Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Gratitude Letter Project

The world is full of people trying to get your attention.  This is certainly not news, but I feel like the trend is at an all time high. I have a lot of responsibilities in my own small life, which are rather demanding.  It’s enough for me that being a mom, stepmom, partner, dog and cat owner, housewife, and friend are roles that demand good attention and care.  Those demands are to be expected.  It’s the endless advertising that I feel stressed out by.  There is always a better gadget to buy, a newer version of the same car, or another round of Christmas present buying to launch in to. We are constantly bombarded with messages telling us that we need more, better, faster stuff.  I don’t really think I do in fact need new STUFF, but there is a bright smiling face telling me (loudly, brightly, obscenely) that I do, so...

But not only stuff, if you are around in the social networks, every other person you meet is selling themselves to you… listen to what I say, read my blog, look at my tweet, check out my site, LIKE me LIKE me LIKE me!  Many don’t bother to spend two minutes listening or looking back at your blog/tweet/page, they are too busy flitting from website to website collecting followers trying to become the next big reality TV show.  There seems to be no time for building relationships any more.  It makes me feel kind of old school sad.

And then I turn on the news, and feel sick.  If it’s not the news shows, or the talk radio, it’s the debating, the live coverage, or simply the politicians themselves trying to sway you their way.  All the anger, the fighting, the stubborn political games, and people in power acting from a place of hurt and hate taking out their rage on others.  Those politicians and lawmakers are not connecting with people, looking into someone’s eyes and seeing what makes them tick, or putting themselves in the shoes of someone who does not “have it all.”  Revenge, stubbornness, war is all too easily the way they solve their problems. It all feels so overwhelming and ridiculous.

The big corporations, the internet communities, the politicians, everyone is constantly pushing us for more…
...if we give up more of our money to buy things, if we give more of our time and join one more network, if we give our support and vote for the “right” leader, then everything will be ok.
I am a Mom who does not work outside the home for pay, a woman who has had a lot of jobs and no career before kids, and an unpublished writer living in a small town. What can I do about the crises of the world?  About anything?  There is not a lot.  And I end up feeling out of control and lost in a world of stupidity.
There are of course many ways to solve a problem where a better situation is needed. And I suggest working patiently and diligently to create the life you want, to create the society in which you want to live.  But what I see right now, is that we are creating a society where what we have is not good enough.  We’re all working pretty damn hard to get MORE.  More toys, more followers, more money, more resources, more city growth.
I think of my Buddhist learnings.  In want and desire, there is a great disappointment and sadness.  For two reasons.  1. Wanting a thing does not mean you can have it.  It is possible not to even attain the thing at all, and then there is a feeling of anger, sadness, frustration or the likes. And 2. Attaining a thing of desire is beautiful and lovely, but it does not last.  Just after getting the new iPad, they have built a newer one, and tell you yours is obsolete.  There is little time to stop and appreciate what is in front of us.  Such pause for reflection or appreciation is not highly valued by our society.
But, stop a minute… remember all the things you do have, the trinkets tucked away in boxes, the places you have been, the people who have helped you?  At one point you were wanting those things too.  And then you got them.  All that is still there in your life, it’s just in the past.  It did not go anywhere, you did.
Recently an old friend of mine had a baby shower.  I’ve know this woman since the very beginning of my time in Ithaca.  Our friendship has grown and changed over the years, sometimes sporadic, sometimes deep, but seeing her big bellied and ready to birth a new life into the world, reminded me of who she is. I remembered how much she helped me grown into myself when I moved to Ithaca, how she followed my path closely for a while, how she held on tight to me as I fluttered through the wind.  And I felt a great sense of gratitude for who she has been in my life all these years.  And I felt compelled to tell her so.
Thus begins the Gratitude Letter Project. I get so bogged down by the wants, by the attention seekers pulling at me, by the suffering of the world, that I usually forget to be grateful for the things I have, the people I adore, the work that is good in this world.  Time for that to change.  But I don’t think I can change it in one short essay, one letter to a friend, one simple story.  It, just like everything else, is going to take time, and a bit of practice.
The aim: to write one letter of gratitude each week of 2012 to a person who has touched my life in some significant way. It could be someone I knew personally, or someone I have seen in the world from afar. I will be honest and open, with the intent of deepening the human connection, rather than acquiring faces on a screen.  I will not necessarily post the letters here, I might if the person is unfindable in the world, or if it is a particularly good letter.  But I will keep talking about it.  I want the world to change, I want less suffering, I want people to look at each other and truly see, but I cannot do much about those things.  I can do my part in letting the people who have helped me through this life thus far know my gratitude.
I welcome you joining me in this venture.  I think we could all do with a greater gratitude.
That’s 52 thank you letters, one year, and a world of thanks. 

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