….and how being grateful might not save the world but it could save your sanity.

Christmas is difficult sometimes.

I don’t mean some Christmases are difficult and some are not. Every Christmas season there are moments that are difficult. Sometimes those moments are subtle and fast like a cold whisper-kiss across the cheek. Moments like the one where you want to add that one extra thing to the list for the kids and realize you can’t because you didn’t get a paycheck this week because you got a stipend check last week for training and training isn’t work so you don’t get anything on payday. Yes, that whole thought happens in a minute and it gets processed as a heartbeat of disappointment and it passes.

While my example is financial, I am sure manymanymany other people have similar moments of frustration. Maybe they are centered around family, maybe they are centered around friends, maybe they are centered around something personal. My point with the example above is not that I am poor, my point is that we all experience moments that are jarring to our personal version of Holiday Spirit™ happens to be.

I think of an optimistic person as not having those dark moments. They are somehow able to circumvent that moment of pain in between seeing something and feeling the disappointment. It could be nature, it could be nurture, it could be both, it could be neither. At this point I’ve come to believe optimism is an inborn trait. Those of us who were not born with it can come close with (I feel close to optimistic. Your mileage may vary, of course.) by cultivating a grateful heart. The way I define a grateful heart is stopping to notice the good moments and not letting them roll off into the pile of meaningless things that happened during the day.

For example, I received an email today that said (in part) “Your kids are lucky to have you and [Mr. Brickie].  They will go far with that type of love in their background.” (I’m not lying. Someone actually said this to me. I have the email. I HAVE PROOF.)

When I read that, my heart felt fuller almost immediately and a few overwhelmed tears might have spilled out. I took a moment to just be in that moment where I was amazed someone would think that about me, about my kids, even about my grumpy-butt husband. I spent another moment being thankful that person took time out of her busy day to share that positive thought with me. That is a priceless moment that keeps me warm against the moments of darkness and pessimism that come and go throughout not only the Christmas season but the whole year.

I keep those moments, those words you have been kind enough to give me in conversations, in messages, in emails. I keep them in my mind and in my heart on a little shelf and take them down when I’m feeling shaken and scared, angry and not good enough.

Cultivating gratefulness is not just about seeing the moment when the moment happens and having the feeling in that moment. It is keeping those moments on a shelf in your heart to combat the other moments that can bring you down. An arsenal of weapons where the ammunition is beauty, love, a kind word, or even the memory of a hug.

Weapons that can destroy the darkness. Hold back the pain. Create a dam of positive emotion that can be unleashed when it is most needed.

Warmth to combat the cold.

4 Comments on The Difference Between Optimism and Gratefulness

  1. YES!! To me, I have those dark moments during the holidays when I wish I could have done more… not necessarily for my kids, (although sometimes) but sometimes for others, and ran out of time, money, initiative, 2-out-of-3 or all three. I think that’s the currency we deal in during the holidays: Money (of course); Time (do I have time to do this… often in the form of “Can I ship it without exorbitant charges?”… but sometimes just “do I have time to write a thoughtful note or address Christmas cards?) and Initiative (Do I actually have the energy to do this right now?).

    What a lovely note and yes… use the power in that note to keep you going! 🙂

  2. I’ve never thought of optimism the way you’ve defined here… And like to think of myself as an optimist but that doesn’t mean I don’t have those moments… Christmas or not. Today in fact was a shit day. Highly emotional with all the feels and tears and none of them good. I get to feel disappointed and scared and angry… But the optimist in me forces myself to compensate for the negative by finding that ever elusive silver lining and bright side. But maybe that doesn’t make me an optimist. Maybe that makes me something else. Can I be a unicorn? But I digress because squirrel… Anywho – love the parts about gratitude. Can’t agree more with your thoughts on that and to add more words wouldn’t add more value so I shall leave it at that.

    • Maybe being an optimist is a thing you get to just decide on your own.

      I wouldn’t ever try and tell someone they weren’t an optimist, I think it’s just a fantasy I’ve always had that if I was an optimist I wouldn’t have to feel the bad feels as much as I do.

      You can be a unicorn/squirrel hybrid!!

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