233 Days Remaining
Well, now we get to the most fun - and in some ways most rewarding - part of The Contentment Project. Take a look at List #1, the list designed to remind yourself what you have and how much there is to be grateful for. Here's mine:
List #1: What do you have NOW?
1. My family and friends
2. My beautiful children
3. I am working toward my education
4. I love the house I am living in and my huge soaker bathtub
5. The library
So what do you do with a list like this? Several things, actually: you should have already done this while you were making your list, but do it again now...look at each item individually and really think about each of them. Take the time to reflect on how they make you feel, and what each of those items means to you. Think of how far you've come to be where you are now, and recognize how things have changed for the better.
I look at each of these things and feel amazingly blessed to have come through the last few years and gotten to where I am today. My relationships with family and friends have strengthened in huge ways, and I have developed new friendships and made even tighter bonds with old ones. I see how absolutely solid the people in my life are, and I am grateful that I know I have so many people that I can turn to when things get rough. I know that there are people who truly love me and would do anything for me, and I feel the same way about them.
For a long time, I didn't understand the meaning of the word "love". Or actually, to be more specific, I didn`t understand the meaning of the emotion "love", or its context as a verb. In some ways, I'm still learning (aren't we all?), but in others, I have come to realize that I am worthy of being loved unconditionally and fully. For too many years, I didn't believe that. I could not comprehend how anyone could really, actually, love me; could care about me and what happened to me enough that my pain could cause them pain, or my joy bring them happiness. I didn't feel as though I deserved it, and I couldn't really feel it coming from anyone (I "knew" in my head that people loved me, but I couldn`t translate that to my heart). Once I really recognized what love was - probably sometime in my early 30s - I felt even less deserving of it.
My children are the most incredible thing I have ever done. (Not that I`ll ever be "done".) I have three beautiful, smart and funny kids who drive me absolutely nuts with love and, sometimes, with frustration. I've made a lot of mistakes with my children, and we have all suffered for it, but our relationships are growing and I'm so pleased with where we are at. My kids are amazing. I am so proud of them and will brag and show them off as much as they let me!
The other things on my list are great, too; I know I am where I am supposed to be when it comes to education and career, and that's just one more thing that helps me to feel happy and content with my life. This is why this list is really the most important one: it helps you to remember that although there are things still worth reaching for, and things that you may need to discard from your life, there is still so much that you already have, right now.
I started working on this a week or so ago. I knew what I was going to have to do with my lists for The Contentment Project, and I didn't want to wait. I chose #1 - My family and friends, and decided to start that day showing them how grateful I am for them. I decided that I would use Facebook - that vanity space - to bless other people rather than constantly talk about myself (I do enough of that in my blog, don't I? - Don't let me fool you...I still talk about myself on Facebook. Who doesn't?). But I wanted to show everyone how very much I cherish, respect and love them.
I began writing a series of posts called "Things I Love About _________". I started with my schoolmate Shotty, and listed several things about her that are wonderful and that make me smile. The way she encourages me. How strong she is in her convictions, how much she loves God and isn't afraid to show it.
How she is beautiful inside and out. What a great study buddy she is. And how she is very, very, VERY silly (probably my favorite thing about her - we can just go absolutely nuts being silly together!). Each day since then, I have chosen someone randomly from my Friends list (I try to make it someone I don't see that often and who doesn't hear how much I love and appreciate them all the time) and make a Thing I Love list for her or for him. I plan to keep doing it every day for a long time.
And what has this show of appreciation done? It's helped me to remember how great these people are. It helps me and the recipient of the list to focus on the positive. It tells the world how much this person means to me. My second favorite part of it is that, simply put, it makes people feel happy. My favorite part of it is that others have seen it and been encouraged to start doing the same. And having that sort of positive impact on even one person just makes my day.
Be content with your life.
Be grateful for what you have.
Help others to see what they have and how much you appreciate them.
Now go find a creative way to have an impact on another person today. And tell me all about it!