I don't think I was actually raised to say please and thank you. I know I picked it up along the way, and I was probably taught it as basic good manners as a kid. But I can't say for sure that I remember being taught to say it. Is that weird?
I realized this recently when I started really paying attention to those exchanges that so many of us take for granted. "Please" and "thank-you". We can just say it as robots or we can really mean it. You know? I didn't feel the difference before. But I've paid closer attention since I've started to really lean into my own gratitude and relish in it. And I've only been more aware of my gratitude since I stopped lying to myself and hiding in my life.
I don't think I was taught "please" and "thank-you" because I think it takes a lot of self-awareness and introspection and humility to say it from a deep, real place. I don't know that my parents "went there", really. I don't know that many people do. I can say that the gratitude I know lately is deeper than any I've ever known and I thought I was digging deep before.
Before I enrolled at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in 2009, I wasn't really awake so I wasn't aware of this kind of gratitude. I also didn't know what it felt like to know myself and my needs so well that I could ask to have them met and be humbled and grateful to the point where words failed me when they were. I was on my spiritual path, but still asleep at the wheel, so to speak. Not at all in the driver's seat of my life. There were some important changes I needed to make and the IIN program and community were really effective in helping me to see that. I saw the ways I was hiding. The ways I kept myself stuck in wrong situations: jobs, friendships, relationships, etc. And especially eating habits and patterns.
My work hasn't stopped, because my life is always changing (if I'm doing it right). IIN taught me to better assess when something needed to change and how to summon the courage to make it happen.
What I've found as a result of my life changing, or rather--me changing my life for the better-- is that I have more gratitude on a daily basis. It's easy to feel unhappy, negative and hopeless when your life isn't shaping up the way you'd like it to. I never realized how much of this was my responsibility and how much control I had over this. When I felt stuck (or stayed stuck), I felt angry. When I was angry, I didn't attract people or situations that improved my situation--in fact, I drove opportunities like that away. And I suffered a lot as a result. Perhaps the biggest sadness is that I didn't even realize that. I was causing my own suffering by making specific choices and avoiding certain necessary changes. That suffering felt bottomless at times but it taught me so much that I even find myself grateful for all that pain. How else could I have learned, right?
But I am probably more grateful for the wisdom that came not like a bolt of lightning but more like a steady hum in the background of everything I did, said and thought. That steady hum came from some very basic Buddhist philosophy and practices. I chose Buddhism as a spiritual practice because it was so effective in helping me cut through my own bullshit--the thought patterns and habits that weren't bringing me more peace and happiness, you know? I needed something to move me away from that paradigm.
Buddhism and healthy living are a perfect combination for me.
Now, because my life is full of things that I have intentionally chosen and opted for (anywhere from friends to jobs to food), I have a lot more peace and gratitude on a daily basis. The deep knowing that came from a lot of trial and error ends up being this toolbox that I carry around. When something comes into my path, I draw from my experience and say, "yes or no?" and it's awesome.
And then I can say, from a place of deep confidence and balance, "please" and "thank you".
I sit in total awe and gratitude these days, over the simplest things, because I am so present with how they came into being because I chose them.
Even when things don't turn out as I'd thought I still was the one who brought it into existence and it taught me something, and I have gratitude for that. There is no longer a feeling of something being a mistake. Like when I go into a restaurant and order something that sounds great. It can arrive and I can taste it and it's not a win, but I can send it back and try again with something else. And be grateful for limitless opportunities and options.
I see life as a big restaurant these days. So I order up, give shit a try and I'm not afraid to send it back and try again.
And always, on the tip of my tongue, is "please" and "thank you".