Attitude of Gratitude–day 31–pay day!

When you get paid once a month it’s a given that pay day = hey day! Grateful today for the check that cashed into my back account!  Woo hoo! 

Attitude of Gratitude–Day 30–Feelings

Most people only like to feel “good” feelings such as happiness, excitement, love, joy, awe, or inspiration (to name a few). But what about “bad” feelings like jealousy, anxiety, fear, sadness, and boredom? Don’t they deserve to be felt too? It’s a natural tendency to want to feel all the good things and to push away bad feelings, but I would argue that it’s important to feel everything, because it provides contrast and reminds us of our human nature.

I am a very sensitive being and I feel things to the core. Today, I felt a sense of disappointment when a friend of mine indefinitely postponed some of our plans that I was really looking forward to. I was moping around, feeling bad and wondering how I was going to give thanks today, when it dawned on me that the thing I had to be grateful for today was my disappointment.

I needed to be reminded today that this feeling is equally as fleeting as the “good” feelings and that if I can give thanks, I can turn anything into something positive. Not only do I feel more human, I also know that when I feel the contrast of this disappointment, it will be so much more gratifying.

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 29–Meetup

About a month and a half ago, my colleague from Switzerland, Kerstin, was here on Long Island for a business trip. We spent a good amount of time together, both working and hanging out. We were talking about my life on Long Island and the usual blah blah blah of how challenging I find it to meet people with similar interests as me when she suggested I try Meetup. She explained that Meetup is a website and an app that you can download that you plug your interests into and it finds groups of people in the area who come together around their shared interests.

I’d never heard of the app, and I was curious to find out more so I downloaded it and proceeded to tick off my interests in this order: hiking and outdoors, spirituality, yoga, reading, meditation, politics, and languages. Hundreds of Meetup groups around the area popped up and I could choose to RSVP to any of the gatherings.

One particular group that peaked my interest off the bat was the “Center Reach French Club,” which meets at Panera in the Smith Haven Mall every Tuesday night from 7-8:30pm. It seemed do-able and safe and if worst came to worst I could always get a soup and baguette and pretend that it never happened. I joined the group, RSVP’d, and then didn’t show. The other day on a Skype call with Kerstin, she asked me if I’d gone to a Meetup group yet. I gave her all my excuses and then told her that I planned to go to the French Meetup this Tuesday as long as nothing else came up. Today she sent me a friendly reminder via Skype and so I right then I pulled out my phone and RSVP’d before I could change my mind.

This evening I hopped in my car and drove 25 minutes to the mall, all the while telling myself that I had absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain. I was welcomed by a small, yet diverse group of francophiles of varying language level, age, nationality, sex and race. To my pleasant surprise, everyone was dedicate to speaking in French, with the occasional Franglish sentence thrown in to make up for lacking vocabulary. We held a lively conversation that touched on subjects such as issues with the Common Core Curriculum, differences between American and French schooling theories, favorite places we’ve traveled, and then the usual stuff, like introductions, occupations etc. I was quite pleased that I hadn’t lost my French completely…though frustrated with how rusty it has become after being back in the US for over a year and a half. But I felt good about my grammar, conjugations and my accent….and in general I just felt SO good to be speaking French again.

Beyond the explicit function of this group being to practice and upkeep our French language skills, there is also a strong element of community involved. This small but mighty group has been in existence for over two years meeting once a week to speak in French. I immediately fell in love the idea of having a weekly friend group consisting of an Indian mathematician, a Guadalupian middle school teacher, an Italian immigrant police office, a retired high school French teacher and a young American woman who was also a former English teacher in France like myself–such a diverse group of people, all of whom shared my passion pour la langue Francaise.

I felt the accueil chaleureux (warm welcome) of the group as a whole, and also an immediate bond with the young woman, Audrey, who taught for a year in a French school near Versailles. We stayed after the group left and ate dinner together, getting to know each other a bit more and sharing our similar experiences teaching abroad in France. It was a monumental moment for me to connect with another female in general, let alone someone that I have something in common with! Honestly, I could snap my fingers and have a date with a dude around here in two seconds, but meeting girls to be friends with is another story completely.

Tonight was a homerun, and I’m super grateful for all of the pieces that fell together to make this night happen so beautifully. I’m grateful to Kerstin for introducing me to the concept and then pushing me to join a Meetup group. I am grateful to have spent an hour and a half using my brain and practicing my rusty (but functioning!) French. I’m grateful to the group for their warm welcome, wonderful conversation and diverse perspectives, and finally I am grateful to have met Audrey, a young, smart, and interesting woman with a brilliant handle of the French language and my newest official friend crush.

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 28–Painting Friendships

One of the hardest things about moving to a new place is feeling alone. In the last seven years I’ve moved four times and have had to start my life from scratch each time. But moving somewhere new can be exhilarating for me, because it is like having a blank canvas  in front of me with endless opportunities to paint something beautiful–like friendships.

Painting friendships is not easy. It requires patience and perspective and many different shades of color to capture the the light and the moment just right. The mediums may always be different, but a skilled artist learns over time that laying strokes of colorful moments onto a blank canvas will capture light and time and leave you with something incredible and tangible.

In this sense I am an artist and my studio is filled with canvases. Some of them are masterpieces–framed and displayed and fill me with pride when I look at them. Some of my paintings have faded over time and others that were a messy experiment. Some of my canvases are half-painted, and I have many still that are blank, just waiting for the moment when my brush meets the pallette.

Today was a special day because I came back to an old painting–one that I had left two years ago when I moved away from Morocco. This friendship had potential to turn into a masterpiece, and was left to the side in order to pursue the natural movement of time and space. Meeting up with my friend Ioana today, after two years had passed, was a wonderful reminder of the power of friendship and connection. My canvas, while it was only half covered, still existed, and the colors I had left on it were as vibrant as ever. Sure, my perspective on the painting I’d started two years ago had changed slightly due to natural growth and age, but coming back to this friendship, it felt like it was only yesterday that we hugged goodbye in the Rabat medina on the last day of June, 2013.

I am grateful to have had such a wonderful person come back into my life today, and for the lovely day we got to spend romping around Queens together, reminiscing about Morocco and catching up on each other’s lives since we last said goodbye. I am happy that she is here in the United States and that the painting I started two years ago has the opportunity to become a colorful masterpiece.

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 27–Blood is Thicker than Water

I have quite a large and unusual family. Abnormal might be the way to describe them, but then again, whose family is actually unormal?! We are born into a family and the concept is quite fascinating–a group of people bonded by blood, to whom we are obliged to love unconditionally even when they drive is mad.

Today I got to spend some time with my cousin Kate. We grew up together–the children in our two families share the closest bonds out of any of my 24 first cousins. When we are together we reminisce over times when our parents would drop us off to spend time with one another, and we catch up on the inevitable drama that one of our siblings has recently caused. 

Our sanguine connection is beautiful–blood ties bonding together two otherwise strangers– we are full of comradery and love for one another.

Today I am grateful to see my cuz and to meet her lovely fiancé! It is a beautiful reminder to me that no matter how much time passes or diatance there exists between, family ties are eternal. 

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 26–The Au Pairs

I have weeks at work where I am so focused on the logistics of running a training school that the already short week passes in an instant and I’ll have hardly talked to a single one of my Au pairs. But there are other weeks when you make a fantastic connection with a group of students and you spend the whole of your time chatting with each other, sharing stories about what it’s like living in the States and imagining alongside of them what their future lives will be like when they are living with their American host families.

The nature of the Au pair training business, with a weekly turn over rate, means that the connection I get to make with my students is short and sweet. If you have a particularly difficult group, the week will pass and you move on. But when you have a great group, it feels like you only get a second to bond with them before sending them off to join their families. 

This week was one of those great weeks, where the Au pairs brought life and excitement and positive energy into the training school. I am grateful for my job which allows me to interact with 22 different cultures a week, and for this group in particular! 

Thank you, Au pairs, for your upbeat energy and you good manners this week! I wish you all the very best experience in the USA! 

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 25–Sleep

I’m grateful to be snuggled into my cozy bed, ready to drift off into a profound slumber. 

I’m ready to dream dreams of the heavens above and to dance in the iridescent light of the moon. In my milky nightgown–I’m off to Lily White’s party. 

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Attitude of Gratitude–day 24–The things I don’t want.

I’m going to keep this short and sweet and vague. In the absence of a negative is a positive. Today I am grateful to the people, places and things I don’t like for showing me what I do like. 

This information is most useful when deciding what I want to do with my life.

 What kind of people do I want to surround myself with? What environment makes me the most happy? What are the things I can’t live without? Sometimes these questions are hard to answer! 

So, in order to find out, I invite the contrast into my life. In the absence of the things I want not, exist the things that are truly meaningful to me. 

Let the exploration and discovery begin!

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 23–Sore Muscles

I’ve written about kickboxing a few times in my gratitude posts already, but if you’ve hung out with me recently, you will have heard me talk about this sport non-stop.

The greatest part about taking up something new, is the feeling you get when you see yourself making progress, getting better. I’ve been kickboxing consistently for a little over a month now, and the incredible thing about the sport is that no matter how much progress I see in my technique, there is always a new move to learn–and a new muscle group to target.

Kick boxing is a full-body workout, to which my anguished muscles can attest! Head and neck, shoulders and back, arms, abs, glutes, thighs, calves, shins–every single one of these muscles have been taking turns aching. The progress of slowly building and toning muscle and learning to punch and kick a bag is way slower than you would think. It takes time, practice and perseverance to learn the techniques properly (safely). Muscle memory is an incredible thing, but the repetition required to get to the point where your muscles take control of the move naturally is obscene. However, as my technique and my muscle tone improves, so does my overall ability to kick some major butt!

Tonight in class we did an exercise that was reminiscent of my ballet years. Standing at the wall, we lifted and lowered our legs, slowly chambering the proper form of a roundhouse kick: knee up and shin turned at a 90 degree angle parallel to the floor, leg extends out straight for the kick and comes back into the starting position before lowering to the ground. We did this one move over and over and over again… and then we switched sides. I can feel how strong my legs have gotten, and can’t wait to see just how much stronger they are going in another few months of training. Even still, my hip flexors and glutes and lower abdomen are screaming right now, and only God knows if I’ll be able to walk down stairs or even get out of bed tomorrow.

Today I am grateful to my sore muscles because they are a symbol of my hard work and determination, not only in my training, but also in my life. The aches and pains of my muscles are making me a stronger and more powerful athlete, one who has the ability to face any challenge with flexibility, strength, purpose and grace.

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 22–Animal Energies

I’ve always liked animals, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say, I’m a huge animal lover. I’d describe myself as a dog person, with an allergy to cats, a dislike of reptiles and a downright fear of rodents. I could never own a guinea pig or wrap a snake around my neck, though I find cats are tolerable with some Claritin and dogs, well, everyone likes dogs…right?

I grew up a poodle person, which, in many people’s opinions, are not even real dogs to begin with. We went the hypo allergenic route in our household due to our genetic dander intolerance. But dogs, yes, I’m still all about them. Their drooly, silliness and their capacity to love and love and love some more will never get old. But above all, it’s their loyalty that I admire most in dogs. They are the first to greet you at the back door waiting for you the moment your car door slams. They can feel when you’re happy and know when you’re sad or scared. They share so fully in your emotional experience, it’s like they are a part of who you are.

And then there are cats. Agile, smart and spiteful. Their feline grace is what I admire most about them. Their “zero fucks given” attitude. Their ability to fall from great heights and land on their feet. They are sharp and swift and sly.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve had such one on one time with any animals, so this weekend has been a complete dose of wonder for me. I love being able to sit quietly and question what is going on in their minds, analyze their needs, take care of them, and let them take care of me. I’ve learned a lot from these animals this weekend, and for that I am most grateful today.

I’ve thought deeply about the qualities that I admire most in my new pals, and seek to channel their loyal and graceful energies this week as I move from one moment to the next.

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