Tuesday, September 23, 2014


I am posting this example because since I have been sharing about gratitude I have have had requests for more information. So here it is. I also got bossy and told people to do it.

If you are involved in any social media activity you will have come across people partaking in gratitude practices, or at least talking about it.
It is something that I have paid attention to for a while but never fully appreciated until the last month. I have at times been quite resistant to it and muttered under my breath about it and the enthusiastic people who have promoted it.
My resistance started when Gary and I were in the hospice.
It was excruciating being grateful for something I didn’t want and had no control over.  And truly everyone without fail was kind and respectful. I actually was truly grateful to the whole organisation and staff and before that the 8C crew,  but a part of me resented being being in the position of owing gratitude as well. The irony is, is that this practice is probably the most useful in particularly trying circumstances.
How I have used it is to equalize the negative. If I got sad or upset or pissed off, I would counteract the negative with a positive. 
It did help and it provided perspective but what it didn’t do was install the joy that ‘the gratitude entusiasts’ talked about.
This last paper in Arts therapy looked at different therapeutic practices, it involved researching and carrying out art therapy interventions on ourselves that reflected the practice.
For positive psychology I chose to really look at and understand the gratitude thing.

This is what I did.

For 21 days (a good length of time to effect change) I  wrote down three things I was grateful for in the day.Things that made me feel pleased or I smiled at.  I used the computer and did this before I went to sleep. I often wrote more.
The second part is the why, it is important to unpack this bit.
Look at the why you are grateful for these things, this is what will make the difference and sustain your motivation and interest in continuing.
Chose at least three a week to unpack and examine the why. I did this every day to get in the swing of it and make sure I was cementing it in; also I was using it as part of my study, which helped.
I also then simplified the words out from that and made a gratitude scroll which concretizes the process and gives you something tangible to have as a reminder and a way to sustain the good feelings from it.
It is obviously not a magic fix for all the brokenness in your world but it’s a start.
It is not about looking for what is wrong it is about noticing what is right and good and what you are grateful for. What brings you joy.

We re told to ‘Enjoy this day the Lord has made’.
so hurrah! permission to enjoy life.

I have found that it has a promoted a sense of wonder, I am more mindful, noticing the good allows you to sit with it and savour it. It slows you, quiets you and as you look and be with the day, the good moments lengthen. It is simple, profound and it works.

Example of what I did and how
Part one the recording


Day 1) Friday
Grateful for the Plunket ladies and their optimism in what we are doing
Grateful for a silly dance at Mitre 10 with mum
Grateful for silly songs on the radio that make me dance
Grateful I made cauliflower and leek cheese and it is lasting me a few nights, saving me cooking.
For getting over the daffodils and seeing them as people who have passed rather than a reminder of what’s lost. Golden connectivity.

 2) Saturday
Grateful for Girlfriends who paint and inspire me.
Grateful for being included in Gary’s Whanau
Grateful for Amy and Hamish who are so kind
Grateful for the sun today and the kale I picked for lunch
Grateful for the energy to walk this morning
Grateful for my electric blanket

Church and community
Zach being home tonight
My Dog playing with a toy mouse
Good friends who dog sit and take him for health walks
Ripe Brie
Grateful to Patrick who saved cushion inners for me

Grateful for the sun J
Talking and connecting with Ruth in the morning
Yummy soup I could just heat up
Walking with Karen
People texting their beads in
Heat pumps
Fresh sheets

Grateful for the Physio
Getting some school work done
A phone call with my sister

An early dog walk
The garlic poking up
A fresh chooky egg
Yummy beans, salad and roast yams for dinner followed by a buckwheat pancake for supper.
Time in my studio making a picture (daffodils)
This gratitude exercise
Emails from friends

Conversations with whanau
Kowhai, tuis and bellbirds
My new glasses

Grateful to my Plunket group 
Computer fixed whew
Glasses fixed
Wine with Deborah yum

Conversations around gestalt with Gill
Nice dogs (ralph at Pete and frizzles)

Grateful for Song (made it to church on time)
For Whanau participating in my kowhai drawing
Big sun all afternoon on my back
Mushrooms on toast

Brisk walk with Karen mango on a lead
Talking with and resolution with Zach answer to prayer

Grateful for Physio on my back that is helping
Supervision with Prue and ‘move it baby move it’ from Gaz
Therapy with Jill
Lynn coming with her gelatin plate and making prints and stains in the studio
Sue popping in unexpectedly

Planted potatoes kids Christmas
Tidied and cleaned house picked flowers
Play list big ray
Sue Tim and Toi’aiga for dinner tears love connection

Getting up early and to a clean bench and clean dishes because Sue did them
Yummy left overs
SUN again hurrah gorgeous still hot day.
Made myself a encouraging playlist
Puss purring on my desk
15) Friday
Grateful for getting through the day and making it home safely (very little sleep last night).
The phrase from Nietzsche ‘when we are tired we are undone by things we conquered long ago’ reminded me that I’m am ok just tired and it too will pass
Hot baths
Catie rang 

3 good things
Part two the why
I started at day 12

Day one

1) Therapy session - It was good and I am grateful because I bought up a sensitive topic that I had got grumpy about. I was able to ask Jill about it and have her clarify it. In this I showed courage and exhibited a sense of self worth. I was able to ask and be heard. Because of this I was able to share something I had been working through and which I needed a witness. It was liberating and a new thing for me. VOICE.

2) Lyn coming over and bring a gelatine plate to print from. I was pleased someone came to my house and spent time with me. It makes me feel positive about my environment and the space feels active. Spending positive time with a friend making something is something I enjoy. And I gave myself PERMISSION to play after being in town all instead of heading to my computer. I TRUSTed that the creative process would lead somewhere I needed to be and it did. I printed the back of my gratitude scroll. The TRUST AND CREATIVE PROCESS LED SOMEWHERE-CONNECTIONS.

3) Sue popped in unexpectedly. I was grateful as I didn't have to make the effort to reach out and she was happy to be in my space looking at art books while I puddled at my desk and we talked about Psychodrama and Gestalt and Art. Zach and Liana came in and the animals and the room felt full and warm. Nice to have company that wasn’t intense and was activity orientated. RELAXED IN SELF, BEING ME.

Day two

1) Planted potatoes and felt not just ok like last year but pleased. I always planted potatoes for Gary. I thought I might never eat them again when he passed. I often prefer Kumara but had sprouted some Jersey Bennies and they are in the ground, the kids will love fresh potatoes when they come home for Christmas. In the process I looked at my glasshouse and planned for the tomatoes. Another favourite of Gary’s. And I felt pleasure in the thought of growing them. Gratitude for planting and the energy. Gratitude in noticing the difference between last year and now. FORWARD THINKING.

2) Tided house. Sue (Gary’s sister) was coming for dinner with others and I felt pleased to be able to clean and attend to stuff I had been ignoring such as piles of washing. The tolerations were sorted. Result orderly clean house and well prepared dinner so I was relaxed and they felt welcome. I put music on and it made everyone cry but we talked and had good conversation. I was able to express myself in my own way and it was ok.

3) Playlist Big Ray. Gary made this for his dad who has passed. Sue asked for it and I burned a copy today for her. I reflected on the POWER OF MUSIC and how it elicits so much emotion and many good memories. Sue cried but it was ok and I could comfort her for a change. Tim cried and I told him Gary said to harden up Tim and we all laughed. Gary and Tim teased each other constantly. Whanau. I felt like I belonged. BELONGING.

Part three 

Gratitude scroll

Aim is to pick the eyes out of what you have written and put that down.

Plunket ladies and their optimism
a meaningful life
purpose zest enthusiasm
the radio
“golden connectivity”
girlfriends who paint and inspire me
good food
warmth of the sun
my electric blanket
dog walks with mango
arts therapy
my garden
ripe brie
the garlic poking up
fresh chooky eggs
time in my studio painting
gratitude exercises
kowhai tuis bellbirds
a prayerful life
therapy with Jill and finding my voice
you’re flying peter
tidy clean house
Talking about Gary
the phrase ‘when we tired we are undone by things we conquered long ago’.
hot baths
softness of the rain
brave feelings
the south
fresh mint
salsa verde
the smell of rice pudding cooking
puss purring
a dynamic life

So I would suggest Start your list, Then at about day 7 when you've got the hang of that start unpacking some of the things you are grateful for, write a little more on the why
And enjoy.

And lastly some links

Huff Post Good News. (2013). 4 Reasons to join the 21-Day Gratitude Challenge. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/viral-mehta/post_5959_b_4228302.html

Creativity in therapy. (2012). Gratitude Jar an Activity to Focus on Thankfulness. Retrieved from http://creativityintherapy.blogspot.co.nz/2012_11_01_archive.html

Positive psychology for personal relationship and growth. (2014). Well being theory: the PERMA model. Retrieved from http://positivepsychologymelbourne.com.au/PERMA-model

Mind Tools essential skills for an excellent career. (2014). The PERMA Model Bringing Well-Being and Happiness to Your Life. Retrieved from http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/perma.htm

Saturday, September 20, 2014

To live expectantly not with expectations

I have put off writing this for so long, I now have people emailing me or asking what’s up?  Seems strange as I write this for myself in order to understand and process. Partly I have slowed the blogging down as I write and process enormous amounts through my Arts therapy training, after that there seems little else to say.

One month ago

I am sitting out on my deck with a warm norwester wind blowing. Mango and a piece of the moon are keeping me company. Its a break from the winter of the past month and the cold has disappeared for a smidge .I expect with all of this that snow isn’t far away but for the moment its strangeness is appreciated.
I have found it difficult to know where to start writing this time, my energy has been so dispersed between various things, Study , nursing , volunteering at plunket plus house and kids. It seemed like a good idea at the time to do all of this, I have been accustomed to being super woman for so long what else was there to do. Plus in grief you either stop and don’t move at all or you just keep moving - I guess to get somewhere else, its natural to move away from pain.
 But my body has finally given me the message to stop. I hurt my back in Pilates on Tuesday and it has been in spasm ever since. My body reflecting my life. I over extended and it has had consequences. Tonight for the first time I sense some relief happening. The meds are totally messing with my head, it has been problematic concentrating on study and boy is there a lot this month.
I came back from Auckland this time prepared to make some decisions about what to let go as I knew I was stretched, but when it came down to it I was still working out how to manage everything. I don’t like letting people down but in that process I was letting myself down.
I hit what is sometimes called rock bottom a few weeks back. It’s surprisingly ok down here. It was excruciating on the way down, but now I am here I feel very calm and peaceful. There is no where else to go.  It’s restful , like on the bottom of a pond. I can peer up and see light way way up through the water. The weeping started up again once I landed, not the normal crying that I have got used to but different, but a steady insistent weep. A soaking rain of tears. I talked with Zach about this, he shared that he was in the same place and described his tears the same way. Softer. There are so many layers to this grief and so many different types of crying.
Someone said to me ‘I guess you get a fright sometimes and get sad when something happens to remind you.’ Such a strange comment I guess they have never experienced the death of someone close.  How to explain to them that there is never a moment where he is not with me. I carry him so close. Its not some thing you choose or a decision you make consciously, it just is.

This month I have noticed a shift in where I am. It feels like at a cellular level,like all the plates in my body have shifted. A seismic shift.  I don’t know how else to explain it. It has come about through some intense self work in arts therapy. I did a drawing the other day about voice. I drew a warbler singing in a dark forest. I was not particularly happy with what I drew but as I wrote into the picture I realized that it was what it was and sometimes we just need to sing anyway regardless of the situation Acceptance as a word rose up from this.
I am looking up and out and through it. I can note with a little irony that I am exhibiting a textbook example here of the grief process, In this I also aware of its mercurial nature.  A book I m reading at the moment discusses the alchemy of grief.  I am being transformed from the inside out.
I would have Gary back but I wouldn’t trade what I have learnt and who I am becoming in and through this process.
I have been practicing Gratitude (yes practicing) and it is worthwhile. Up to 21 days so far and counting. Every night before you go to bed write down three things you are grateful for in the day and then expand on the why of them. That’s the important part and that is what will guarantee you continue.
I feel quieter, the practice of gratitude is something that is so simple but really quite profound in how it works. It promotes being mindful as I look for things in the day to write about and therefore notice, sit with and appreciate them at the same time.
I have been dancing, I made myself a playlist of music I can move to and it is so good. I am moving and loving that.
Loved the paper I have just completed. Incredibly full and challenging as always but I can see how and where I might work. Getting some skills together.
Now all this is good stuff and I am moving, I would like to add that in amongst it I also trolleyed myself on honey bourbon a few weeks back. Actually felt like a right of passage and a really good letting go. I just felt like doing whatever I wanted so I did. I put music on( loud) and I danced and drank and let go. Was a bit urgh for a few days after but worth it.
I looked forward to coming away to Auckland this visit and feel settled here now. Not so much of the homesickness that has been with me. Appreciating the adventure and the opportunity.
I just had a night out at a pub with a young friend listening to live music. I had googled gigs at home looking for some live music. Delighted that it was right on my doorstep in Parnell. It was great I felt filled up and energised.
I went frock shopping with an old school friend in Ponsonby for a couple of hours this weekend. Was such fun, lots of laughing. Easy and familiar and I came away with a smile and a frock at the end of the day.
My back is on the mend
Zach is leaving home. This is good and and sad and timely.
Hana is settled with her boy in Welly, and thinking about career options for next year.
Macker in Cairns for a bit longer selling the coconut and loving being outdoors and fit. Also doing some web development. Heading to Melbourne at some stage soon.
My darling Mango is a tad older and slower but still my constant wee companion. He’s funny and good company.