Stretching Those Gratitude Muscles

For the past three Fridays, I’ve been taking a “full-body barre” class that my niece is teaching, via Zoom, at my workplace. Woof…it’s TOUGH! Fifty minutes of isometric holds, (allegedly) controlled movements, and core exercises that leave me sore and muttering about the uncooperative state of my 62-year old body. I walk a lot, but this is different. These movements push my muscles to the max and leave them shaking with fatigue. Yet I keep going back for more because I know that stretching these oh-so-tight muscles is good for me—that eventually I’ll get stronger and maybe a little more flexible. And, to be honest, once I get started, I enjoy pushing through physical and mental resistance.

This week, as part of a Lifestyle and Movement Challenge at work, we were asked to try a different type of exercise—to begin or end our day by listing twenty-five things we’re grateful for. “TWENTY-FIVE?!” my brain screamed. I’m used to jotting down a few things every now and then, but twenty-five?! Every day?! This would definitely stretch my gratitude muscles—muscles that I haven’t been flexing strongly enough lately.

On Monday, I squeezed out a random list of things for which I’m grateful. A quick little workout. That felt good and my day went better than your typical Monday. I walked into the work week feeling better prepared to handle whatever the day threw my way. Less like a raw nerve.

On Tuesday, I did the same, and found myself straining a little harder. “Coffee” showed up again. Maybe that’s cheating.

By Wednesday, I decided to try another strategy. Instead of mentally flailing around, I picked a daily theme for my gratitude list. Over the course of the next few days, I focused on journaling about the following:

  • The people for whom I’m grateful. How fortunate I am in this regard.
  • Special places, some of which appear to be quite ordinary at first glance—the wooded trails at work, a local museum, this desk, a warm bed.
  • Difficult experiences that turned out to carry positive gems inside of them. This took some doing—like trying to perform those pretzel-like movements in exercise class.

Whether it’s exercise or some other lifestyle practice, I almost always find myself initially resisting—prone to contemplating the easy way out. I’d rather take an easy walk than do planks. I’d rather read a book than do lunges. I’d rather drink coffee than water. But once I push through that resistance, I feel a little bit stronger, a little bit healthier. And in the case of this week-long, pumped-up gratitude exercise, much more fortunate and hopeful.

It’s never a mistake to flex your muscles—to push beyond what’s comfortable—in both physical exercise and gratitude. It’s been a good week with an abundance of things, people, places, and experiences to be thankful for. (Without this exercise, would I have appreciated them?) I’m glad I dug a little deeper. I’m glad I stretched those gratitude muscles.

Now to keep going. Even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.

And, hey, if you have some ideas for more gratitude themes, send them my way!

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Pens and inks used in this post:

  • Pink: Esterbrook Estie (medium nib) with Organic Studio’s Emily Dickinson
  • Blue: Waterman Phileas (“L” nib) with Monteverde Sapphire
  • Caramel: Diplomat Aero (broad nib) with Monteverde Fireopal

Dear Everyone

Dear Everyone,

As I was getting out of the car after work on Friday, Fred said, “There’s a package from Brad for you on the kitchen counter.” Really? Cool.

As I started cutting it open, I figured that maybe he’d sent along some of the new Nock Co. notebooks. The box seemed a little big for notebooks, but what else could it be? Then there was another box inside that box, and yet another inside that one. All the while I was unpacking the contents I was saying out loud, “What the…?!”

As I reached the inner box, my “What the…??” mantra got louder and faster. This was not computing.

As I caught my first glimpse of the inner wooden box, I stopped breathing. And things got a little buzzy around the edges.

WHAT?! A Nakaya?!

Surely there was some sort of shipping error. I even messaged Brad to say, “Is this mine?!”

Then I saw Brad’s handwritten note—in his perfect printing—that let me know this WAS for me. From all of you.

Brad's note

Tears. Smiles. Lack of breathing. I felt ALL THE FEELS. I’m STILL feeling all the feels.

Nakaya Blue Rose Raden

The pen is a work of art—gorgeously understated, with inlaid raden in the shape of a blue rose with gently falling petals. (I’ll do a better job of photographing and reviewing the pen another time. I swear.) The medium nib writes like a dream. I filled it with Pilot Iroshizuku tsuki-yo and write with it every day. Doodling, letters, journal entries, notes. This is a pen that will always be inked, always be used, always be cherished.

Nakaya medium nib

For everyone who made this happen, I thank you. I thank you ad infinitum. (How inadequate those words sound.) Thank you, too, to everyone who has thought good thoughts, posted thoughtful blog comments, sent cards and letters, texted encouraging texts, listened to me vent, walked with me, hugged me, sent their own precious gifts, offered up encouragement and commiseration. All of that is as precious to me as this pen.

Nakaya Naka-ai Blue Rose Raden

Though the strange sensations in my legs have been turned up a notch or two this week, my smile and my grateful heart are off the charts.

I’m stunned. I’m speechless. I’m completely blown away.

I love you.

Mary