Life

Gratitude Practice – One Year In

This month we celebrated one year in our new town, and one year in our house! Just as a quick reminder – we moved to Indiana in Summer 2019 (right before the pandemic, #blessed). We originally were living in a tiny rural suburb of Indianapolis so I could work downtown. Husband’s commute to his job was nearly an hour from where we lived. We were making it work even though we both knew, deep down, that it wasn’t the right fit for us.

Going through the pandemic in such an isolating neighborhood (our backyard literally bordered a corn field) made us realize that we craved community over anything else. It also didn’t make sense for Husband to commute when I could work from home exclusively without any issues. So last September, we moved away from our tiny rural suburb to this new town. Husband’s commute is now just ten minutes.

This city is certainly larger than the last town we lived in, but it’s not big. I like it, but don’t love it. It’s easy to think of what could be – if I lived in a bigger city, if we had more to do here. If things were different. It’s too easy to slide down that line of thinking, what could be if we were still back in Texas – if we didn’t have to move – if we moved somewhere different – if the pandemic never happened.

But that’s not my reality. This is.

I’ve been working through radical acceptance and gratitude practice – that I can’t change the things that have happened in my life, and I can still be frustrated by things from my past. But I can also use what has happened in my past to inform my present and future, and to find gratitude in my present situation.

I’ll be honest that I’m still struggling with a gratitude practice. Not because I’m not grateful – of course I am. Even in my lowest moments, I was aware of my privilege – how lucky I was to have a job, to have a roof over my head, and financial independence. It’s just that I abhor anything related to toxic positivity, which unfortunately has become more mainstream these days with social media.

If you’re wondering what toxic positivity is – just think about the time you might have vented to a friend or loved one about something bothering you. Maybe you were depressed, maybe you were frustrated. And then that person responds with something along the lines of, “But you have so much to be grateful for! Why are you depressed?” or “There are people in (insert country or situation here) who are dealing with so much worse, be grateful!” And then you’re like, cool. I was feeling depressed before – but now I feel depressed AND shitty for bringing it up. Thanks for nothing!

I’ve come to accept that there’s duality in almost everything, and that it’s okay to feel multiple feelings at once. I can be grateful for my privilege AND feel sad, lonely, or whatever negative emotion is bubbling to the surface that day. I can be homesick or wish I lived in a bigger city, AND be grateful for what this town has to offer us (and there’s a lot!) I can wish that I still lived in Austin AND feel relief that I had a chance to leave, to see a new part of the country, to have new experiences and have this tremendous growth.

When I went back to Austin for work this past spring, I took a long walk at one of my favorite parks after work. I was overwhelmed by how familiar and foreign the sensory experience was, since it was my first time at this park in three years. The heat on my back, the sea of bluebonnets greeting me as I arrived. The smell of the trees as I walked over a path so familiar even after all this time. And I wondered – what happpened if we had stayed here? And if I was still walking at this same park after work, fifteen years from now – would I still be happy, knowing what I know now? What it was like to leave and experience something so different and new? Honestly, I wouldn’t be.

In that spirit, I want to complete a gratitude exercise with this post. There’s plenty to complain about with our new town (see my last post for a sampling [AND THERE ARE MORE STORIES, BY THE WAY]), but there’s a lot that I love, too.

In no particular order, things I’m grateful for after living here for a year:

  • I will never take having amenities so close by for granted ever again. We have a hospital minutes away. We have an actual fire department with the city, and not a volunteer fire department that didn’t work nights (as we discovered with horror when a house in our old neighborhood caught on fire one night). We have three grocery stores within a ten minute drive from our house. We can get takeout and delivery without even thinking about it. (At our last house, we had the choice of two very mediocre, greasy pizza places.) We can get coffee from both Starbucks and really yummy local coffee shops. There isn’t an extensive sampling of cuisine here, but there are good restaurants. There’s an Indian place that has some of the best butter chicken I’ve had. And the Thai restaurant staff recognizes us and already knows what we’re going to order. Small things like that make me really happy.
  • I love our neighborhood! There are really cute houses on our block. Lots of mature trees line the sidewalks. Apollo loves the variety and has his favorite trees and poles to sniff.
  • I love our house so much. There’s a LOT of work to do with it (it’s over a hundred years old), and sometimes I can feel overwhelmed by all that needs to be done to bring it together. I’m working on accepting that these things take time, and that I need to enjoy the process rather than just wanting to fast-forward to the conclusion. But it’s really cozy. I love the restored hardwood floors.
  • We have lots of cute animals in our backyard that I can see from our kitchen. Birds, squirrels, chipmunks. Rabbits, on the rare occasion. Sweet neighborhood cats, including Jiji. And, apparently, a family of four raccoons using our deck as a timeshare.
  • I was in a pretty dark place last winter, for multiple reasons. One is that I hate winter. Another is I was really struggling with working from home. In some ways, it was worse than working from home during lockdown, because I thought then that I’d eventually be back in an office. But now I was working from home for the foreseeable future. There were a lot of things I did to bring myself out of this hole, but one of them was leaving the house in the morning for yoga. I realized that I needed to have somewhere to go in the mornings, because I’d been so used to leaving the house every weekday morning pre-pandemic. The studio is just five minutes from my house, and I go every day. It brought back some much needed routine, and I now have an excuse to get up early, even if I’m not commuting anymore.

    I’ve also decorated my office to be a cozy space. I put up prints from my travels, plants that I sometimes (okay, often) forget to water, and embroidery of my favorite cities. The dog stays cozied up in his bed as I work, and I can give him little scritches throughout the day as I work. I feel much better about my work from home status now, and it’s a great example of always understanding what a luxury it is to be able to work from home – but that this knowledge didn’t help me much when I was feeling really depressed about it.
  • One of the best pieces of advice I read about life in this town is having to interact with it. I’m doing my best to get involved with the local community. I follow a page on Instagram that always highlights things to do here. An art shop opened recently so I’ve been giving them my business. I visited the cutest cross-stitch studio last weekend and bought some patterns. The university has a community school and I’ve been thinking about taking a class in the winter. I take violin lessons through the community school. I somehow play for two orchestras? This never would have happened in a big city, because please, believe me when I tell you that I CANNOT PLAY VERY WELL. LIKE AT ALL. My little teenage self who apparently was “going places” with violin cringes everytime I play now. But the music community here has been so kind and supportive of me, in ways I will never, ever forget. My violin teacher is so patient and encouraging. I am so grateful to both of my conductors for letting my remedial ass play. I don’t take this opportunity for granted and am so grateful to have this incubation period where I can relearn this instrument.

Regardless of how I feel about this place sometimes, I’m grateful for everything I listed above and for the fact that we’re no longer in a really small town. We’re finding routine and community here, which is everything we wanted. Here’s to a year! Let’s see what the next year here brings.

5 replies »

  1. What a lovely post. I especially loved the part about accepting that you can have two contradictory feelings at the same time. I’m so glad you’re finding things you love about your new home, and continually working to make things better for yourself. Just finding the motivation for that is hard sometimes! Your house is looking great too. Refinished hardwood floors make a huge difference, don’t they?? I hate winter too so I’m already dreading that a little bit. Have you ever tried a sunlamp? My husband got one and loves it so I’m pondering one for myself!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for reading! 🙂 Yes, I looooove the refinished floors, they are a game changer! I had a sunlamp in my old house, but I can’t find the cord to plug it in! Argh. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jenny- It is ironic that your post arrives after I just heard of a study with findings that people who are thankful live longer. Also, I would bet that after a few years you would miss where you live now if you left. As to depression, just scratch the surface and I am depressed; but, I have always been that way. However, in spite of those feelings I’ve kept on truckin’ and am very thankful for such a long and happy life. Seems like you are doing the same . Love you💕💕

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ciao Jenny,

    Your beautiful words helped me to take a moment to keep gratitude in mind. Also, thanks for sharing what is in your heart and mind.

    Scappo, è mattina e Claudio vuole la pappa. Hearts to you! 💝💝

    Liked by 1 person

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