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Practicing Gratitude

By Gary Harold
Soquel, CA

This story was a finalist in the 2013 SAGE Story Contest.

S, salubriously or strawberries. A, aquatic or à la mode. G, going or gooey. E, everywhere or eclairs. As a single, gay 69-year-old man, I value deeply both friends and acquaintances. Having lived in Santa Cruz for 50 years, I've spun a web of spiritual, environmental, political, athletic and artistic folks. They are community, they are sacred, they are each 'doing their passions' as I continue to do. Each day I practice gratitude for my energy that propels me to activism, humor and connections. Both of my parents loved the bottle more than me; my sibling's anger and frustration toward me was visceral and liverish. Abused and neglected as a child, I hobbled into adulthood. For the past 35 years, engaging in self-nurturing, esteem-building and, paramountly, extreme self-care has been my Brigadoon, my Shangri-La. Seeking to cultivate warm-heartedness, calmness, patience, forgiveness and sensitivity within myself, I have surrounded myself with conscious, awake people who reflect those health-giving values. The brilliance of my University of California/Santa Cruz education has illuminated my path of environmental activism. I am awed by the surround-sound of nature, the strength of sea, mountains, stars and clouds, the energy of flora and fauna. Respect is almost too wimpy of a word to describe my connection with la natualeza. My social contacts with other ecological warriors has been rich, indeed. Not wanting to sound like a resumé, I've wrapped my leisure time around orgs such as the local bird club, the Sierra Club, Zero Population Growth and Save Our Shores. What do you call an early AM volunteer? A DewSomething. That describes a satisfying segment of my social life with many NGOs: volunteering. Included in this enormous web are people involved in the local bicycling community, those who thrive on not driving cars (like myself), folks who grow, cook and eat organic foods, 'Label GMO' advocates and friends who desire human connections over materialistic acquisition and consumption. Grâce à Dieu, Buddhism à la Pema Chödrön has taught me to decrease suffering and increase happiness. Cultivating a simple quiet, creative lifestyle is my antidote to S.A.D. (Standard American Dictation). The challenge of 'walking to a different drummer,' thinking out of the box, i.e, the big box stores and knowing that if I don't go within, I'll go without simply feels rewarding to my soul. Cycling to The Land of Medicine Buddha is a prayer answered; the sanity there is oozing with equanimity. Another part of the web that I've been stuck on has been The Gym: oh so much vim and vigor, so many compression shorts and such hot showers! Besides those imaginary hors d'oeuvres, I have, since 1976, been hopelessly dedicated and disciplined performing lat pull-downs, leg presses and one-legged dumbell curls. I am quite proud of my 90-second side plank Pilates core builders. I do joke and talk to people as well as gander and salivate. I'm on the right page though not a sage. Between my legs: a bike, just adore the sight! I'll never act my age. Finally, though it may sound as if I 'have got it right' I know, from Buddhist teachings, that there is no perfection in our whirlwind of social connections, nor in our families, nor in our loved ones. I am learning to relax in the 'not getting it right'; it is ordinary and normal to have thoughts of not being enough. Remembering the potency of gratitude, daily, brings more serenity into my life.

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