Negative Nancy from Nebraska has returned to the southern California desert. She joins other snowbirds whose cars bear Michigan, Washington, Illinois, or Canadian license plates. This annual winter influx brings mixed blessings to my resort town. Restaurants and hotels fill. Special events increase. Traffic worsens, and the lines at the grocery stores, movie theaters, and cafes lengthen.
Negative Nancy has a critical take on everything, from naming a new puppy to organic strawberries from Mexico. Nothing escapes her disapproval. And though she has some legitimate complaints, taken as a whole, her glass is always half-empty. I sense she condemns people behind their backs. I wonder if she recognizes the blessings in her life (family, good health, a sweet dog, friends, and a comfortable lifestyle that allows her to own a vacation home).
Gratitude is an important element in my spiritual practice. I cannot imagine it plays any part in Nancy’s, because gratitude breeds peace and acceptance. Praise a child and she will strive to do even better. Praise the Universe, and it will bestow more blessings upon you. I shudder to think what a constant vomiting of negativity must bring.
The Silver Lining Playbook
Understandably, gratitude may be difficult to summon in the midst of a grim medical report, a divorce, death, job loss, or other painful life-altering news. But the medical test may cause a lifestyle shift that heads off a worse diagnosis. The divorce may free you and force you to discover strengths you never knew you had. A death can mark the end of pain, or for the survivors, be the catalyst for change. A job loss may liberate you to follow your true passion.
Samhain and Thanksgiving
Along with the snowbirds, November brings Samhain (November 7) a time to honor ancestors and to thank them for our lives, wisdom, and lessons learned or yet to be learned. The beginning of November is an excellent time to create a temporary or permanent ancestor altar. If you feel especially aligned with a particular ancestor or ancestors, place their photos or a piece of paper bearing their names on a dedicated sacred space. Add a memento or piece of nature that represents their land of origin. You might want to add a list of positive attributes you believe they passed down. Depending on your family history, you may also wish to add a list of lessons to be learned or a karmic debt you inherited. Declare on the paper what you are doing to clear the karma.
For Thanksgiving (November 28), be in gratitude for the food on your table. Recognize as well the animals that may have been slaughtered and the fruits and vegetables that were harvested. Be in gratitude for the workers responsible for the harvest and for bringing the food to market. Be thankful for the stewards of the land, the invisible guardians who have watched over it, and who allow you to live among them in harmony. They may be your ancestors, or the ancestors of the indigenous people who once lived upon the land, or the ancestors of people who were stolen from their land and sold into servitude. Honor them for their sacrifices and aid.
Your World, Your Choice
Make of your world what you will. You can choose to live as Nancy does, unable to see the good. Or you can be in gratitude, shifting not only your reality, but also the reality of those who come in contact with you.
I am grateful to Nancy. She reminds me of the path not taken, and of the blessings in my own life.