Episode 20: The Miracle Worker
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! This poor holiday is sandwiched in-between two big ones – not just big holidays but two big commercially focused holidays. I’m all for fall, fall is my favorite but I remember walking into a craft store the first week or so of June and already seeing Halloween and Christmas out and thought to myself, “wow…this feels so oddly wrong”. I was excited for it to be summer finally and already they’re moving on to fall, but not just fall – Halloween and Christmas. They had aisles of Halloween decorations, costumes, party supplies, and carvable pumpkins. Then a row over they had Christmas ornaments, artificial trees, nutcrackers, lights, and advents. Then sandwiched in-between the two giant holidays fell this one tiny section of a few turkey’s and fall foliage for Thanksgiving.
It’s a bummer black Friday is now black Thursday – Wednesday sometimes too. Sales start super early before the family dinners and time to honor and celebrate what this holiday signifies; of peace, friendship, and abundance.
Now, I’m not knocking anything – black Friday can be fun. You already know I’m all for pumpkins and cute Halloween and Christmas is especially wonderful too but I think it’s important to slow down, pause, and think about what Thanksgiving can be: a time to honor and appreciate the freedoms we enjoy and often times take for granted living here, a time to reflect and love our friends and family, for the time that we have together and the blessings they are to us in our lives, and to look around at the sheer abundance we have been given. Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in the things that pull us away from gratitude and peace.
We get distracted by the outward thoughts and opinions of others, by the things that aren’t going the way we think they should, by the negatives in life – and if you caught last week’s episode on the Negativity Bias, we now know why we’re more prone to notice those but by so doing we tell our brain what is important and it weed’s the rest out. It sets the other things aside to focus and narrow in on what you deem important and as a result we miss the bigger picture, we miss the opportunity to bask in the abundance around us.
Several years ago my daughter was performing in the Nutcracker. She did this for many years and the performances were always so magical. The professional ballet company would perform with all these young dancers and it was this amazing production. I loved going each year. With a production of that size however, there were many, many, many rehearsals and we didn’t live super close to the ballet so it was a bit of a hassle to get there and the performance hall was right across the street from the state capital building so parking wasn’t a piece of cake either. But it was all worth it because I knew what a fun experience this was for my daughter and the end result was going to be amazing.
On this one occasion they were doing a mandatory run through but didn’t really want all the dancers there the entire time. So they scheduled you to arrive just for your part – which was short – only like, 20 minutes. The first year, I hmm’d and haw’d because it was going to be at least two hours of driving because it was prime time traffic time and to find parking was going to be a mess, and she was only going to be there for 20 minutes. Uuuhg.
On that day we drove up there and we were barely going to make it on time as it was and then we noticed that all the streets surrounding the performance hall were blocked off from parking in preparation for a marathon they were having the following day. I’m starting to stress a bit because you can’t be late. You only have 20 minutes on stage and where am I going to park and get her there on time? Did I mention it was raining too? Totally wet and cold. Then I noticed this underground parking garage that charged something ridiculous like $5.00 per 10 minutes. I decided that wasn’t the end of the world as she would only be there for 20 minutes and at this point I just really needed to get her in there.
So we pull in and the attendant there said, “did you know you have a flat tire?” No, I did not know that. I got out and looked and it’s really, really flat. It was a miracle we got there at all on that thing – and how long had it been flat?! They told me to park in this area right up front so the roadside service tech could easily access it and I bolted to get my daughter to dance.
It was now dusk and getting dark. We weren’t allowed inside as it was a closed rehearsal and right outside the doors there was this little concrete bench – the kind you’d see in a small garden, which was wet from the rain. They had a small pop up for the volunteers who signed the kids in and out but it wasn’t really over the bench so it didn’t do a lot of good. So I’m standing outside, in the cold, windy, rain and trying to slow my heart as it was still rushing around from the madness of getting her in there. I noticed that a tiny bit of the bench was under the pop up so just this sliver of the bench was dry.
I sat down and made phone calls to get my car fixed with all the things that happened that afternoon I felt like I just wanted to cry. I was noticing all the little negatives that were adding up and feeling overwhelming. But then something stopped me, a gentle reminder from the spirit, a kind loving gesture from Heavenly Father, that prompted me to look up. I was at that point on the verge of tears so I was looking down, down at my phone and making phone calls, wanting to call someone, a friend, to vent and complain and to not feel so alone out in the cold but that moment to look up stopped me and I looked up. It was beautiful. Like a scene from a painting.
Being fall the trees that surrounded the center were all the gorgeous fall colors and the leaves were falling in this very picturesque scene in front of me. It smelled so good, rain, trees, and all the fall scents.
My thoughts turned from all the negatives to things like, we got there – and on time. We found parking. We navigated through rush hour traffic and still made it here. My dear mother in law kept my other three kids so I didn’t have to do all this with kids in tow, even though I could park where I always did, we found parking really close, we didn’t have to circle the garage either, we got to park right up front which also meant it was in close eye of the attendants there so it felt safe, I wasn’t sitting in the rain, it was this beautiful tender mercy to have just enough covering so I could sit there, dry, listening to the rain drops hit the canopy above me, the service tech was on his way to help me, and suddenly my crazy day wasn’t so crazy anymore.
I remember that day with such gratitude and fondness and abundance. I also look at that day as a turning point for me. I was so close to missing all of it by focusing only on the little things, granted the many little things that seemed to be going wrong, that were inconvenient, and what I considered a burden but when I felt that prompting to look up it all changed.
How often do we do this kind of stuff to ourselves?
How often do we miss the abundance that is out there to you if you’ll just look up?
Thanksgiving is a day to remember and honor peace, friendship, family, and abundance but we get caught up in drama. We get caught up in the past, of times when words were said, or things weren’t picturesque, when family wasn’t acting the way you’d hoped they would, or all the many, many little things that try and distract you from the beautiful scene in front of you.
We make things a problem by labeling them as a problem, but do we ever stop to question them? To wonder if it’s really a problem in the first place? Why is it a problem and does it really need to be one?
Henry David Thoreau once said,
“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite – only a sense of existence…I am ready to try this for the next ten thousand years, and exhaust it. How sweet to think of! …My breath is sweet to me. O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.”
How sweet to think of indeed. We’re constantly surrounded by abundance, even in those moments it doesn’t feel like it. Even when things aren’t going right, when we’re frustrated with those around us, when things aren’t like you thought they’d be. Look up. Breathe. “My breath is sweet to me.”
I created a freebie for you to practice what I call the 10/4 tool. 10/4 is an old code phrase that people generally use on CB radios to say, “I got it, understood, or acknowledged.”
I believe that our loving father in Heaven is constantly trying to open our eyes and offer us loving abundance but we close ourselves off from receiving them. In this 10/4 exercise it’s a way to respond, I got it, I acknowledge the abundance around me.
So here it is, it’s simple, you can do it anyway, you don’t need paper to do it but it’s always a major bonus to write these things down. So start with the worksheet and then in a pinch you can just do it in your mind.
We start with the 10 part – as quickly as you can just name 10 blessings. Broad, big blessings that mean the most to you in your life:
I’m grateful for my health, for my family, for my home, for friends, for the gospel, for food to eat, and clothes to wear, I’m grateful for books to read, and music to enjoy. I’m grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ.
Then after you’ve said 10 blessings in your life – these don’t have to be specific just things you’re grateful for. You’ll move on to the 4 part. This is where so much magic happens.
Look up. Look around you. Pause, breathe, then right where you’re at name 4 things in as much detail as you can, that you’re grateful for.
No matter where you’re at and under what circumstances there are four things you can name to which you are grateful for. I remember listening to Melissa Johnson – she’s an LDS speaker and she’s amazing – go check her out, I kind of love that cute lady. She had fallen like 40 feet and it was a miracle she was alive at all but her recovery process was intense and so painful. She was stuck in this position where she couldn’t really move. Her head was in this brace that kept it from turning or moving at all and she just recalled feeling so sad and overcome by the pain that she just wanted to cry again and again and then one afternoon she looked up – the only place she could look and her eyes darted around her and she started listing off her own gratitudes. She was grateful for the lights on the ceiling, for the light from the window. She was grateful for her medical equipment, and for the nurses that took care of her.
No matter where you’re at, what your circumstances are – you can always find things to be grateful for.
I use the 10/4 to help me out of a funk. Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed or frazzled. Whenever I start pivoting in a direction that isn’t going to serve me or I’m tempted to show up as a less than my best self I can use this tool. Quickly, 10 things I’m grateful for. This reminds me that life is good. There’s so much available to each of us. This doesn’t quite get me out of my funk yet but it stops me from further spinning and heading deeper in a direction I don’t want to go. The four part always changes me. I haven’t once felt the same intense feelings or entertained the same intense thoughts as I did prior to the four. It changes you.
Four things that are immediately around you – four very specific things described in as much detail as you can muster. It invites you to look up, look around, look and notice just how much abundance is around you, available to you, put there just for you.
You can do this while in the car. You can do this to get out of the negativity bias and into gratitude. Look up, look around – notice how grateful you can be for organized traffic, for stop lights, and road signs, for laws that have people trained and tested before they drive. You can be grateful for paved roads, and navigation apps to keep you on the right path. We used to live in Puerto Rico where people would drive backwards on the freeways, where one way streets were more of a suggestion than a rule, where there weren’t always paved roads that made for rough terrain. I loved my time there but I’m so grateful for the contrast of organized traffic.
There’s so much around us. It’s more than just saying positive things. When you do this you’re rewiring your brain, you’re changing your very physiology. There’s a ton of science behind the benefits of gratitude. I highly encourage you to look it up and read more about it but I’ll give you a few here:
Gratitude increases dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain, which are key neurotransmitters that give us feelings of contentment. Gratitude leads to optimism that can lengthen your lifespan. Gratitude strengthens relationships.
Dr. Robert Emmons once said, “When you become truly aware of the value of your friends and family members, you are likely to treat them better, perhaps producing an ‘upward spiral,’ a sort of positive feedback loop, in which strong relationships give you something to be grateful for, and in turn fortifying those very same relationships.”
When you look up and start hunting for details, reasons to love and appreciate others you add value to them. You love them more. You value them. You stop nitpicking at them and wishing they were different. You’re open and able to let some love in.
The 10/4 tool will change you for the better. There is no downside to practicing this tool. There is only an upside, only positive effects. Positive effects that strengthen you, that promotes more happiness, peace, contentment, and joy, positive effects that strengthens relationships, family, friends, and others.
Let me leave you with one last thought from Thomas S. Monson, he said,
“To express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven.”
Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be confined to one short holiday. Take the 10/4 tool with you everywhere you go. Use it several times a day. Practice it until it becomes a habit, until it becomes part of you. Strive to touch heaven day in and day out.
Have a beautiful day, my friends!
Speaking of abundance…don’t forget to jump on the opportunity I’m currently offering for a free coaching session. It’s short but amazingly life changing! I promise you, it’s not like a car salesmen, I’m not going to take up your precious time selling to you -I’m here to help you. I really love working with others and offering them valuable tools to apply in their lives to ease the pain and look forward with faith. Try it out, you won’t regret it! Sign up for that on my website www.thecatalystcoaching.com under the free coaching tab.
Okay, enjoy your week! Over and out!