Episode #54: Finding Gratitude in Challenges
Welcome to Allowed. I am your host, Caneel Joyce. This is Thanksgiving here in the United States. One of my favorite holidays, although this year is going to look pretty different, probably for almost all of us. What a crazy year.
You know this is normally the week where we would talk a lot about gratitude, and why that’s important. And it is true. Gratitude is super, super important. I would like to mention that in this year where we are seeing a big spike in mental health issues, and you may be experiencing them yourself, you would probably be in the majority if that were true. Gratitude is one of the best ways to prevent depression, anxiety, and basically below the line and in drama that keeps us in our own suffering. One of the things that I often see is that it’s easy to be grateful for things that seem really profound and important. It can be easy to be grateful for things that seem mundane even, like, “I’m grateful for this turkey,” is one of my kids’ favorites on Thanksgiving. “I’m grateful for a pumpkin pie,” but also the thing is, it’s not usually something we consider. To be grateful for that which we find most challenging.
And this is the practice that might be the best to settle into for this 2020 Thanksgiving season. A fun game that you can play at your virtual Thanksgiving table, by yourself, in your apartment, snuggled up with a cup of instant turkey broth or whatever it is that you’re going to be enjoying this Thanksgiving. You might play a game with yourself. And this is one that was suggested by our very own Alayna Messer, who is the producer of the Allowed podcast and a really remarkable person. So I’m going to share that game with you. And I’m going to share with you a couple of other tips and tricks for bringing more gratitude into your life.
I want to also point back that last year at this time we were in what we thought was a pretty normal Thanksgiving season. And this was only three episodes into the Allowed podcast as a whole. So Thanksgiving week would marked our third episode of Allowed. If you go back to episode three, you scroll all the way back. You’ll find that that was our first gratitude episode. And on this episode I actually was having a conversation with Heather Nienaber, who’s my head of operations, my right-hand woman, a trusted confidant and colleague and coach of mine, honestly. And she and I were talking about gratitude practice. There was even a bonus episode where Alayna also joined in on the conversation, not just sitting and coaching us through it in the background. You can go back to listen to that episode, it’s episode three. And then we even have this bonus episode, which is the behind the scenes of some chaos and technical snafus that happened straight after we recorded that episode, where we actually believed that we had lost the entirety of the episode.
One of the things I’m grateful for this year is that we’ve learned how to produce these episodes much more quickly on our end, which makes it easier for me to bring them to you at the same time as serving many more of the people who rely on me for coaching and consulting, as well as helping to homeschool my kids. But the cool thing about that episode number four, which is our bonus episode, maybe it wasn’t even numbered four, our bonus episode, is that you can see how much we leaned into the challenge that we were facing. So it was so ironic that we had recorded this whole entire episode on gratitude. And then here we think that perhaps the whole recording has been lost and we’re in this tense moment of waiting to find out what’s going to happen with the episode itself, spoiler alert, episode three came out.
So that means we didn’t lose it, but you’ll get to hear the process we were in. And it’s so neat that I think maybe even a better episode, that bonus of all the chaos, that came out of something that seemed like a really unwelcome challenge, or could seem that way. And in my experience, flipping something that seems like an unwelcome challenge and looking for how is this exactly the right thing for right now? How is this exactly what I want to have happen? You know, not always easy to do, sometimes not even what you want to do, but in lots of life’s circumstances that we can get pretty bent out of shape around, it’s true that there is a silver lining. The challenges could be your family members, whether they’re going to see you, you’re going to see them or not. Some of the difficulties you may have with certain family members and opinions you may have in this politically charged time.
Who’s right and who’s wrong. And like, can you be grateful for those challenges being there in those relationships? And can you be grateful for even for missing them if you don’t get to see them? I believe 2020 has been the year of silver linings, where we’ve been in debates as a nation around what have been the silver linings of COVID? What have been the silver linings of being in a heavily contested political climate? What have been some of the silver linings even of the wake-up call of the horrendous wildfires that have taken so much of our forest here on the West Coast? And a lot of what those silver linings look like are awakenings, realizing that it is now time to face this thing, which we did not want to face before.
So yeah, case in point, you may hear in the background here the running around of my kids’ feet on the hollow hardwood floors, you may hear them laughing and talking. You may hear that there’s been one, if not four planes that seem to be really low to the ground and they’re circling around and around. And probably you’re picking up on a lot of that background noise. So I could see that as a challenge and stop myself in my tracks, which honestly I almost just did. And let myself get taken away from this moment with you. Or I could ask, “How is it true that all of these background noises are actually here in service of the very thing that I’m wanting to bring forward?”
And I can make those arguments that that’s the case. One example is, here they are, presenting an opportunity for me to embody actual gratitude and to do my work with you right here. In my experience this is live, because I’m recording it. I’m not going to rerecord it. And you’re going to get to listen to this. And here is that challenge right here for me, really for me to test it out and see, is this actually true? Is this actually the way that I personally can and want to and I’m willing to approach it.
If I’m going to be giving you this advice, here’s another test. And I find that the universe often will send me those little tests. Like you thought you were committed to this. You recommit, you seem to upleveled your game on something like gratitude or early mornings or whatever it is. And now here’s a curve ball and universe says, “Are you sure Caneel? Are you sure you really want to take this on?” So I can see how all of these noises are that way. And that would be a little bit of a silver lining gratitude. I could also look for the even though kind of gratitude. So even though there’s noise and I wish there weren’t noise, I am still grateful that I get to be here recording this episode for you here today. I’m also still grateful that I get to be here in my house and how much more easeful it is to record this episode than it was during our last Thanksgiving episode a year ago. And how much more time-intensive that was and how new we are.
I’m grateful that this is that much easier and that I am here. Oh, hello noise. Now there’s somebody moving furniture upstairs it sounds like. But then the final piece is, can I be specifically grateful for it being these ways that I’m saying, “I don’t want it to be.” Like, how is this rumbling overhead actually here for me? It’s not just a silver lining like a side benefit, unexpected. It’s not just that it’s okay even though. It’s, how is that going to make this the best possible thing? How is that actually here for me? And one of the things that comes up for me is, one of the ways that’s here for me is it’s reminding me that it’s okay to let this episode be short. It’s okay to wrap it up early. And in fact, now I’m remembering, “Oh yeah. In my order of what’s really, really important to me as a role in my life. The number one is being a wife and a mother.”
And right now there are a lot of things happening around my house. And I know that we have new pumpkins that are waiting outside to be carved. And I’m remembering because I’m now, my attention is going more toward the house as I’m hearing all these noises. I’m remembering, “Oh yeah. The kids really would love to carve their pumpkins today so they can enter the contest tomorrow.” And truth be told, I would love to go out there and do that with them. So I’m going to wrap this one up early, and I’d like to invite you to look for the opportunities in these surprising packages as they come to you. One of the practices that Alayna our producer shared with me today is once a year making a list of 100 things that she’s grateful for.
And she described one of the benefits of this practice is, “By the time you get really deep into that list, you run out of a lot of the things that came to you more easily.” A lot of maybe they’re really big, special things that are unarguably fantastic. A lot of the, maybe the closer things, like I’m grateful for my health, my family, and you can start looking for smaller things that perhaps you didn’t notice before. Heather, our head of operations, has a similar related practice and actually has created a journal that you can download right now at allowedpodcast.com.
And if you want to hear more about it, you can go listen to episode three again. But this is a practice of reflecting on your daily blessings, including your challenges and how the challenges are a blessing for you. So those are both tools that are available to you. But the cool thing about really getting so deep into the list, or as the days go on always finding a new thing to be grateful for in the case of the journal is that those last few things, that’s where the transformation happens, and I can now look around my whole life and I can see how everything is actually here for me.
Everything is here as an ally, everything is here, is a thing of beauty and value and something to be loved. And I would include in that even the parts of yourself that feel the hardest to reconcile. Can you guys hear my husband talking outside the door now? Isn’t this beautiful? It’s all happening. It’s all happening. I’m going to go out and get a hug after this. This is so sweet.
So all of those pieces of you that you may grapple with and have an issue with, or you feel like an imposter around. All of the things that you think might have been failures in this last year, the challenges that have been really, really hard for you to reconcile. The areas where you wish you could forgive yourself. Can you find a way to be grateful for yourself? Not in spite of, but because of those things. I am grateful for you. I’m grateful for you listening to this. I’m grateful for you being here in my cozy little home on this early day of fall. And I’m grateful for you showing up for yourself in whatever form that is, and your imperfection is your perfection. Thank you for being here. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving week, however you choose to celebrate it. And I look forward to seeing you as you enter his holiday season. Bye-bye.