Gratitude

I’m off to spend quality time with family for the Thanksgiving Holiday. Every 2 years my cousin flies from Germany for the Turkey Feast.

This year we’ll have a slumber party in mom’s new apartment and just spend time contemplating our lives. Each family member present is experiencing a re-set of some sort, and I definitely have a sense of new beginnings for everyone.

Life is full of flux, but we tend to try to control things with careerpathing and goal setting. Ironically, I feel more secure living this unpredictable solopreneurial life than I did in my corporate jobs. Even though the pay was regular and significant, the constant interpersonal strife made for difficult work. Opportunities for promotion were in other people’s hands and sometimes determined in non-quantifiable ways. Now I need to hustle harder to earn my keep, but I know that it is up to me to create income and to figure out how to grow my business. I don’t feel super-successful at it, but I do value the work I put into it and don’t feel like anyone is negating my efforts.

This year I am grateful for a sense of peace and contentment. Life isn’t perfect, but it is wonderful and full of opportunity.

I am grateful for the health and safety of my family. We’ve had quite a few scares this past year, so knowing that everyone is working on their mental, physical and emotional well-being is a good place to be. I also know that despite cultural messaging to the contrary, my body is healthy and flexible and in good shape. I have the resources and means to keep it healthy, and the opportunity to adorn it as I please.

I am grateful for the material gifts I have. The Abundance Mindset is still a work in progress, but I am well-aware that I am fortunate with what I have worked hard for and my financial management is sound. Feeling safe and at peace in one’s home is significant, as is being content with where one lives instead of looking for the next thing to acquire or upgrade to.

I am grateful for business growth. Each year has been better than the last for Maike’s Marvels. While generating life-supporting income will require an exponential burst through some side hustles, I am grateful for the organic growth that has occurred through the abundance of consignment opportunities and art fairs available to me in Chicagoland.

I am grateful for professional connections. Knowing that my skills are valued gives me the peace of mind that opportunities will continue to appear for me, and helps me feel secure as freelance gigs ebb and flow.

I am grateful for my community. It has taken a decade to feel at home in Evanston, but now I feel like I truly have neighbors and am pleasantly surprised to bump into people who know me by name as I stroll around town.

I am grateful for true friends. It is hard to maintain friendships when life is so busy and people are in different phases. Social media has both helped maintain connections but also a trap of superficiality. It is important to spend quality one-on-one time with people and also pick up the phone for a real conversation rather than rely on text messaging alone.

I am grateful for hope and joy and faith and love. This year has been so draining with so many disasters, the pandora’s box of awareness spilling over, and the call for activism for so many important causes. It’s been hard to play Pollyanna’s “glad game” at times, and even harder to hold on to sparks of joy during so much overwhelm-ment. But ultimately love still prevails, and if we can brighten someone’s day one smile or one act of kindness at a time, we can still change the world and make it a better place. 

I hope that you too are filled with gratitude this Thanksgiving, and wish you a sense of contentment and peace as life continues on this holiday season.

Envy

“You can’t hide from Life.
Life is here for you to live to the fullest.
Take your courage in your hands and move out into Life.
Ask for what you want.
Believe that you deserve it, and then allow Life to give it to you.

Be sure that you’re willing to receive.
Life can’t give to you if your hands are closed.

Open your mind, open your heart, and open your arms.
Life loves you and only wants to give you the best.” 
~ Positive Thoughts blog

The past two years I’ve worked very hard at focusing on the positive over the negative. I’ve come to a point of acceptance and contentment, a place in which I no longer run “what ifs” through my head, but accept that everything in my life happened for a reason and that I am exactly where I need to be at this point in time, and all prior experiences (good or bad) were guideposts and stepping stones to this place.

I like where I am at. I continue to strive to learn more, to keep moving forward, to evolve and be a better person making a positive contribution to the world.

Yet as I surround myself with positive experiences and positive people, envy has cropped up enough to where I have to take notice of it. Passing comments of “I envy your life;” “I live vicariously through you;” “You’d better appreciate how lucky you are;” poke at me as I interact with people. It’s not so much what they say but the tone: “How dare you live a better life than me?”

I get that the grass is always greener elsewhere. Few people see or know about the drama in my life because I choose not to share that on a public web page. While I focus on the happy, there is a fair amount of sad in my life, too. Everyone struggles. Everyone worries and has anxiety about something. I have been bullied, coerced, manipulated, ridiculed and unappreciated numerous times.

Discipline and following rules were mantras throughout my life. Since high school I’ve consistently been employed and studied full time to graduate with honors. I’ve teetered on the edge of workaholism many times. There’s been heartache and heartbreak I’ve worked through and am working through. “Ieder huisje draagt zijn kruisje”-a Dutch saying meaning that each home has a cross to bear.

It took me 30+ years to realize that I am allowed to pursue my dreams, that it is OK to slow down a bit and focus on what I want as opposed to what my employer wants or what society tells me I should want. That it is OK to not have a traditional life path and especially that it is OK to be single and independent.

“The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.”
~ Michel de Montaigne (found on a friend’s Facebook wall)

Mothers envy the freedom I have of not having children. But I didn’t choose not to have a family. For whatever reason, the love of my life didn’t cross my path (yet), and therefore the childhood dream of having a family remains just that—a young girl’s fantasy.

I see new and not-so-new moms juggle between the needs of their family and their own desires. I get that it is hard work, difficult, time-consuming and self-sacrificing to be a mom. Being a spouse also requires compromise and consideration at times. I very much appreciate not having to be responsible for other people as I plan (or don’t plan) my days, meals, activities.

The reason I am debt free (aside from a mortgage) is because I disciplined myself to make those student and car loan payments every month, no matter what. Bills were often a priority over food, clothing, and impulse buys. My education was an investment in me, and I sought to pay that off as soon as possible. I don’t carry over credit card balances to the next month. The investments that serve as my safety net now are still reserved for a retirement fund, rather than something I use to live on now. I’ve learned the hard way that others don’t have that discipline.

While pictures of me browsing designer stores and high-end boutiques during social activities do float about, it doesn’t mean I purchase there (though it is fun to think about it). I still feel frivolous when I buy myself something nice, even when I can afford it.

My home and its furnishings were also a careful investment. None of that happened overnight, nor was it handed to me. IKEA pieces slowly were replaced with sturdier furniture that will last for years. I am slowly building up a personal art gallery, but framing the pieces is something I am saving for. I could “charge it and hang it,” but I actually enjoy perusing Pinterest for framing ideas and giving the art works time to acclimate and converse with each other.

Yes, I have traveled a lot the past few months and I have enjoyed each trip to the hilt. I have reveled in the blessings each of these journeys brought me. The luxurious (and semi-luxurious) accommodations, the abundance of wonderful food and sweets, the beauty of the locale, the wealth of information and training provided, but mostly the fellowship with old and new friends.

These journeys have been saved for and paid in full by me. They’ve been weighed against other options, and carefully budgeted. I’ve been on trips that came with obligations and strings attached and therefore could not be enjoyed as much (even though in hindsight I realize I should have done so anyway). I’ve also gone many years without traveling anywhere because I didn’t have or couldn’t justify the funds.

So sure, you can live vicariously through me and wish you were there and be happy on my behalf. But don’t let envy consume you. I am just as human as you are, and my lifestyle now is the result of a lot of hard work, much discipline, and the intentional and unintentional exclusion of other options.

Be happy where you are, and find the blessings in your life. Your life is just as fabulous and wonderful, and it is entirely yours!

“What a wonderful life I’ve had!  I only wish I’d realized it sooner.”  
Colette