TILT works like this: every Thursday you jot down in an email all the things you feel grateful about in the past week and send them to the friends on your TILT list, so everyone gets to receive as well as send them. Items on the list can be as dramatic or as mundane as you like. "The sun finally came out." or "I had a delicious soup last night." are perfectly acceptable. The important thing is that it makes you pause and take stock of things to be thankful for.
We are so often busy moaning about things we are not happy with, we forget to appreciate the small things that bring a smile or make us sigh with relief, like a nice cup of tea.
Since it was Christmas this week, I decided to do a(n extended) public TILT here covering the entire year. 2009 has been a tough year for me, tackling the stress of unemployment, my first ever attacks of migraine, on and off bouts of depression with lots of I-wanna-stay-hidden-under-the-duvet days. However, looking back now, there have also been many positive things to acknowldege and say thanks for. Here are my top seven:
1) Re-discovering the love of my parents: during my honeymoon in Brazil last February, I discovered I was no longer the black sheep of the family and was stunned and moved to tears by the intense love of my family for me. You can't choose the family you are born into, so you must make the best of what you've got...I blogged about it in May, but I have temporarily posted a copy of it here so you too can read the full story.
2) Our beloved mongrel is healthy again: our (now blind) dog Binks, about whom I've often written here, has been as healthy as an old arthritic dog can be after cancer, three strokes and several other health scares in the previous year. I am grateful to his wonderful open-minded vet, Guy Liebenberg of the Coastway Veterinary Group, who has done wonders for Binks' health and mobility by treating him monthly with acupuncture. I also thank the power of my own unshakable faith in his full recovery.
3) "People who need people...are the luckiest people in the world": Being out of work gave me an opportunity to meet new people I wouldn't normally come across within the home-office, office-home routine. I have been amazed by what interesting life stories other people have to tell, who live in your own street, who sat right next to you on a bus, someone you met on a crash course, or who worked with you for years but you never got to know until they or you left the job.
When your heart is in "open mode", you naturally attract people who are on a similar vibrational level as you are. That is why misery loves company. But if you're not just miserable but proactively working on moving forward, people focussed on exactly the same things will spontaneously come into your life and start opening up to you. There is a wealth of things to be learned from other people's experiences, so much to gain from their support and they from yours, and yet we go through our lives blindly missing out on all these pontentially rich human connections. Isn't that insane?
I would like to express my appreciation to the beautiful people who have told me, "Chie, I am so glad to have met you." I am glad to have met you too.
4) Twitter won me a reputation: My husband, like many others who are not familiar with social media, thinks it is a massive chat room and a total waste of time. It can be, if you only use it to announce what you had for breakfast, but for 21st century journalists it is a must-have tool and skill. Whatever your special area of interest is, it is the best way to keep up to speed with what is happening, what people are debating about, where the controversies are, and who the top leaders and influencers are. With a little patience and willingness to learn, it is possible to gradually build up a considerable online reputation though social media sites and the blogosphere.
I started out as an anonymous "tweep", who mostly just read what other people tweeted (I reckon about 70 to 80% of people I follow are from the media industry) and no one had ever heard of. I now have other journalists paying attention and reacting to my tweets, reading and commenting on my blogs, and, best of all, recommending my work to others. I receive invitations to contribute content to other reputable blogs and web publications, to participate in online investigative journalism groups, I get tips on topics I am interested in and vice-versa.
I consider that an achievement and a half. For this I am grateful.
5) Apparently I am an excellent networker: I must thank my friend and former journalism classmate Helen K. for pointing this out to me. While I am usually a wallflower at parties, I tend to proactively participate in events where I can meet like-minded people and think nothing of confidently approaching people with similar interests. I regularly put a lot of effort into keeping in touch with my old and new contacts. I genuinely love people and am fascinated by their lives, but the effort pays off. In the past year I have received several hot tip-offs for jobs and internship opportunities, article ideas, etc through people I know and, most surprisingly, even from those I have met only virtually on the web.
I am constantly surprised at offers of help arriving from the most unexpected directions. My friend says that happens because I am a good networker, proactive about reaching out to people. If that is true, I must thank God for the precious gift and the people in my network for the joy they have brought into my life.
I recently read in a self-development book that successful business people spend the first hour of every day making five-minute calls to all their customers just to say hello. I know it sounds like a salesman's training manual but you "get" the principle: staying in touch with people brings rewards.
6) Unemployment helped me become a "geek": Tempted as I may be to complain about unemployment, not being in full-time work gave me time and opportunity to become a proper geek. That's right. With so much free time in my hands:
- I managed to read up extensively on the latest trends and debates on online and multi-media journalism through links found on Twitter, newspapers and trade magazines.
- I could update my blogs more regularly and establish my presence as a blogger.
- I followed all news on unemployment stats and JobCentre-related stories and used them to start a new blog, which gave me a chance to use WordPress for the first time.
- I had the opportunity to further develop my HTML and SEO knowledge, and learn new web editing techniques.
- Through Twitter and my online work, I built a network of great media people and found myself a niche in journalists' circles, even without a job as one.
In a market where generalists face ever increasing competition from laid-off experienced hacks and other freelancers, being geeky can be a plus, as it means you can be considered a specialist in a certain area. I have always had a hunch digital is where journalism is heading towards and online knowledge and skills would give you a better chance of success in future.
I thank my unemployment for the time it allowed me to acquire those skills, which may one day land me a rewarding opportunity. Sometimes bad can be good in disguise.
7) I have a family at last: I only got married in February but it now feels like years ago. When I was single, my married friends used to comment that they envied single ladies for their unlimited potential for falling in love with a new man every time, with the added drama of not knowing whether it would be long-term or not. A psychotherapist I used to know once told me:
"There is a certain degree of intense pain associated with falling in love,which we are addicted to (because it gives us an intense feeling of being alive), and that is why we keep going back for it over and over again."I am not sure whether I agree with that theory but being single can be fun in that the future is a blank sheet you can write and re-write on. Being married means you are stuck with one person for the rest of your life. That is not a negative thing of course, but singletons must remember there are ups and downs in any relationship, and marriage vows make it harder to walk out on your partner just because they upset you or made you angry. It means there is a duty on both partners to work on building a stronger relationship, smoothing out differences, understanding what displeases the other person the most, etc. In a nutshell, you ought to act like a grown-up, but, my, is it hard to keep the foot-stamping screaming child within from making an appearance sometimes.
Yet, having a home with a husband who loves me and a cuddly dog for company, not having to agonise whether a man I fancy will call or not, wonder who's going to look after me if I fall ill, and who I am going to spend Christmas with are luxuries I have never had before and I now secretly treasure. Those simple joys are what makes life worth living.
Christmas is a good time to celebrate them and remind ourselves that, as long as you are alive, there is always a reason to smile.
I hope you all had a very jolly year.