How to find real gratitude

What to do?

I asked myself this as I trudged along the rocky shore of Puget Sound a couple days ago, taking my daily break from work. Well, almost my daily break. Oh,hell, okay ... my "almost never happens" daily break.

Between the million marketing things to do for my new book coming out, hoops to jump through for my publisher, articles to write to keep food on the table, starting a podcast, the holidays coming up and the situation in Paris and the rest of Europe ... I felt completely overwhelmed.

I wasn't excited about anything.

In fact, I was dreading everything--even the mandatory day off for expressing mandatory gratitude over the mandatory turkey with friends in the dining room. And it totally sucked having this attitude because Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday of holidays.

But how could I be genuinely grateful and at ease in my own skin, let alone emotionally available for others during the holidays, with all this STUFF to do and think about?

I kicked an empty clamshell into the water.

The worst thing was, I was being a total hypocrite. Because, get this: my new book is all about waking up to all the crazy ego crap that goes on in life and not falling prey to its spell. Ha! Right!

But hey, human is human. And lost is lost, no matter who you are or what you know. Know what I mean?

I kicked at another clamshell and missed.

What to do?

All my social conditioning screamed, "Suck it up and get on with it. Focus! Work harder faster longer smarter ..." blah blah blah. And my heart sank at the thought.

Which is when I got it.

All the EXTERNAL stuff demanding attention and the discomfort and miserable attitude it was creating were directing me to pay INTERNAL attention. Working on externals--no matter how hard I leaned into them--wasn't the answer. Tuning inwards and paying attention to what was going on inside was the ticket through the Black Hole I was in.

Not in a self-indulgent, "Oh, poor me" sort of way. And not in a shallow "Oh, I should count my blessings" sort of way--although counting one's blessings is a tried-and-true way to get a grip when the going gets rough.

Thing is ... I had nothing but things to be grateful for. Life wasn't rough. Just ... freaking busy. And I didn't want to get a grip. Life already had me in its grip. I wanted to find a way to relax into it--not battle it, not escape it and not gloss over it. I needed something real to lean on.

And what was real was I felt overwhelmed.

Suddenly, instead of dodging it or judging it or trying to fix it, I embraced it.

I feel totally overwhelmed.

And simply turning within and acknowledging what was real gave instant relief. Thank you! cried my heart. And I walked along the shore being quiet for a little while, reveling in the feeling of less pressure. And then, of course, my mind asked Okay, now what?

But because I was no longer focused on externals the question was no longer stressful. I didn't have to fix anything outside me. There wasn't something more being dumped on my plate. The now what? once it was addressed to what was real inside felt good ... it felt practical and solid and hopeful.

Within the next half-mile of shoreline I made a choice from that solid, warm, loving place within me. The podcast could wait. I could slowly get the research for it done by simply watching one less Scandal episode on Netflix at night.

The warm place inside grew.

Sitting back down at my computer the following quote from American author Kurt Vonnegut popped up on the screen: "Where is home?" he wrote. "I've wondered where home is, and I realized, it's not Mars or someplace like that, it's Indianapolis when I was nine years old. I had a brother and a sister, a cat and a dog, and a mother and a father and uncles and aunts. And there's no way I can get there again."

Oh my.

There's no way any of us can get back there again--not physically.

But we carry home inside us--at least the lucky ones amongst us do. We carry the feeling of warmth and family, security and laughter, ease and connection and belonging inside. That's the place that's real. That's home. That's the place to make choices from. The place we can count on because it's tender and gentle and dependable and nurturing and it's ALWAYS there.

All we have to do is remember the feeling and work from there.