First let me set the scene: It’s winter. December, to be exact, and I’m in the middle of the wilderness in Utah the week before Christmas. I’m already bummed to be working for two weeks straight over my favorite holiday, but having temperatures that refuse to rise above freezing makes things more difficult. I knew this week would come for a long time, and I had dreaded it immensely. The real thing ended up being even worse than I had anticipated.
The mornings were the worst. It meant another long day in the cold. It meant getting out of my warm snuggly sleeping bag, and having to put my water bottles into my jacket so they wouldn’t freeze before breakfast. Everything was always frozen. My hands, my feet, my water. Everything.
The question pops into my head “what am I doing with my life where I choose to be out in the freezing cold when I should be sipping hot chocolate in the warmth of my own house.” This image then doesn’t leave for the entire two weeks I’m outdoors.
In the midst of my coldness and bitterness, I came to a serious realization: how much in my day-to-day life I took for granted. This is something that I hear students talk about all the time, but until winter came living in the wilderness never felt too difficult to me. Sure, sometimes setting up a shelter in the middle of a rainstorm kind of sucked, but all in all I loved it! Sunrises each day, sunsets each night, exploring the beauty of nature; Spending over half my nights under the starts, life was good. It was incredible. Until it got cold. Real cold. (in case you don’t know me in real life, I hate the cold)
Ever since working that cold winter double I had a newfound appreciation for sleeping in my own bed, inside a walled room, and having regular access to warmth. I also had a newfound appreciation for my own strength and grit. Though those weeks were my most challenging on trail, I was able to overcome them and get to the other side.
This past week I came back to that profound sense of gratitude just for having a bed of my own, and I realized that sometimes I get stuck taking things for granted. Sometimes I fall out of my profound attitude of gratitude. Sometimes it is easier to focus on what things are going wrong rather than to rejoice in the things that are going well.
I finally watched that movie happythankyoumoreplease this weekend, and took the main message of the film to heart:
“when you say ‘thank you’ you are also saying ‘more please’”
So this week I started out a new evening practice of closing out my day in gratitude. I used to keep a gratitude journal, and got caught up in the cycle of repeating the same things every day so I let the practice go. This time, instead of calling it a gratitude journal, I’m labeling and writing down my “big wins of the day” or things that went well that day. This way, I don’t get caught up in the same cyclic thinking and can instead recognize the beautiful things that happen in my day-to-day life. At least for this week, want to join me in celebrating daily “big wins”?
Do you have a gratitude practice?