I’m just back from a long weekend in New York City – hustle, bustle and nearly constant noise. My friends and I travel there with some regularity. When I first arrive, I’m energized by the frenetic activity. By trip’s end, I’m grateful to return to my relatively quiet corner of NE Portland. I find NYC to be a place of contrast – for example, coming and going from our midtown hotel usually included stepping around or over a couple of street drunks, either carousing or passed out on the sidewalk. A few steps later, we’d dodge skipping 7 year olds. And I truly love the melting pot that is so evident on the streets of the city –different languages and cultures, food and ways of dress. This is my America – a celebration of humanity in our glorious variations and sameness
I feel so very fortunate to have again enjoyed my two travel buddies, who share my passion for adventure. We’ve taken at least 15 trips together and have it down to a science: one of us is planning & research, one has the credit card, and one handles technology. Who knew, when we initially met in meetings all those years ago, that we’d be traveling the world together - celebrating milestone birthdays, running marathons, seeing the sights. So grateful. And, as I’ve written before, grateful for all of my long-term friendships, both in and out of the rooms. These connections with people who knew me as a kid, or when I was drinking, or from early sobriety, are even more precious as time goes on. They don’t need the back story because they are the back story.
I hit a couple of meetings while away – another of my favorite things to do. The accents were different, the ending had a different cadence (keep coming back , etc) and the formats weren’t what I’m used to, but the message was the same - one day at a time, we work on whatever blocks us from the sunlight of the spirit, which is nearly always our own thinking and attitudes.
The meeting topic in my morning group yesterday was “gratitude." Fortunately, I inherited my mother's optimism, though can get into a negative loop when thinking about the environment, the “what if’s” or fear of financial insecurity, to name a few. Over time, and believe me, it was over a long time, I’ve been able to mentally change the channel when I catch myself in a downward spiral. What also helps is to do a mental HALT check – disregarding the internal nag when I’m tired, or hungry. It’s amazing what a nap or a snack can do for my attitude. I also use the catch-all prayer of “Thank you, God.” (Years ago, a local fellow shared that he promised God a song, which ended up “Oh thank you God” sung to the tune of “O Christmas Tree.” I still sing it!) Another Gratitude List note – I learned that if I have trouble falling asleep, I can run through the alphabet with something I'm grateful for (AA/Alanon, Bouquets of spring flowers, Cozy evenings, Drama-free days, etc)
Sometimes, gratitude can be a diversion, a Pollyannish head in the sand – some things aren’t ok. I need to be aware of what I'm feeling before rushing to a gratitude fix as a cover up. I eventually get there, but sometimes the path starts with frustration or sadness or fear. For me, genuine gratitude is realistic. Sure, I can always pull out "air to breathe and food to eat," which are true, but my gratitude lists have more meaning when I honestly consider my many blessings, starting with good health and sobriety.
What are you grateful for today, in this moment? If you're not there, what feelings might need acknowledging? If you like to travel, what are your favorite places, and why?