I’m going to tell you a story. An old one, which you might have heard before if you know me well or have been reading here for a long time. It’s a story of a ripple effect which grew from ‘desperate measures’ into a thriving, engaging community of people across the world.
Putting it that way, it sounds pretty awesome, and perhaps it really is!
A long time ago, when I was nearing my 20’s, I found myself suffering from a surfeit of probably-almost-everyone-in-the-world-has-some-but-it-felt-worse-because-it-was-MINE LifeCrap. As I had experienced a lot of negativity from an early age, I believed a lot of toxic things about myself. I felt as though the LifeCrap was never going to end, that I deserved it all, that I was worthless and pointless and something of a blight upon any who knew me.
I was diagnosed with depression, and given medication and counselling, both of which helped in various ways, and for which I was very glad. I still felt as though my world was ending though, but perhaps there’s something to be said for hitting what you *think* is rock bottom in your teens, so that when (as an adult) you tunnel deeper still, you can look back on the relatively UNLifeCrappy days of not-so-long-ago-really, and know it wasn’t as bad as all that. Or something. Maybe it was as bad as all that, and time did its thing with being a healer (or giving you space to forget the excruciating details)…at any rate it seemed less bad by comparison.
The thing was, because I was somewhat lazy, and also bad at taking responsibility, the idea of offing myself (whilst hugely attractive, just to put an end to my own misery) seemed like a VERY Big Deal, so I decided that I wouldn’t do it, as long as I could find ten things each day that I was thankful for.
I found them. (obv)
I also kind of appreciated the challenge of trying to find the silver linings and identify those ten things which would get me through to the next day. There was a satisfaction in having found ten things which completed my bargain with myself, and in going on to see what the next day would hold. Some days it was just awful and I didn’t even want to find the ten, then I’d find that they started flooding in, ten and tens and more, so that there was no way I could end it all, because the quota had been met and overwhelmingly exceeded. Either way, it stayed my hand, and eventually I came through the depression to the other side.
When I discovered a few years ago, what Actual, Proper, Grown-Up LifeCrap was like, and I went back down the long-trodden routes of self-hatred, worthlessness, terrible self-esteem etc, etc, I remembered the little strategy I’d had as a teenager, and resurrected it right here on this blog. And sometimes on Facebook. And kind of wherever I was, because no matter what was going on, I was determined not to prove a complete let-down to the people who loved me, by ending things and making their lives even worse.
It caught on a bit. People seemed to really like the idea of finding ten things to be thankful about each day. They pricked up their ears and listened. Whether or not it was because they liked me and wanted me to find ways to thrive, ways to get through it, or they saw something worthwhile in me where I didn’t, or they just thought it was a good idea, they supported and encouraged and cheered me on. Some of them started joining in, putting their own things of thankfulness ‘Out There’, proliferating the idea that ‘the more good, the better’. Eventually there was a little crowd of us, all focussed on thankfulness and its place within our lives.
I had been an active participant of several blog hops (Finish the Sentence Friday was my first, and favourite) and I wondered whether this thankfulness thing was something which might have wheels, if I attempted turning it into a blog-hop of my own. I put the idea, tentatively, to some of the group who’d been part of the little crowd, and was met with unbridled enthusiasm. Thus the Ten Things of Thankful blog hop was born -scheduled for weekends, when all of the other hops…stopped.
I had Ten co-hosts, partly to allow the hop wider ‘advertising’ and increase awareness of it through the communities of readers of each of the bloggers leading it…and partly because I was scared that if I did it on my own, it would all lose impetus, I would lose impetus, and it would end up being one of those things which I’d attempted for a while and made a hash of, like the way I felt about so much of the rest of my life. I didn’t want that to happen – it felt kind of like an idea which was somehow bigger and more important than just me.
It’s been over three years since the hop started – we’ve had a few changes of co-host, but many are the same who began with me, all that time ago. We’ve fluctuated in closeness and interconnectedness. We’ve surfed the highs and lows of the Blogosphere as it passes through the dead summers and busy springs and autumns. We’ve had hundreds of participants – some who’ve stayed for one week, some who’ve proven intermittent but determined returners, we’ve had some who’ve pitched up and stayed for good.
From a stone I never really intended to throw, or didn’t realise I was throwing at the time, a solid community has built up around the TToT, and become a staple part of many of our lives. We’ve celebrated the thankfuls together. We’ve commiserated the less-thankfuls. We’ve held each other up through the truly-awfuls. Some of us have even managed to meet actually in fact, in person, In Real, and have become more to each other than just fellow bloggers in a hop at the weekends.
This has rippled into genuine relationships, real friendships, true treasure – real voices unfiltered into my ears, real face-to-face smiles, real and indescribable fulfilment of getting to hold loved ones in my arms and learn the nuances of them, in their contexts.
Wonderful, glorious ripples, which have affected my life in myriad glorious, utterly unexpected ways.
One of the ripples which has bounced off the sides and flowed back towards me is that my friends in the hop have been able to see me change from someone very needy, very despairing, and at the end of her tether, to someone filled with happiness and friendship, periodically fizzing over with excitement about life and the future. It absolutely hasn’t turned out the way I thought it would, but the one steadfast bit of goodness which has kept me going through the darkest times I thought were possible, has been this hop, these people…and I am endlessly, endlessly thankful.
I can end this story by sharing that whatever else, our actions, positive or negative, do create wider impact than just our own personal sphere. Our attitudes and what we put ‘out there’ is something which can inspire and generate connections, or something which can cause disgust and gaps which widen between people. A good friend quoted Lucille Clifton to me today, saying “It is nice to find your tribe, or actually, what happens is your tribe finds you; and you are so happy.”
My ‘tribe’ are committed to thankfulness, to seeking the good in life, to finding silver linings, and to love. Each weekend, thankfulness fills my corner of the Blogosphere and sweetens its waters, reminding that whatever else might be going on in life, there is always, always, something to be glad about.
If you want to come over and see the magic as it happens, you’re very welcome to join us this weekend (and the one after that (and the one after that (and the one after that))) to peek around or share your thankfuls or participate in any way you’d like to. We’re open to everyone.
In addition to fulfilling the grat requirements for the TToT for this weekend (SBoR p119, second footnote, stating the quasi-but-mostly-enough validity of a self-referential post which also fulfils the requierments for another blog hop (in this case, Finish the Sentence Friday, hosted by the delectable also-co-host of TToT, Kristi Campbell))…oh, you get it. Right?