How Gratitude Helped Me Find My Way To Monogamy

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I never truly believed I’d get married. As a little girl, I dreamed of being the beautiful woman in the ball gown that the Prince chose to dance with at the Cinderella ball.

"That one," he’d say, pointing at me.

I would feign surprise, of course. "Who? Me? No..."

But I wouldn’t really be surprised. After all, if you’re the type of girl who gets chosen by a prince, you probably never doubted your specialness.

Just as often, I dreamed of a line-up of Princes, and getting to take my pick. Given that this was the 80s, my choices were probably Ricky Schroder, Michael Jackson (Thriller-era), the Karate Kid, and maybe Bo from Duke’s of Hazzard. And they were all in love with me.

But I never saw myself having a life with a guy. As I got older and fell in love, I fantasized about spending the night with a man -- a whole night. But I always froze in terror at the idea of waking with bad breath and needing to use the bathroom. No, I thought, I’ll always live on my own. Then I could always go home before morning.

Even as an adult, I could never settle on one guy for long. When I was supposed to be getting into committed relationships, starting around age eighteen, I couldn’t be. I was a monogamy failure from early on, even though I loved being in love. I even loved the intimacy of being with just one guy.

But my eyes and my heart always wandered. I hate to say it, it makes me feel like a terrible person, but it’s true. I wasn’t looking for something better, necessarily. I was looking for someone else to remind me that I was good enough. Looking for yet another prince to point at me, to choose me, to make me valid and real and worthy.

If it sounds to you like I was a profoundly insecure young woman, you’re right. But I fooled everyone around me, including myself. I exuded confidence most of the time. I felt pretty and sexy and desirable... but only for so long. The sense of being good enough always wore off after one guy’s affirmation was no longer shiny and new, and I’d go looking for more.

I started to wonder if I could ever be married, ever have children. After marrying at 21 and divorcing before I was 24, I decided that I would never be a mother. I didn’t want to commit, I didn’t think I was stable enough in a relationship to ever make a home solid enough for kids. And mostly, I didn’t believe in life-long love.

It took a few years after my divorce to really trust a man again. I had a lot to work through before I could be a good long-term partner for somebody. Specifically, my need for external validation from guys and my tendency to develop outlandishly intense crushes needed to be addressed. And let me tell you, that was not an easy road to walk.

I wondered, after talking with friends who were in polyamorous or otherwise open relationships, whether that was who I was. I have come to believe that while being committed to a person is a choice, being poly- or monogamous is probably more of an orientation, like sexuality. Was that my issue? Did I have some sort of innate need for more than one partner? Could I really be honest and forthright with whatever partner I ended up with about my desires for other people? Would I be able to handle them being as open? Most successfully polyamorous couples suggest that rather than being a license to cheat, polyamory takes more commitment to the marriage, more honesty and two very healthy individuals.

In my late twenties, I met my husband, and he was (and still is) the most monogamous human being on the planet. He was also the absolute best partner I could have imagined for myself. Not only was he handsome (and still is), he had a truly optimistic outlook on life. He laughed easily, he thought I was a goddess, and he let me always be in charge of the music in the house or the car. He saw both my intelligence and my beauty, and made me feel I was the smartest person in the room, even though he is probably twice as intelligent as anyone I’ve ever met, myself included.

For him, it was monogamy or bust. The choice after that was easy: The best man I’d ever met vs. the great unknown, dictated by my own insecurities. That was when I fell into gratitude. I knew I had to let my gratitude for love, for the goodness of a true partner, become more important than my fear.

As committed as I thought I was to other guys in my past, I grew into real monogamy late. I’m grateful I was faced with that choice, and I’m grateful that at that one clear-eyed moment I was able to appreciate the value of the man standing in front of me, offering me real, life-long love (not to mention a family).

Once I finally accepted monogamy – not just as a rule I was being forced to live by, but as my own choice both physically and emotionally, I was finally capable of having a profoundly intimate relationship with someone, and to be grateful for what we built together. Others may be able to gain that type of intimacy in poly relationships or while dreaming of someone else, but I wasn’t.

I’m grateful for the strength of my husband, who valued himself enough to say, “This is who I am, this is what I want. Decide if you’re with me.” And I’m grateful that I finally got to a place where I could say, “Yes, I want you. Just you,” and learn to be grateful for the love that exists today, that is real, and that we built together.

[jbox title="About the author:" border="5" radius="15"] Joanna Schroeder is the type of working mom who opens her car door and junk spills out all over the ground. She serves as Executive Editor of The Good Men Project and is a freelance writer whose work has appeared on sites like xoJane, hlntv.com, and The Huffington Post. Joanna loves playing with her sons, skateboarding with her husband, and hanging out with friends. Her dream is to someday finish her almost-done novel and get some sleep. Follow her shenanigans on Twitter.

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Choosing Gratitude while Expanding My Comfort Zone

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I would not consider myself a writer by any means. I think it’s been about four years since I’ve written something of length that was intended for other people to read. This article is the product of one, Eric Strack, stepping outside of his comfort zone, and choosing to be grateful for the experience. We are always at choice, so why not choose gratitude? Easy, right?!

WRONG!

When my wife, Nicole, asked me if I would like to write about gratitude for the Loveumentary’s 30 Day Gratitude challenge, and said “it might be a great opportunity to start writing...you know...like you said you wanted to...” I was instantaneously...let’s say...unenthusiastic. Scratch that, I was straight up afraid.

I was afraid of how long it might take me to write it, I was afraid of what people reading it might think of me, and I was afraid of looking dumb. I did not hesitate to say “thanks, but no thanks.”

[Spoiler alert: I ended up changing my mind.]

I was just on my way out the door, heading to the gym, when Nicole proposed this “writing about gratitude” thing. The gym is my temple, my happy place. So while plodding along on the elliptical, sweat dripping down my face, my fancy workout boxers running up my leg, I came to a realization: why not choose to see this as an opportunity to do the writing I’ve been saying I want to do, and be grateful for this opportunity as well? What a concept!!

Hold the phone, let’s change gears for a moment, I’d like to tell you a little bit about myself. I dabble in personal growth and am fortunate to have married a self-help guru (check out Nicole’s blog here). Furthermore, I spent most of my life up until now as what I’d call a “spiritual agnostic.” Now I am learning more about myself through personal growth practices, while also contemplating my connection with a higher being, be it God, Spirit, Source, Flying Spaghetti Monster, or whatever you want to call it.

These two, relatively-still-new-to-me, areas of thinking have created a whirlwind of questions in my head. Like a tornado, which is created when hot air smashes into cold air, my new, self-confident, empowering, and spiritual beliefs are clashing with older, science-based, limited beliefs. I am attempting to wade through this storm to really know who I am and where I stand.

One of the most annoyingly hard-to-answer questions for me is about causality. Nicole believes that everything happens for a reason and that the Universe provides exactly what we need (which includes experiences that come in the form of challenges). These are wonderful ideas that I really want to believe 100%...right now I’m at about 90%...and closing the gap every day. That other 10% is holding on to my old belief that we humans are just really good creating connections between things, after the fact.

Old-me (the me that didn’t believe in a higher power) would say that there is a logical, science based answer for everything. For example, finding a $100 bill on the ground is a happy accident...too bad for the other guy who lost it.

New-me believes that: 1) I am always at choice, and 2) the Universe constantly provides for those who are acting for the greater good. Now, with these beliefs, that $100 bill is directly tied to the $100 check I wrote out to one of my favorite charities earlier that day. I now know that the Universe rewards those who are generous, and I choose to be grateful for it. This really happened to me, by the way.

So there I was: faced with the daunting task of writing something about myself and sharing my thoughts with lots and lots of people. Initially, I defaulted to the lingering Old-me way of thinking, and waved the writing off as a random annoyance. It took me going to the gym to come around to New-me, and to CHOOSE to see that this opportunity was placed before me so I could do something new & different, and I am so very grateful to have had this opportunity to share a little snippet of my life with you.

Thank you.

Nourishment is Gratitude: Feed Yourself Something Beautiful

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A sushi spot and a nail salon.

I have two favorite spots in San Francisco that are my go-to, feel-good places to spend a little time in quiet reflection or restoration. It’s nothing fancy or special, but it means a lot to me.

After a long, tireless, thankless workday behind a computer drawing lines in AutoCAD and Photoshop, I’d descend the steps of the late bus back home from work tired, unmotivated, and exhausted. I would be hungry and a bit sad, and the prospect of heading back to my dark apartment alone sounded miserable.

I began to indulge in two practices of self-love almost accidentally. The first was once a week: I’d take myself to a small sushi shop just a few blocks from the bus stop, work bags in tow, and find a quiet spot under the window to sit. I’d take out a paperback book, order the same $12 dinner, and sit and read chapters of my book. It because a ritual of sorts—a treat of taking myself out to dinner just to read my book.

The second space I started frequenting was a whacky hot-pink nail salon run by three ladies who always drawled about how “fabulous” I was. I’d go in to get my nails done—not that I’m a nails-done kind of person—but because the experience of having someone take care of me, wash my feet, and letting me sink into the blissful state of relaxation amongst a massage chair felt so dang good. It didn’t hurt that they would do an additional shoulder rub for $10.

While battling student loans and low wages, I’d shop at the goodwill just to save up money to go to these stores. When I was too broke to spend the money, I’d fill up a big bowl in my apartment with hot soapy water and stick my feet in it and just sit there, quietly, until the water got cold. I did it because it made me feel luxurious.

These nourishment practices aren’t indulgent; they’re restorative. Healing. Filled with elements of self-care. We often overlook ourselves — taking care of everyone else and forgetting that one of our most important jobs is taking care of ourselves. And herein lies one of the paradoxes of gratitude:

In order to nourish yourself, practice gratitude.

In order to practice gratitude, nourish yourself.

We must be whole and healthy in order to do our best service in the world. Gratitude practices, however, help us to become whole and healthy.

Scientific Proof?

Being thankful and grateful affects your health. Lissa Rankin, author of Mind Over Medicine, shares that the scientific evidence is fairly conclusive when it comes to health: “Happy people live up to ten years longer than unhappy people, and optimists have a 77% lower risk of heart disease than pessimists,” she writes.

Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book, The How Of Happiness, sheds light on why this is. While “50% of our propensity for happiness is based on a genetic set point,” the other half is much more malleable—and something we can influence. Ten percent is based on life circumstance, and fully 40% is related to intentional activities and behaviors we cultivate.

What does that mean? “That means that we can be up to 40% happier in our lives without changing our circumstances one bit, and one of the key intentional activities is the practice of gratitude.”

How nourishing yourself is a gratitude practice.

What is nourishment? Nourishment is “food or other substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition.” Just as we wouldn’t expect plants to flourish in dark places devoid of water, humans aren’t meant to be deprived of love and care. Furthermore, the practice of nourishing yourself and taking care of your body and soul is an act of gratitude. It’s gratitude towards yourself, gratitude towards the gift of life, and gratitude for how hard and tirelessly you’re working.

Each of our actions is an opportunity for gratitude—towards ourselves, towards our lives, towards what we value.

Nourishment isn’t just food—although healthy greens, large glasses of water, and steaming cups of hot ginger tea aren’t a bad way to start. It includes feeding your mind with rich words and good ideas; your soul with vibrant love and caring thoughts; connecting to your community, and reaching out to others.

In yoga practices, the act of taking care of yourself begins with the simple, yet extraordinary practice of breathing. Each breath itself is a gift—a nourishing, cleansing, uplifting ritual in and of itself.

A simple practice of gratitude is breathing out a sigh of relief and taking in a deep breathe of healthy, cleansing, delicious oxygen.

Nourishing gratitude also comes in the form of taking five quiet minutes to yourself to reflect or pause. It comes in relieving some of the pressure on yourself. It comes in saying a gentle no to a busy night so that you can tuck into bed earlier. It comes in the form of getting a babysitter for no other reason than to sit on the couch and spend three hours to yourself. It comes in the form of a long, hot, shower. It’s taking yourself to the movies because you want to and you come back a better, more fulfilled person because of it.

Feed yourself something beautiful.

Gratitude is about nourishing ourselves and our communities. Food is nourishment for our body; words are nourishment for our soul. What are you feeding yourself? How are you nourishing yourself?

If it’s food, perhaps it’s a cup of warm soup, a ripe avocado, or a glass of cool, fresh, clean water. Or you nourish your body with an extra serving of healthy greens, or you add an apple to your bag on your way out. Perhaps you steam a hot cup of ginger tea and journal for a few minutes.

Perhaps you pause for a few minutes before you start a task and take ten cleansing breaths and offer up thoughts of gratitude to the space and the world before you begin.

Perhaps you feed your hungry spirit with thirty minutes of down time or restoration time, by getting your nails done (if you’re like me), or stopping by your favorite burrito place with a book and dedicating it to reading time.

You can also feed yourself with words. I have several poems and phrases I pin up on my walls to read and re-read each day. Just reading a poem is enough. That is gratitude. That is grace.

Today, the beautiful practice of gratitude is feeding your self something beautiful.

[jbox title="About the author:" border="5" radius="15"]

Sarah Kathleen Peck is a writer, designer, open water swimmer, and urban nerd.

She teaches digital workshops on writing, storytelling, content strategy, and gratitude. This essay is an excerpt from her class on Grace & Gratitude, a two-week journey into the heart, mind, and soul.

By trade, Sarah specializes in media strategy, content strategy, and getting communications projects from conception to creation. She writes at It Starts With, is a stories-based site about psychology, motivation and human behavior, and her work has been featured on Fast Company, The Huffington Post, 99U, Psychology Today, and more. In her free time, she swims outdoors, teaches yoga, writes books, and teaches yoga.

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