One year ago I was fighting suicidal feelings almost every day. I was three years sober, I was back in New York City, I thought that I should be happy. I thought that I should be a lot of things. I had just moved into an apartment in BedStuy and was awash in self pity. I bathed in it, I ate it for breakfast, I choked on it all day long. The day that my movers came with my things I rewatched the episode of Orange is the New Black where Piper moves into prison. I specifically cued it up to the part where her fiance drops her off at the prison gate and she officially becomes a prisoner. And I cried. ME TOO. ME TOO, PIPER. I am in prison too. This apartment is the same as prison. Bedstuy is the same as a prison. My life should be better. I should be better. I am a loser. There is no hope.
When I looked at my life nothing was how I wanted it and nothing was moving forward. My producer had taken the money for my album without making it and I had to wait on legal proceedings which were taking months to get the money back to make my album. I was dating guys, no, sleeping with, one guy, that treated me like garbage and I kept going back to his apartment every week hoping he would just maybe be nice to me finally. My car got broken into. My roommate stayed up until dawn watching episodes of The Voice almost every night on full volume. My shower curtain rod fell down EVERY. FUCKING. DAY. It was cold outside, I kept getting parking tickets, I just hated everything.
It took a little while for me to realize that there is no redemption in self pity. This is the greatest thing that I have ever learned. I had thought that if I just felt awful enough, and told enough people how awful I felt that maybe the Universe would give me a reward. What happens though, when you’re lucky, if you finally get good and miserable enough you reach a breaking point. I was so full of contempt for the world and myself, so full of fear and rage, so desperate, I was willing to do anything to feel better.
My gateway book to my new way of thinking was You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero. I started to realize what a self sabotaging asshole I was being and that I didn’t actually have to be that way. I became willing to see things differently. To let shit go. This was not my first self help book or my first glimpse into spiritual. I had gone to Kabbalah for a year, I’d done the 12 steps, I had been in therapy for 3 years. I had tools. What I was missing was THE MOST IMPORTANT THING.
I started reading more books on happiness and creating your reality and it always came back to gratitude. Intense gratitude. More than gratitude lists. I had lived for so long thinking that to be grateful for the life that I already had was to admit defeat. My initiation into practicing super intense gratitude came from reading The Magic by Rhonda Byrne. Honestly I bought it because some girl on YouTube said she was a millionaire now thanks to reading that book and a few others. I was willing to listen to anyone that claimed to have a method for happiness.
So I commit to this book that’s 30 days of gratitude exercises because maybe I will be a millionaire by the time I am done. I’ll try it. I start everyday with what I’m grateful for and WHY. I start being grateful for things like food and air and trees. I start to be able to be grateful for small things like my pillow or my blankets by reasoning that since it is possible for me not to have those pillows or blankets therefore it is reasonable to be grateful for them. I start pausing in my day to be grateful for the people I love, people that have helped me, or just people in general.
I start to feel different. When I get impatient about the legal proceedings with my producer I imagine that it’s already worked out in my favor and I’m grateful. And it does work out. Things start to become easier. I moved out of my apartment that I didn’t like. I make the plan to record my album. I record the album! With my best friends! I get a crush on someone. I start to be able to get in the flow. Soon enough I am in a state of happiness that I have never been in probably since childhood. Spoiler alert my crush did not work out. But here’s the really magical part of of practicing intense gratitude…
When this guy disappeared for a few weeks I got myself ready to get very upset. I specifically remember getting into my car and finding a sad playlist on Spotify, just getting ready to really wallow as had always been my personal tradition. I just couldn’t get to the low point that before was so accessible. I was sad - but I had trained my mind after all these weeks, to happiness. My mind said ‘but maybe this wonderful thing will happen instead, maybe now you’ll meet a much better match, maybe it doesn’t really matter’. I just couldn’t get sad the way that I used to.The bounce back was incredible.
I didn’t become a millionaire that month but by the time I was near the end of my month of intense gratitude I felt so good it was as if I had won the lottery. I dyed my hair bleach blonde like I’ve always wanted to and got my first tattoo.
Another side effect of gratitude is that you can get high off of it. It feels as good - no better - than any high I have experienced, and I’ve experienced a few ; ) The other night I wrote down 110 blessings in my life before bed. I couldn’t help myself but to start texting compliments to people I loved and I woke up feeling like I was on cocaine made by angels. The whole day I felt like I was floating. I can physically feel the difference when I look at life through gratitude.
My old views on gratitude were ones of obligation and duty. I thought that you SHOULD be grateful because there are a lot of people that have it worse than you. There are wars and death and poverty so count your god damn blessings you spoiled brat before your luck runs out. Turns out that’s not it at all. When I shifted my perspective of gratitude to something more like a channel of energy to tune into and let flow through me rather than a moral obligation I learned how to actually enjoy my life. Actually. Enjoy. Life.
You can use gratitude to fix anything in your life. I am not kidding. Anything. Life is a game of perception. Once you start playing the game and see all the love in the world you can tap into by using gratitude you will build your trust in the sweetness of the Universe and life just feels better and better.
Here are a few of my favorite gratitude exercises. :
Gratitude Lists. Every morning write down ten things you are grateful for and why and then read the list over and after each item say Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, and really feel it. It has to be different stuff everyday. Pretty soon you will discover things you never even realized you were grateful for. As you go about your day your mind will start seeking out more things to be grateful for because you have been asking it every morning. This will feel really good.
2. Amazing Day. When you wake up in the morning IMMEDIATELY say I am so grateful that something AMAZING is happening today! If possible dance. Dancing ups the magical power of this.
3. “This is good because…” Through out your day say to yourself “this is good because..” and think of why. If the train’s running late, “this is good because now I have time to think about how I want to spend my night”, if you’re stuck in traffic “this is good because now I get to listen to my favorite song” if you get a parking ticket “this is good because now I get to contribute to NYC and whatever they do with parking ticket money”
4. Positive Aspects. Choose a topic, literally anything and spend ten minutes writing what you love about it. it’s not about what you’re writing but about how you feel. You’re training your mind to see the best
5. Grateful in Advance. In the morning before you start your day, or if you forget just do it anytime you remember, imagine whatever you are about to do going great and say ‘thank you for the awesome outcome of _______” and fill in the blank.
And a few of my favorite books to start:
The Magic by Rhonda Byrne
Thank and Grow Rich by Pam Grout
You are a BadAss by Jen Sincero
Ask and It is Given by Esther and Jerry Hicks
E2 by Pam Grout