gradually move away from and resist fear, and allow ourselves to open more and more in the direction of love and joy. This is easier said than done and much like the sentiment of gratitude, quite loaded talk, but what does it really mean? You can't flip a switch and step into a life you love with all of the perfect circumstances as you've envisioned. You can however begin to examine the thought patterns, feelings and emotions that are making up each and every moment right now. What begins to happen is a gradual and subtle shift that can help us see things differently and can afford us the insight to make real and lasting changes in our lives.
I think what I am trying to say can be illustrated well with the example of our current living situation.
Is it small? Yes.
Is it too small for a family of four? Yes, definitely for some.
Is it in the middle of a polluted, over populated city? Yes.
Is a major urban area the best place to raise children. Depends who you ask.
When we leave our house, do we have to factor in extra time for gridlock and traffic jams?
Most of the time, yes.
Looking at our life and our city in this way yields a pretty bleak and hopeless feeling. But what if I think about what is good here, and what keeps us in this spot and not running for the hills.
Is the economy and job market robust, affording us the freedom and flexibility to eat organic high quality foods that nourish our bodies and to pursue the activities that we all enjoy the most and the time to pursue them together? Yes.
Do we have ample grass in the front and back of our home for our kiddos to run around outside under their own discretion? Yes.
Do we live in a climate of year round sunshine and mild temperatures? Yes.
Do we have breathtaking and abundant nature just miles away? Yes.
Do we have well established and strong connections with not only our landlord (whom does not raise our rent) but also our neighborhood and the community at large? Yes.
Do we live on a quiet street that feels almost (almost) peaceful, while at the same time being right in the heart of a world class city and all of the amenities that such a city affords?
The answer is a most definitive yes.
When I choose to see our lives and opportunities through these glasses, I start down the narrative of "why ever leave?" And I think for us, really right now we would like a place of our own. A place that we can call home and do with whatever we want. And that dream gets vey tricky in this real estate market very quick. And thus, confusion.
Every person is a unique expression of life, with individual needs, desires, perspective. Every person's journey will be different, but I think a common goal that we all may be trying to attain is authenticity - living a truer, deeper and more meaningful life. Part of that journey for me has been recognizing that it is not what a situation looks like, whether it be your home, your personal style, or even your relationships, but it is the way these things feel. This has been quite a shift for me considering I'm a designer and visual person by trade. But I think the real essence is more along the lines of being ok with where you are in a given moment. Realizing all is as it should be and everything is going to be all right. There is a lot to be scared about right now, but I resist that darkness, I resist it over and over, moment by moment.
I took the photos above this past weekend from my front doorstep. My front doorstep, where the view consists of street lamps, power lines and a multiplex across the street just a stone's throw away. My front doorstep, where the weather is fair and we play outside during all 4 seasons of the year. My front doorstep where the birds and squirrels are aplenty and delight us with their beautiful music all day long. My front doorstep, where the sky is fuschia pink with the West Coast sunset. My front doorstep, where, in that moment, I was so glad to call home.
The secret to having it all is knowing you already do.