"For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes." - Dag Hammarskjold

Sunday, September 29, 2013

celebrating lives greatly full :: ali edwards

I had the pleasure of meeting Ali Edwards at the Your Story Retreat that I attended in Oregon back in June.  She was one of the four retreat leaders and, to be honest, she was the one I knew the least about.  I really had no expectations of what I would get out of her portion of the retreat.  I was not into memory keeping and had never even heard of "A Week in the Life". But clearly, many of the other retreat participants had. As an author of numerous books and a popular blog, as well as a digital scrapbook products designer, Ali is well-known to many in the scrapbooking world.

The wonderful thing about having no expectations of someone is that a space  is created - a wide open space - to simply meet the other where they are at.  And the Ali I met that week was funny, quiet at times, sharp, reflective and incredibly willing to be raw and honest. I was inspired by her storytelling... and our group discussion at her session created a profound shift in me that I am still processing.  I am so grateful to have met Ali, and to have her share her thoughts on gratitude with *the gratitude project: dare to be grateful*!  She has given me much to think about...

What are you grateful for?

Ah, gratitude. My old friend.

I’m obviously grateful for the beautiful basics of my life like my kids, my family, my friends and my home. I’m also really grateful for my work and for the many opportunities I’ve had to travel over the years both personally and professionally.  

But at the heart of it I’m actually really grateful for the mess.

Even when I’m knee deep in the messes of life I’m thankful for the opportunity to simply be alive - to learn and grow and make-it-through and be a witness to humanity and all the broken beauty it presents. I’ve been in that place where I was doubled over with sadness and fear and it’s tough to keep an eye on gratitude in those moments, but it’s possible. It takes practice and a commitment to coming back to it again and again even when I fail miserably.

Expressing gratitude is my lifeline. The process of identifying the things that I’m thankful for in the middle of the mess gives me so much perspective. It’s a tool I learned from my Mom. She’s awesome at practicing gratitude in the middle of it all. She writes handwritten letters, she calls to say thank you, she’s conscious of her blessings, she’s amazing at forgiveness and she’s so very real about it all and the struggles she encounters on her own journey.

One of the significant ways I practice gratitude in the middle of the mess is through memory keeping. I use photos and words to document my life and express gratitude as I live my story from one day to the next.  It’s through this process of documentation that I truly see (make visible to myself) all the things I have to be thankful for every day of my life.

Here’s to second chances, forgiveness, compassion, embracing imperfections and gratitude in the mess.

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