Generosity and Gratitude

Every time I consider writing a blog post or an essay, I feel a little sick. As if I’ve eaten something slightly tainted or took a too-big swallow of soured milk. It’s a hint, just a hint of what could happen if I fail. 

Intellectually, I know that if, as Brené Brown so wonderfully asserts, I am in the arena, I will most definitely fail or get my ass kicked once in a while. I even believe that experiencing failure (hopefully on a somewhat limited basis) is healthy, promotes humility, and teaches us how to do better. Still—it feels like shit especially if you are a teensy bit paralyzed by your longing for perfection.


Lately I’ve been reading Patti Digh’s wonderful Life is a Verb in the mornings before I go to work. About a week ago, I drew a square around this quote:

“Generosity, it turns out, is a way of being in the world, not a way of giving in the world. It has little to do with giving gifts, and everything to do with giving space to others to be who they are.”

I think Patti Digh is right. And I think I’m capable of being generous in the world. But am I capable of giving myself this sort of space? 

That’s what I find out when I write. When I read what I’ve written and cross out the dishonest parts, when I go back in with an open mind and a tender heart I’m offering myself the sort of generosity I wouldn’t think twice of offering to others.

I’ve got to admit, the committee has been a real pain in the ass lately. Every time I sit down to write, they ask, “Why are you writing that?” or “Who cares?” But as a good friend reminded me just today, I can fire the committee and have security escort them from the building. Interesting idea.


Do you get Kelly Corrigan’s newsletter? If you don’t, I highly recommend it. This week, she wrote about gratitude and a pretty cool gratitude practice she has begun. It got me to thinking about my own gratitude practice (I don’t have one). 

Oh sure, I give it a try now and then, usually around Thanksgiving. I make the decision to deliberately incorporate more gratitude into my daily life. I’ve gone the gratitude jar route with an elaborately decorated jar and brightly colored paper strips upon which I write what I’m grateful for. I’ve kept a gratitude journal with colored pencils and pens, and one year I even forced my children to keep their own gratitude journals. You can imagine how that turned out. The entries were less than inspiring. 

Here’s what I think happens when I get started. I get hung up on the big stuff. I write about my long marriage and my six kinda-brilliant, kinda-smart alecky kids and my three tiny-to mid-size grandchildren. I list my toasty warm house which in these post-menopausal days is a tad bit too toasty, plenty of sweatshirts, and a few too many pairs of sneakers. I acknowledge clean water and an abundance of food (popcorn, asparagus, and garlic roasted chicken, not to mention cheesy mashed potatoes), trash pickup and health insurance. Then I sort of fizzle out. 

It’s not that the big stuff isn’t important or that I don’t need to remember those things all the time because I do. I think it’s more that I am reminded of the masses of folks who cannot be grateful for the things I take for granted because they don’t have them. And it shuts me up. Just like the committee who reminds me of how privileged and self-involved I am.

But today, I fired the committee (and security personnel is on the way) because I’m beginning a new gratitude practice.

Gratitude for small and ordinary miracles.

For example—Dark-eyed Juncos flying startled from Redwood in the front yard. The woman in the Buick, who leaned over her front seat and waved maniacally to make sure I saw her as she drove past. Getting my 10,000 Fitbit steps before 1:00 in the afternoon. Iced coffee and a ripe but firm Chiquita banana. Oprah’s Super Soul Conversation with Pema Chodron (yes, I listen to Oprah’s Super Soul Podcast regularly). Sharpie pens, sharp pencils, Blackwing pencil sharpeners, and lined paper that doesn’t bleed through. A friend’s post on FB about a beautiful tree that “let go” all her beechnuts at once. Sticky little hand and mouth prints on the front window and most other surfaces in my house. 

When I start, it’s hard to stop. I’m grateful for wind and headbands and red wine and Ibuprofen. I’m grateful for potato soup and fizzy water, books and reading glasses, slippers and pajama pants and old t-shirts. I’m grateful for memory and words, blankets and lil pillow (a Casper nap pillow that, at 52, I’ve become wildly attached to).  

I could go on and on, and that’s the point. There’s enough to be grateful for right here, right now. 

A blog, or for that matter a life, is no place to worry about perfection.

Beginning Again. Again.

We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are. ~Anais Nin

It’s a little embarrassing really, but here I am, beginning again.

You see, I’ve been angry.

The awful president who won’t go away. The exhaustive amount of energy I expend wondering if someone I know voted for the man still supports him.

Guns. The exhaustive amount of energy I expend wondering if the gun owners I know still think everyone should have the right to own an assault rifle (because they’re fun, you know).

Healthcare. Do our leaders really believe that people with pre-existing conditions should be unable to afford healthcare?

And I broke my hand this summer. That’s not why I haven’t been writing although it did make it quite difficult to type for about 6 weeks. Walking along the waterfront in Savannah, Georgia on our second night of vacation, I slipped on a slick patch and went down fast on my right hand. No alcohol involved, only excitement, gawking. So much noise, so many restaurants, all the people–I was delighted in that vulnerable, childlike way. Completely open to the sights and sounds and smells and then wham.

“I broke my hand,” I said to Audrey who was next to me, the look in her soft eyes wanting so badly for me to be okay.

After that, and for the next two days, I didn’t want to consider it was broken. We were on vacation. We had trolley tickets and a haunted tour planned for the evening. I’d never been to Savannah, and after Savannah we were on our way to Hilton Head for a week.

But when I finally made it to an urgent care, the x-ray showed a break.

I’m not good at being broken. Well, hell. Who is?

A month ago, I still couldn’t comfortably hold my Elizabeth Warren coffee mug in my right hand. But this morning I can. That’s how healing goes, isn’t it. A little at a time.

A couple of days ago, I reread my last blog post. Each year I post about Audrey’s diagnosis with diabetes, and I read that post, and the waterworks began. Eesh. But here’s something interesting. It wasn’t the story that made me cry. I mean, Audrey is doing great. She’s away at college, studying, working, and rarely available by telephone due to her full, exciting new life (does that sound bitter?). No, I cried because I found myself there.

It was my voice. My cultivated voice. The Bridgett of this blog. The Bridgett who is a little bit more me than I am on a regular day. The Bridgett whose quirks I can tweak for effect. The Bridgett whose mistakes I can magnify. The Bridgett who allows me to publicly figure out who I am and why I’m here and what I want to do with this one “wild and precious life.”

I have been missing her. So I’m giving her a little space here. Because writing is how I process the world. And that Bridgett is the voice that opens my heart just a little bit bigger.

I’ve been meditating with Sam Harris, (it’s an app called Waking up with Sam Harris) and one morning he said beginning is always available to us. Of course, I know this, have known this, have been a practitioner of beginning again for years now. But it bears repeating.

Beginning is available to all of us. Even when we haven’t written on our blogs for 7 months. Even when we miss our own voices so badly that we cry after reading something we wrote months ago.Even when we can’t tear our eyes away from the horror that is our federal government. Even when people we love disagree with us in so many ways and on so many different issues that we can’t begin to comprehend how we live in the same world let alone in the same small town in southeastern Illinois.

I told a friend of mine that I’m tired of being afraid. Afraid of climate change and guns and that we’re just too different. Afraid that I might say or do something that offends my neighbor or worries my friends. But being afraid is part of it. Always has been.

My friend is pretty smart. She didn’t go into all the reasons I shouldn’t be afraid, she just said, “But what’s good is that you aren’t waiting anymore until you aren’t afraid.”

She’s right, of course, because if I waited until I wasn’t afraid, I’d never say another word again. And poor blog Bridgett would be silenced forever.

So here I am, beginning again. Again.