Grateful

Here are some things I’m grateful for:

  • yes, first off, my awesome kids, especially as they were good traveling companions over Thanksgiving
  • my family whom we visited in Chicago — all 5 of us Coudal kids were together with our families — so many fun memories!
  • my blog, my facebook, my instagram, my twitter — and even my foray into pinterest
  • my new bathroom lights (this may seem small, but as we live in a rent stabilized apartment, we get very few home improvements. The super was in our apartment when we left for Chicago and when we came back, voila! fixtures were installed!)
  • my quirky freelance gigs and steady income
  • all of my writing students — even my bratty middle school kids
  • my old friends, like from college and high school, who’ve been my friends for DECADES!
  • my new friends, like from new work city
  • my writing class
  • my love of travel
  • the NYC theater scene
  • my finishing a 5K on turkey day
  • my Upper West Side
  • the NYC citbike program
  • my bike
  • my secret garden
  • my health — because, it’s true, health is wealth
  • my optimism

When I am grateful, something in me opens up and I make room for more acceptance.

Gratitude is a practice.

I am not perfect. At times, I see too quickly what I am missing. Because of Chris’s Parkinson’s Disease, I am, at times, sorry for him, sorry for my kids, sorry for myself. Just sorry. And mad.

I have wished I was married to someone who did not have chronic health problems. But I want to remember to appreciate and celebrate what I have. I have a lot.

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me and my siblings and my mother
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I was in this crowd, running along Lake Shore Drive at the Turkey Trot
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my awesome kids over Thanksgiving

Saying No to a Culture of Criticism

“There are too many noises in the apartment. The dryer buzzer just buzzed. It’s supposed to buzz three times. It only buzzed once,” Coco woke me from a deep sleep to tell me this. I walked her back to her room, laying beside her in her twin bed.

I thought about my last couple of days.

I was so proud to have gotten published in Salon and so unprepared for the barrage of criticism. My mind drifted to my workplace book club where my women colleagues had so many negative things to say about the Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World by Lisa Bloom. I thought the book was awesome. I loved how Bloom attacks tabloids and reality shows. And, of course, those conflicts are manufactured for our entertainment.

In my lunch time book club, all these brilliant coworkers trashed Bloom because she was writing about the failings of mainstream media while she was a part of media herself.

At Salon.com all these people criticized me for my story when I never asked what they thought (but I guess Salon asked by opening the comments to a free-for-all.) I wrote more about this on my writing blog yesterday. http://gettingmyessayspublished.wordpress.com/

Last night, comforting my daughter, holding her hand as she drifted back to sleep, I thought, we live in a society of criticism. We constantly criticize one another. I’m not sure if it’s the vitriol of reality shows, politics or our own insecurity over jobs, relationships, parenting, whatever.

Trash talking bonds people together. “Look, isn’t Bloom an idiot!” “Yes, I agree.” But the whole thing leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Not a sweet one.

An article popped up on my Twitter feed this morning — about happiness helping productivity (Do Happier People Work Harder? by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer)  http://ow.ly/6kXqQ

Employees are far more likely to have new ideas on days when they feel happier.

Yes! True for me. When I delight in criticism of other people I internalize it, get in a habit of criticism and then criticize myself and hold back on my creativity and kindness — as if we should be stingy with our happiness. As if joy in life, in our accomplishments were a weakness not a strength.

I struggle every single freakin’ day to be happy.

While I’m criticizing our culture for being so critical, I’m also happy there are writers like Bloom, Amabile, Kramer, and even me. Who ask, What do we need if not more criticism? The Times article says we need to “support workers’ everyday progress.” Simply pay attention to one another’s well being and stop the barrage of negativity. Simplistic? Maybe.

I go back to my rules, especially my rule learned from improv. Say yes! Happiness is harder but encouragement is essential. I like to take the difficult path.

Coco was fast asleep in her twin bed by now. The dryer had stopped tumbling. I was falling asleep myself. I unwound from her blankets. As I pulled my hand away, she squeezed it. Thanks!

Rule #5 Expect the Best, Love What You Get

I was inspired by “A Complaint Free World” by Will Bowen. So for a while, I gave up complaining. It was difficult. I felt like a Pollyanna, nodding politely while people complained about work, the weather, or their commute. I said nothing in return.

I do think complaining begets complaining. No one like a complainer. (And I tell my kids this, but it doesn’t stop them! Wait! I don’t want to start complaining about their complaining.)

In our Leadership Academy, last weekend, I discovered one of my strengths was labeled positivity. I felt negative about my positivity. Especially at work I have felt that coworkers believe me to be intellectually lightweight because I am optimistic and affirming.

At times in life it takes more intellectual energy to remain positive than to give in to a world of complaint. I have plenty to complain about. Believe me! I could start with the weather. It’s pouring snow again tonite. I just heard thunder!

But really, I’m sure someone (me?) can find something good in another snowstorm. I have to believe that Spring will arrive eventually. The hardships we now experience will seem distant.

The other morning I woke the kids, made them breakfast, got myself ready, got the kids out the door. I realized, too late, one of the girls had left her homework on the kitchen table. I ran for three blocks to the block right before school. I handed her the half-finished homework. She hugged me.

I saw a friend on the street. I was panting for breath, shaking my head. “Someday, we’ll look back and wonder how we did it all,” I said.

“Someday we won’t have to do it all,” she said, catching up with her kids in front of her.

And probably we’ll miss it.