It's going to be a bit of a crazy week here in America, so I thought I'd direct my attention to what helps me most whenever I'm feeling anxious or stressed: gratitude. Seven years ago I wrote a list featuring 100 Things I Am Thankful For and, to this day, it's still one of my most popular posts!
This year I thought I'd revisit and update that list. I did this without looking at the list, and then I went back to see how many of them ended up being the same after all this time, which was kind of awesome. It's kinda cool to write about things you're thankful for and then go back and see how the list has changed over the years -- I highly recommend it!
Here's my round-up for this year. Stayed tuned to next week for Part II! :)
Books are one of the few things I don't know if I could live without. My shelves are filled with novels I adore, non-fiction works that changed the way I see the world, beautiful images, creativity and inspiration so life-changing it leaves me speechless. Dramatic? Yes, perhaps, but I love books. I'm also super thankful that I've had the opportunity to write quite a few!
Freedom is something I highly value, and I'm so incredibly thankful for the many ways I experience it. Here in America, I have the freedom to do, say, wear, be whatever I want. I'm also grateful for the freedom I currently experience as a childless, unattached woman. I can do what I like (and I do!).
Ah, music! It's up there with books in terms of things I cannot imagine life without. I'm particularly thankful for lyrics, the carefully crafted phrases that somehow put into words all of the things I always want to say. The thrill of finding a new song that speaks to your emotional state is truly unparalleled.
On more than one occasion, I've exclaimed, "I love technology!" And I really do. I don't take for granted how fortunate I am to live in this technological age of iPhones and MacBooks and the internet (oh, how I love the internet!!). And that's to say nothing of medical technology, for which we should all be so incredibly appreciative.
Dogs. Wolves. Foxes (not technically canine, but still!). I love them all. Animals in generally tug at my heart in a way that humans don't seem to do (sorry, humans!). There's something so magical about being able to connect with a creature that doesn't speak your language, that is so different from you. I can honest say, as well, that dogs have saved my life, and I will forever be thankful for them.
This word (which I just discovered!) is the journey of changing one's mind, heart, self, or way of life. I'm so grateful for the ways I've changed my life -- learning to be more positive and present, giving up on bad habits, choosing to love myself (even when it's so challenging). This journey is on-going, and I'm so lucky to be living it.
Think, for a minute, about all of the things you know. It's pretty amazing, isn't it? We start gaining knowledge as soon as we're born (maybe before that?) and, if we're open to it, we keep learning and growing up until the day we die. There's always something new to know, which is pretty darn amazing.
As a pretty emotional person, I tend to swing high and low (middle ground isn't somewhere I spend a lot of time). While this can be frustrating at times, I'm still so thankful for these emotional ranges. As much as I hate going low sometimes, it really balances out those highs, and I'm thankful for the array of emotions I experience.
Alone time is my jam. It might sound odd, but I adore being alone. I love the freedom that comes with it, the moments of insight, the opportunity for me to wind up my yo-yo, and the little adventures I get into on my own that no one (aside from Barkley...) will ever know about. All you introverts out there probably know just how thankful I am for time spent alone.
I'll admit that I'm partial to the kinder, Disneyfied versions of fairytales, but I appreciate the originals as well. Not only do I love the stories in and of themselves, but I'm honestly in awe (and appreciative) of the ways writers use characters and plots to explore intangible concepts and morals. Writers of all kinds do this, but there's something especially magical about the way it's done in fairytales.
The word "beauty" is so broad, but I'm grateful for its many representations. I love tangible beautiful things. I love the intangible beauty of ideas and others' hearts. I honestly believe in the notion that everything is beautiful in some way, and I'm thankful for the fact that beauty can be found everywhere.
I'm so grateful for the opportunity to have a career that allows me to explore my creativity through writing, illustrating, and designing. In addition to being thankful for my own creativity, I'm also so appreciative of others' creative work as well. One of life's best moments is seeing someone's work and thinking, wow, that's so creative!
As a relatively healthy person, this is something I often take for granted, but there is nothing better than being in good health. Over the past few years, I've had some health struggles (and surgeries!) and they've reminded me how important is to be thankful for good health -- both my own and that of those I know and love.
You know those "a-ha!" moments, where you realize something so clearly or think of an idea you've never had before? Those are amazing and rare and I'm thankful that I've experienced a few in my life. I'm sure there will be more as I gain knowledge (and age...), and I can't wait to experience them.
Love, in its many, many forms, is something I will also be grateful for. I've fallen in love many times and each time has been an amazing whirlwind of emotion and excitement. And, of course, I've been fortunate to have (and give) the constant, unwavering love of friends and family. I am so lucky, and I don't take that for granted.
Right now there's a line of sunlight seeping through the blinds and onto the carpet. It's beautiful and it's comforting. Even when days are short and skies are cloudy, I know the sun will always return. It's consistency is something for which I am so thankful; its brilliant, life-giving force is astounding and much appreciated.
You know those days when you just keep crossing things off of your to-do list and you feel like an absolute boss? Those days are amazing, and I'm so grateful for the productive moments in life. It feels so good to get things done, to feel as if you're moving forward in a positive direction, making progress.
I love my family more than words could possibly express. We're different in so many ways, but we are still connected in by the ways we love another. Like all families, we have our imperfections, but I really do feel like I lucked out in the family department, and I try my best not to take that good fortune for granted.
Color is something I can't seem to get enough of. I'm always drawn to it (especially orange!), and I love the emotional reactions it evokes in me. From my spot on the couch right now I can see almost every color of the rainbow, and I couldn't be more appreciative of the differences and beauty of each individual hue.
Not only do photographs capture the really special moments in life so we can look back on them later (a rare way to make yourself happy in the present by referring to the past!), but they are also amazing ways to experience other perspectives, cultures, and places. Just think about all the things you know about from photos alone!
Sleep might seem like an odd thing to be thankful for, but I'm so appreciative of every hour I get to rest and recover from the day before. I'm also fascinated by dreaming, and it's such a cool experience to live through things in your mind that you don't actually experience in real life.
I'm grateful for the moments I've been brave in my own life, and I'm also grateful for all those whose bravery has impacted me in a positive (brave soldiers who fight for America, brave people who stood up for my rights and the rights of those discriminated against, etc.). We're all brave in unique ways, and I'm so thankful for that.
I've only recent discovered this word, which has many meanings, but the one I most closely relate to is: "creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people." To me, it's coziness and candle light, feeling snug and warm with those you love. I'm so thankful to experience hygge!
Generally I'm a pretty enthusiastic person. When I'm into something, I'm into it! I love being enthusiasm and I'm thankful for that quality in myself. I also really appreciate when other people are enthusiastic about things, and find it so fascinating when that enthusiasm is something I can't personally understand. YAY for enthusiasm!
Whether you have a few close buddies or a whole squad of pals, friendship is something we can all be thankful for. Every moment spent with friends is a gift and, even though I do prefer being alone, I'm filled with gratitude for all of the friends I've had throughout my life, and especially for the few life-long ones I have.
Being organized is one of my favorite things. I know it's not everyone's preference, but, for me, organization is essential to a peaceful state of mind (and life!). I love sorting things (especially by color!), and I'm filled with thankfulness when everything is in its rightful place.
While I'm not a fan of scary mysteries, I do love the fact that there is so much we don't really know about life. The unknown elements of the future (and, in some cases, the past) make life exciting. Sometimes, yes, I would love to have all of the answers, but more often than not, I'm grateful for the mysterious nature of what's to come.
Did you know I love quotes? Haha, I bet you did! I'm so thankful that I can easily find quotes that speak to me, and that I have the opportunity to share my favorites with you via this site and on Instagram. There are few things I love more than a perfectly worded sentence that makes me think about things in a new way.
Laughing is honestly one of my favorite things to do, and I've been told I do it a lot. When it comes to experiencing true joy, a long, tear-producing belly laugh is up there on the list. Laughter's been called the best medicine, and I believe that to be true (aside from, ya know, actual medicine). I'm grateful for every single giggle, every single laugh.
A fictional place might seem like an odd thing to be thankful for, but Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has been my favorite for decades, and writing about it actually led to my first book deal. My love of Wonderland literally changed my life, making it something for which I'll be always grateful.
I'm pretty far from "outdoorsy," but I actually love nature in a very deep way. I'm fascinated by it, and grateful for the bits of it that I'm able to experience. Whether it's pausing to stare at a perfect spiderweb or looking up at the leaves changing color on the trees, I never find myself not in awe of nature.
Optimism is tough, and admittedly I'm not always as positive as I'd like to be, but focusing on optimism has changed my life. Choosing positivity over negativity makes things better, no matter what's happening. It took me decades to realize the value of an optimistic outlook, but I'm so happy I finally came around to bright side.
For six and a half years, I've been sober. It's challenging, it's isolating, and it's hard as hell sometimes, but my sobriety is something I'm so thankful to have experienced. Not only has it improved my life, my mindset, and my relationships, but it's taught me things about the world I never would have known without it.
It was only recently that I discovered this word, which means to dance recklessly without grace or skill but with enthusiasm, but it's something I've been doing for as long as I can remember. Rarely does a day go by that I don't have some silly little dance party in my apartment, and I'm grateful for those wild, private moments that always end in me laughing at myself.
As a big fan of celebrations (and raised by a very festive mom!), holidays always bring me such happiness. There's something about the return of them, year after year, that's both soothing and exciting. My favorite is Halloween, but Christmas is a close second. I'm thankful for those who help make the world festive each year!
- STARRY SKIES
There's rarely a night when I don't go outside and turn my eyes to the sky in search of the stars. Even after over three decades of standing on this planet, gazing upward, I'm still in awe of them. Once I read that they are the sky's freckles, and that image has stayed with me. They are magical, glittery reminders of how small we are.
Kindness -- especially the kind that's given with nothing expected in return -- is flat-out amazing. We don't ever have to be kind to one another, and yet we continue to be. Yes, we're also shockingly unkind at times, but so often life's kindnesses are overlooked. My heart swells with gratitude for every kind thing others have done for me, themselves, and others.
I don't talk about this much on Positively Present, but "feminist" is a huge part of my identity. In college, I learned what it really means, and it impacted me so much that I went on to study gender in graduate school. I know the word often has negative connotations, but I'm grateful for it (and for the freedom to embrace it, a freedom not everyone in the world is granted).
Longing for things (or people) can be frustrating at times, but it's also kind of lovely, wanting for something you don't already have. Can you imagine what life would be like if you already possessed everything you wanted? How boring and bland it would be! I'm thankful for the excitement desire brings to my life.
Inspiration is almost everywhere, if you know how to look for it. Since I started this site, I've been constantly on the lookout for inspiration and I'm never let down by how much of it there is. Whether it's a motivating quote, the sight of something beautiful, or a book filled with new ideas, there's no end to how much I can be inspired, and I'm so grateful for that.
Self-love is a constant work-in-progress, but the work is always worth it. I don't know when exactly I learned about the notion of self-love, but it's transformed the way I think about myself and, in turn, the world. Gratitude is an act of self-love and self-love is act of gratitude.
This doesn't always come easily -- especially when times are tough or you're unhappy -- but whenever I've been able to cultivate acceptance, I've felt so much more fulfilled and at peace with myself. It's hard to accept things we cannot change about ourselves or the world, but I'm thankful for the moments I've been able to embrace what is.
I'm so incredibly luck to do something I love for a living -- to write and create and share it with you! -- but that hasn't always been the case. Not only am I thankful for the work I have now, but also for the work that brought me to where I am now. And, on a basic level, I'm so grateful to have skills I can use to provide for myself.
An odd thing to be thankful for? Perhaps. But there's nothing quite like seeing something that's adorable. It's cliche, but the sight of something cute makes me want to squeal with excitement. I'm so filled with thanks for every single cute puppy, kitten, illustration, etc. that I've seen. They're small things, but they make my heart happy in a big way.
Though I write about this constantly and it's part of my career, mindfulness is still a struggle for me. As someone who suffers from anxiety, it's hard not to focus on the future or worry about the past, but the more I practice staying mindful, the easier it gets. I'm thankful for every moment I've been fully present.
As a kid, I took access to so many free museums in Washington DC for granted, but, as an adult, I realize how amazing it is to be able to see such beautiful art and history housed in beautiful old buildings. I still don't go to museums as often as I should, but I love every moment I spend in them.
A quiddity is someone or something's distinctive or peculiar feature, and it's something I'm hyperaware (and appreciative!) of. Everyone I know has something about him or her that is 100% unique to that person, and that's pretty amazing if you think about it! I probably have a few quiddities myself, and I'm thankful for my own uniqueness.
I love fashion (it was even my major for a year in college!), and I'm so grateful for the ways we can explore self-expression through what we wear. I loved writing A-Wear-Ness: Mindfulness + What You Wear this year, and it really helped me think even more deeply about how grateful I am for fashion (even if I do spend most of my time in sweatpants!).
It's for many reasons I love these sweet, strange little weeds: (1) it's my nickname, so I'm a bit partial to them; (2) they transform into such beautiful, wispy things, and (3) they're made for wishing! I love how they provide a moment for us to pause, take a deep breath, and think about the things we long for.
While I'm very much drawn to autumn (and winter!), I'm so thankful to live in a place where I can experience all four seasons. Each one has pros and cons, and it's so wonderful to know that, regardless of what season it is, in a few months it will be different. I love the continual reminder of the power of transformation.
I hope these inspired you to think about things you're thankful for. It's not always the easiest thing to do at a time like this, but it's honestly one of the best ways I've discovered to combat stress and anxiety. Stay positive this week! And stay grateful too! Tune in next week for Part II. :)