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Grateful Living

Gratitude, Gratitude Practice, Ten Thousand Days

YouTube Famous

January 15, 2020

Photo: Jon Tyson

Day 1971 – Day 1978

I’ve been v-logging on YouTube for less than a fortnight and it’s exhausting.  Unless you are already a filmmaker with a great eye for set design, an ear for sound and an eye for lighting, unless you have natural flamboyance and great skills in public speaking and unless you studied marketing in college, there is bound to be a very steep learning curve, indeed.

Let’s face it, friends.  YouTube is saturated with gratitude videos.  Thinking of trying to position the channel to stand out in that crowd is giving me a headache.  If I had started this journey in order to write a book or become YouTube famous, I would have chosen a much less saturated niche.  But, I didn’t start this to be famous, to prove anything to anyone, or even to spread the word about gratitude.  I started this to bring positivity into what felt like a broken life.

I was burned out from a job where facilitating redundancies and outsourcing suddenly became an unexpected and key part of my job description.  When I finally left that job, the emotional toll and the physical toll of the stress and unsustainable workloads meant that if someone coughed in the next room, I would get pneumonia.  Throughout the final months at the job, I tried to maintain my humanity and to give support to the hundreds of lives that were being radically changed, even though my job was to help with the plan to put them out of work.

I know that air traffic controllers have the most stressful jobs in the world, but I think teams that are tasked with managing people out of their jobs must be pretty high up there.  I hated what I did, but I did my job as well as I could and while I didn’t much like myself for being a part of it, I had, at my own initiative, been covertly spreading hope and kindness with a career lunch and learn series, using principles that I had learned in my own privately funded coaching sessions.  Nonetheless, the whole thing had taken a toll on me.  I left my job, not certain what was next.

My friend sent out a 7-day challenge for a version of the 3-things gratitude journal on Facebook.  It sounded positive and I was holding on to anything that would lift me out of the tar pit into which I had fallen.  And that’s how I began writing publicly on gratitude.  It is a rather ignoble and mediocre start, and I’m not sure it makes me a poster-person for gratitude, but I can certainly speak to the healing power of this simple practice.  My gratitude for the life changing power of the practice was what drove me to continue to write about it and to make a long-term commitment to documenting my journey.

While there is the writer’s ego involved in wanting to write about it, I do feel that there is value, for others, in documenting this journey.  If it falls flat, okay.  But, I feel compelled to at least give it my best effort.  I’m not an athlete who is breaking records for outstanding physical prowess.  I’m not even doing something that takes outstanding spiritual strength.  My ancestors were martyred by the Cossacks for standing up for their beliefs.  That takes spiritual strength.  I’m just doing something that takes a little effort, done consistently, over a long period.

How do I position TTDOG to be distinctive?  What is TTDOG’s unique selling point?  These questions have plagued me all my life.  Give me a product or another person and I’d probably be able to answer that question but when it comes to oneself, or something closely associated with oneself, it’s much tougher to answer.  All I know, for sure, is that I would love TTDOG to inspire others to take up and be faithful to this practice, because I know that it leads to improved wellbeing.  On the way to doing this, I draw a hard line at authenticity.  If, to be YouTube famous or break the blogosphere, I compromise on my authenticity, then documenting my journey of Ten Thousand Days seems pointless.  I’m not selling authenticity, but, if promoting these practices creates choices that compromise my authenticity, I’m not doing it.

The idea of “fame” has never sat comfortably with me, and I recognize that being so closely associated with TTDOG, this may be a concept that needs challenging, lest it unconsciously put the brakes on any efforts, before they have a chance to start.   I value my privacy and already, I’ve stretched beyond my comfort zone.  Vlogging threatens to make me snap, under the strain of stretching.  Rather than turn my camera towards my home, which is my sanctuary, I turn the camera to the wall, with a minimal bit of decoration.  This leaves the burden on me to be visually appealing and captivate with my storytelling.  No pressure there, then.

Right now, in this early learning phase, I’m simply filming a daily gratitude journal.  I think I can stretch this to the end of January with this format, but beyond that, I think a new video format will be needed, to engage viewers.   I can tell stories – sometimes successfully and sometimes not – but I’ve not been an improvisational on-camera storyteller before.  I might flop, and I think the value proposition of Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude deserves better than that.  To create content for this blog, a YouTube channel, and perhaps a podcast that would be complimentary without becoming repetitive is a challenge.

I need some time to strategize and I’m wide open to receiving advice.

I’m grateful for the support of family and friends who have been cheerleading my leap to diversify the outlets for Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude.  My niece encouraged me to reach out to creators that were successful, and far ahead of me.  Sure, some of them might not give me the time of day, but some of them will.  After all, she said, you never know what’s going to explode on YouTube.

Looking at the hate that circulates on the internet, and the cat-plays-a-piano videos that go viral, I said to her that I would be surprised if these videos on gratitude or my gratitude journals exploded.  And then a thought dawned on me, and I was grateful, once again, for the revelation.  None of this is about me.  It isn’t really even about my personal journey.

What if GRATITUDE went viral?

Photo: Park Troopers

 

What a glorious world that would be.  (Feel free to click and then hit subscribe)

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

 

Milestone

1,500 Days of Gratitude

September 24, 2018

Photo: Annie Spratt

Today, marks 1,500 days of gratitude practice.  Recently we celebrated four years together, but somehow this milestone takes my breath away.  It has become commonplace in our lives to mark annual events (birthdays, anniversaries) and it is easy to become complacent.  But, when I break this down to days – as is done in a gratitude journal – this milestone feels profoundly tangible.  I remember when I started this task and it was a 7 day challenge.  Then it seemed that 21 days would be onerous, and somehow we’ve hit the 1,500 day marker on the journey to 10,000 days of gratitude.

Ten thousand days amounts to the opportunity to witness a complete lifetime transformation in a person.  But we transform in so many ways along the way; we don’t reach the end point and suddenly – poof – we are a different person.  Each day brings something new, and each day we either handle it with an overarching view of cynicism, bitterness and regret or we find those small moments of gratitude, joy, oneness and service (and the other tools we’ve added along the way).  By finding those gems each day, we can not only celebrate the wonder of life but also weather and more easily transform those periods – and they can stretch on for years, sometimes – of real challenge.  Not everyone will stay the course of 10,000 days with me, and so it is in the small steps and the consistent practice, that I hope emotional contagion takes hold with the reader.

One thousand and five hundred days – without break – fills me with awe.  I was proud of the first year milestone, but this milestone is the first time I’ve been filled with awe at the power of one day at a time.    I’m not disciplined in all areas of my life.  A quick look at my filing basket at work or my treat cupboard in my kitchen will tell you that.  And, at the same time, I have done many things in my life that have required discipline, but those efforts played to my strengths of study and solo sports.  Gratitude – well – that is not something that I remember seeing around me much, as I was growing up.  It isn’t that we were particularly entitled.  Each achievement was simply the stepping stone for the next, in an effort to keep one’s head above water.   My parent’s generation sacrificed so that I could have a better life.  And not to be grateful, now, seems stingy, to say the least.

Today, I am awed and humbled by the spiritual discipline it took to get to this marker.  I’ve tried for 30 years to meditate and I’m still rubbish at it.  I remember learning from the yoga sutras that one only becomes ‘firmly grounded’ in spiritual practice if it is done “for a long time, without break, and in all earnestness.”  My meditation and yoga practice has been sporadic and I didn’t have much hope of becoming firmly grounded, in this lifetime.  Having achieved 1,500 days of gratitude, I am beginning to believe that a steady meditation practice is possible for me.

Don’t get me wrong, my basic personality hasn’t changed in the last 4 years or so.   I was raised in a culture of pessimism.  I still see the risk, first, when I look at a situation.  But with 1,500 days of gratitude practice, I have built new neuropathways that allow me also to see the opportunity, at a second glance.  We may not be able to undo all the conditioning of our lives, (and maybe we can), but, I certainly know that we can develop new options.

Today, I’m grateful.  I’m grateful for all my readers and friends, without whose support I, personally, might not have made it. On those days when I was stuck in a loop of want or self pity, I’m grateful for their compassionate understanding, first, and then a gentle reminder of my gratitude practice.  I’m grateful to those who gave of their time to be interviewed for the website and whose story provides inspiration to us all.   This morning I wrote to a photographer whose images I often use – or want to use – on this website (Annie Spratt) to thank her.  It is a small gesture and she is just one of the many photographers and artists who create the visual landscape of this space.  To them all, I say:  Thank you.   Finally, I’m deeply indebted and grateful to C. Michael Frey and L.H. for their design and web development assistance to create this platform.

Thank you for being a part of this community and continuing journey.  As always, I invite you to share your own Odyssey with us.

Photo: Annie Spratt

For what are you most grateful, today?