Yesterday was my birthday and I spent the bulk of it in meetings at Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus, where I work. I usually hate meetings because they are boring but my co-workers sang to me in the first one which was sweet and hilarious. In another meeting one of my favorite co-workers who teaches Automotive Repair Technology compared my classes to spinach—not appetizing but good for you—which was also hilarious. It’s probably the truth, too, and I don’t mind owning it. We should all eat more spinach and take liberal arts classes for the health and well-being of society. Even though I don’t like spinach much.

The best meeting, however, was one in which Dr. Jason Warnick, one of our Psychology professors, talked to us about combating burnout with self-care. I don’t know why self-care is so hard for me. It’s ridiculous. I honestly think it has to do with some wacky idea I picked up along my Christian journey about putting others first. Not that anyone intentionally indoctrinated me this way. But somehow I think I translated parts of the gospel into a lack of boundaries, believing it was Christlike in many cases not to have them. Even though I no longer believe that, I still struggle with putting on my own oxygen mask before assisting others, as the analogy goes. If that sounds like kindness, it’s not. Or at least that’s not all it is. I’ve come to see that it’s also laziness. For me at least, it’s often much easier to do something else than to deal with my own stuff.

Dr. Warnick gave us some interesting neuroscience on why we do stupid things that lead to burnout. Most insightful, though, were the tips he gave us for avoiding (or curing) it. He said one of the things he does is to keep a gratitude journal. He actually writes down ten things he’s thankful for each day. It leads him to look for the positive and helps him become a happier person. He throws his lists away, he said, because they are embarrassing. He encouraged us that we could throw ours away too; the important thing is to make them. But a writer like me would never do this. Writers like me send their lists out into the world.

I actually did that on this blog two Thanksgivings ago, in a piece called “Thanksgiving Therapy.” Reading back over that entry I realized I was really a psychology genius like Dr. Warnick. Why have I not followed my own advice? I don’t know. All I do know is that I’ve been on the dark side a little too much these past few months. Remember the Dung Beetle post? Well, it’s gone downhill from there. Heathcliff advised me after that one that I needed to write something positive. Notice I’ve not posted anything in several months.

As Micha Boyett reminds us that St. Benedict reminded her, “Always we begin again.” So today I’m beginning again, choosing the path of Grateful Girl instead of Anxiety Girl. Click To TweetWe’re going to call this new era on the blog the Gratefulness Project. Here’s my plan. For the next year I’m going to write letters expressing my gratitude and publish them here. I hope you’ll join me by commenting things for which you’re thankful or even write letters of your own. I know it sounds silly but that’s okay. It’s scientific—Dr. Warnick said so. And after writing about Dung Beetles, I figure I’ve got nothing to lose.

Here goes.

Dear God,

Thank You for giving me life for 45 years. Thank You for everything good in my life. There is so much good. Thank You also for helping me through things that are hard. Thank You for hope and peace and love; all things I believe in even though I can’t see them. I believe in You too even though I can’t see You and don’t understand You very much at all. Open my heart and mind through the Gratefulness Project and bless those who join me in being grateful, that we may become better people and create a better world.

Gwen

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