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August 15, 2011 / Jenny Ann Fraser

How I Learned Gratitude

This is a re-post from Aug 4, 2010. It is a favourite of mine, because it marks the beginning of a new chapter in my life. One that I have come to view as very slow and subtle adventure that is my life today.

It’s almost two years ago now, since I became the sole name on my apartment lease and after two years of feeling displaced, I finally had a home I could call my own.

Previous to that, I had moved in with a boyfriend, thinking that this would finally be the beginning of all of my dreams coming true, only to leave 10 months later with my clothes, my cat, my guitars and not much more.

I lived with my Mum for 10 months until she decided to sell her house and move into a new condo complex that was being built in the neighbourhood. I was thrilled for her, but more than a little concerned about how I would find an apartment since it was at the time when my work at the theatre would be finished and I had no idea how on earth I was going to be able to rent an apartment without a job.

As luck would have it, a friend needed a roommate and invited me to move in just a few days before we were to hand over the keys to my childhood home to its new owners.

My roommate had been clear that she would be moving out of the city 4 months later. I was just happy to know that I had a place to stay for the time being.

I loved this apartment the minute I walked through the front door, and within 5 minutes of being here, I vowed that I would find a way to stay. I assumed that would mean finding another roommate. I had always lived alone prior to the ex, but I just needed to be here.

The Landlords at the time were a young couple who had renovated the 3 suites in the building with a plan to sell it as soon as they could make money. I began to suspect this when they accepted my offer of being the caretaker for a small discount on the rent. I knew that they had turned down previous tenants who had made similar offers even though they were clearly not interested in maintaining the property. I was absolutely thrilled when they said yes, but not at all surprised to come home and find a For Sale sign on the front boulevard just a couple of months later.

The new Landlord took over that January, intending to honour my lease until the summer when he and his family would be moving into my suite.

I was devastated. I really couldn’t understand why the Universe was making life so difficult for me, when I’d already endured so much. I was still trying to furnish my new home and here I was going to have to move again.

The small second bedroom which had been my roommate’s was sitting empty waiting for me to buy a desk and chair and whatever else I thought I needed to make it into an art room. I hadn’t had a space to create in since moving in with the boyfriend, and it seemed like a great idea. Until, I decided to take up meditation and used it for that instead. No furniture required, just an old orange velvet chair with no legs that I still love.

That was where I learned to practice gratitude.

I began a ritual that I maintained all winter. Each evening after dinner, I would meditate, then I would focus my attention and energy on anything and everything that I could think of to be grateful for.

It always starts like this: “Thank you. Thank you for my beautiful home. Thank you for this wonderful room. Thank you for leading me here.”

I would spend my days looking for things to be grateful for when I got home in the evening.I learned something valuable from this exercise:

There is always something to be grateful for, and true gratitude leaves no room for anything else.

I was determined not to waste what time I had here being unhappy and angry that I had to leave.

Yes, I could at times become completely miserable over the situation, but each evening saying “Thank you” helped not only to remind me to stay in the moment but also to trust that clearly, if I wasn’t able to stay here, it was because I was supposed to be somewhere else. I had to work to maintain my faith in that.

After my meditation, most nights I would climb into my layers of winter gear and head out to the river where I could walk for miles. (Except that I’m Canadian and I walk for kilometers.)

After a couple of days, it became part of my ritual to meet up with two deer that hung out in the patches of forest on either side of the river. I named them Neko and Tina, and I swear, they expected me each evening as I expected them.

I could walk along in silence, focusing on my breath with the intention of seeing them. Sometimes I would walk for nearly an hour in one direction and then suddenly for no reason, I would stop, breathe and turn my head back at some unlikely angle and just stare into the darkness that was the trees all around me. Then, my eyes would adjust to the dark and they would come into view just a few feet away. I would silently tell them that I love them and they would look back at me for a few minutes as if to say, “Hi”. Then, deciding that I wasn’t all that entertaining, they’d go back to eating.

Some nights, if I was particularly down or lost in thought, they would scare me half to death by jumping out of the bushes directly in front of me. When my heart returned to it’s normal rhythm, I would find myself a little bit happier to have again received the gift of seeing my two ladies and I would again remember gratitude. I was truly lucky to be where I was, even if it was only for a short time.

Spring came, and the river flooded and the deer moved on.  But my wonderful Landlord decided that he just didn’t have the heart to ask me to leave.

He and I get along wonderfully, and he especially loves the fact that I am an Environmentalist as he is. He recently gave me a gift to thank me because he says that every time he passes the building I never have more than one light on, and he appreciates that I always check for hallway lights and other building energy wasters.

Now, there is no way that I could call myself a rational person, and claim with any certainty that my practice or these deer meant anything in the grand scheme of things, but I think they did. Thinking that gave me hope for my future. It was at the time what I needed most of all.

My meditation room is about to be re-purposed again as I’ve come to the conclusion that I need the room to write without distraction.  The orange chair will fit just fine in my bedroom, and I try these days to practice gratitude everywhere.

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20 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. lesley / Aug 4 2010 9:20 am

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

    I love the way you write and this post is so significant, thank you

    xx
    lesley

    • jennyannfraser / Aug 4 2010 7:05 pm

      Hello Lesley and thanks for stopping by and leaving such a thoughtful comment. I’m so happy you enjoyed it!

  2. Cooki / Aug 4 2010 9:40 am

    Thank you for being my friend and muse.

  3. Viv / Aug 4 2010 2:10 pm

    This is so lovely and well, humble.
    I love the chair too.
    let’s see what comes next…

    • jennyannfraser / Aug 4 2010 7:08 pm

      Hi Viv and thank you.
      I’m planning, (but we’ll see) to re-upholster that chair in the fall as it is as old as I am and actually more worn. 🙂 The thing is I love it so much that I can’t seem to be able to think of it with different fabric… I may just choose the same all over again.
      Yes, something will come next, that’s for sure!

  4. DM / Aug 5 2010 7:20 am

    Read this post last night. Woke up this morning, asked my wife if she’d be willing to practice being thankful for whatever came to mind. We ended up taking 15 minutes going back and forth thinking of things (big and small) that we are genuinely thankful for. You just never know how the things you say (or write) will affect someone else. thank you for challenging me to practice the art of being thankful! I want this to become more of a central part of my daily routines.. DM

  5. rob white / Aug 5 2010 12:28 pm

    Beautiful article Jenny Ann. There is so much to be grateful for. I like to say that the best things life are invisible. Abundance is appreciating those intangible things that enrich our inner world and have us participating fully in life.

    • jennyannfraser / Aug 5 2010 10:34 pm

      What a beautiful way to think about that Rob. Thank you!

  6. RebelRegan / Aug 5 2010 10:13 pm

    I love, love, love your post. My whole blog is on gratitude. Finding little things each day to be thankful and grateful for. Thank you for posting this story.

    • jennyannfraser / Aug 5 2010 10:46 pm

      You’re welcome Regan! Thank you for reading. I can’t wait to check out your blog.

  7. rob white / Aug 29 2011 9:06 am

    Wow, more than a year ago! I feel you have been on an upward journey, Jenny. I’d be curious to read a years reflection on this…. just some food for thought… blessings

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Aug 30 2011 12:37 pm

      Thank you Rob!
      Reflections on the year, what a fabulous idea and it fits in perfectly with what I’m working on now which is a new and improved Arriving At Your Own Door. This would be a great starting point!
      Stay tuned for the new version coming Sept. 8th.
      As always, thank you for your inspiration!

  8. Healingandliving / Aug 30 2011 5:54 pm

    Wow, I just stumbled upon your blog and I love it! This post especially resonated with me, as I also try to remember to practice gratitude, and do believe there is always something to be grateful for. It doesn’t really matter whether in The Scheme of Things the deer were there for a reason; it is clear regardless that your running into them had a purpose, and that’s all that matters.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Aug 30 2011 10:07 pm

      Hello and thank you for stopping by! I’m so glad that you enjoyed reading my blog and I hope you will come by again! (There are going to be some changes happening around here! )
      I think that committing to gratitude opens your eyes to what really is around you, and also changes your energy.
      I am not always as diligent about practicing as I wish I was, but I am at least much more grateful in general. It is definitely a better way to live.

  9. Bryce Christiansen / Sep 1 2011 5:58 pm

    Hi Jenny,

    I found your blog after reading Rob White’s post. I love the topic of gratitude.

    You are a great story teller. It made me think of the gratitude moments we have in our office at the start of our monthly meetings.

    It creates a positive atmosphere where we have the desire to help each other and do our best so we can continue to make our co workers grateful to have us around 🙂

    Such a great point and reminder you left me today.

    Hope to be back often,

    Bryce

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Sep 1 2011 7:42 pm

      Hello Bryce,
      I am so glad you came by! I love the idea of practicing gratitude at work. I know what a difference it has made in my own life and I can well imagine what could happen in a work environment. I am so glad you brought it up. Thank you! I do hope you come by again!

Trackbacks

  1. Discovering Happiness: Making Space For Colossal Success? « arriving at your own door
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