Up, Down and Grateful

up - balloon house

Up, Down, Amazing and Grateful

The state of your life is nothing more than a reflection of your state of mind. ~ Wayne Dyer

My daughter’s fourteenth birthday was a day full of assumptions, both hers and mine. She didn’t know her best friends were throwing a surprise birthday party later in the week, and her sadness at not receiving presents or cards from them, on the morning of her birthday, seeped through her gratitude for everything else. I stayed quietly positive and cheerful throughout the day, assuming she would rather have the eventual surprise than the truth.

We went to the cinema in the afternoon, and as she couldn’t make up her mind which film she’d like to see, my husband bought tickets for the new Disney Pixar film, Up, which had received great reviews. One look at the poster – a house flying through the air suspended by balloons – had her assuming the film would be “babyish.”

We settled into our seats, the lights dimmed, the adverts blared across the screen in the darkness, and soon we were surrounded by the sounds and smells of popcorn, hotdogs and nachos.

I loved the first five minutes of the film. The music was poignant and moving, and through a sequence of short scenes and vignettes, we saw the quiet, quirky child grow old and grumpy as, one by one, he shelved the dreams of his youth.

Thud. My seat jarred forward as it was kicked from behind. I turned to see a boy of seven or eight sitting next to a stony-faced man, a weary washed-out looking mum and a gum-chewing sister.

I decided not to say anything. The simple act of turning around is usually enough.

The film surprised me; in turns bizarre and surreal, touching and funny, it was strangely mesmerizing. The two main characters, a lonely, overweight boy full of childhood exuberance, and an irascible, heartbroken widower, became unlikely companions on a road trip. The difference in their ages gave the film great breadth of scope and depth, while the themes of disappointment and frustration, stubbornness and letting go, redemption and hope were woven throughout with compassion and wit.

Disney films enchant me. The colours are glorious and they evoke memories of watching them with my saucer-eyed kids. A quick glance to the side showed my husband laughing with my son and my daughter giggling, devouring every detail.

Thud…thud. I fought the urge to turn round, scared that a negative reaction from the boy or his parents might embarrass my daughter and spoil her birthday film.

I took a deep breath, knowing the wriggling kicks were a distraction I had to overcome. My kids have always been very settled and courteous in cinemas, but as I’ve got older, it seems like fewer children can sit still for the length of a film without eating, wriggling or talking.

The sounds of laughter, music and talking dogs filled the warm darkness of the cinema. Glorious multicoloured balloons, bright plumage and jungle scenes filled the screen, and I tried my best to simply let go and fill my heart with compassion.

The credits rolled and we were the only two families who stayed to watch till the end.

As the lights went up, from behind me came a “Wow! That was amazing!” The mum and dad said nothing. “Dad, that was the best thing I’ve ever seen!” “Don’t be stupid,” said the dad. “It was the best film I’ve ever seen, Dad.  It was amazing!”

His joy was contagious and I turned to smile at his mum, expecting to see her happy at the pleasure they’d so obviously brought him. She looked sad and distant as the man put on his coat in silence, and the older girl pulled her mobile phone from her pocket.

I left the cinema curious about who they were and what was going on in their lives. I wondered how long the boy’s delight in films would last and I was glad I hadn’t said or done anything to ruin, what for him, was the most amazing film ever.


A few days later, my daughter came home to a room full of bright banners, balloons and birthday party food, all bought and prepared by her best friends. The cries of “Surprise!!” brought her hands to her face in shocked delight, then sudden awareness as she looked at me with tears and comprehension in her eyes. The long, tear-filled hug she gave me was full of gratitude and appreciation for my part in the surprise, which I’d known about for weeks. Laughing and giggling with her friends, she blew out the candles on her cake and made a wish for the second time that week; I could see that all of her sadness from the previous days had disappeared.

Surrounded by friends, good food and the determination to celebrate, it’s so much easier to feel grateful. As we all prepare for the coming season of gratitude and goodwill, blessings and bounty, I’d like to take this chance to thank you. I wish I could convey in words how much pleasure it gives me to belong to this community, to know you’ve taken the time to read my words.

I can’t offer you food, or tokens of peace and friendship, but I wanted to let you know that I’ll be thinking of you on Thanksgiving Day and giving thanks for the Internet, for the coaching we share and for the wonderful universe whose plan brought us together. I’m not American, but I shamelessly adopt rituals and celebrations from all over the world, special days that make smiles brighter and hearts warmer, days that bring people together in shared gratitude for life, love and blessings, wherever we live, whoever we are. Thank you. My life is better because of you.


  1. Hi Janice,

    Happy Thanksgiving to you from across the ocean! We are just about to start getting everything ready. It was cloudy this morning but finally the sun has appeared for the first time in days. Yay!

    And you do not need to be an American to celebrate Thanksgiving. Every day is a holiday as far as I am concerned. I am blessed to have met you and for our friendship. And just as you said your life is better because of us, our lives are better because of you!

    Thank you for being you and congratulations for the cancer results! That is awesome!

    Love and blessings to you! 🙂
    .-= Nadia – Happy Lotus´s last blog ..Voting with Your Wallet – Food, Inc. Rocks! =-.

    1. I think it’s pretty awesome, too. I hadn’t realised how much I’d shut down while I was waiting for the results. What I learned from last week was to blog about my good news sooner. The whole sequence of events was obviously meant for a reason, and so far it seems to be to make me even more grateful for what I’m lucky enough to have right here, right now.

      Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, Nadia, and my deepest gratitude to you for all your support, for your friendship and for your blogging companionship. I’m glad we’ve been able to share each other’s journeys.

  2. Janice, what a beautifully touching story about your daughter and her birthday. I’m sure that’s a lesson that will stay with her for a long time, and bravo for being such a wonderful (wise and patient) mother.

    Thank you for sharing how you’ve been feeling. I was in that place of having to switch off from all but critical internet activity earlier this year. Sometimes we just need to anchor ourselves with our loved ones, don’t we? I’ll look forward to seeing more of you here, and at The Calm Space – but in the meantime, take care of yourself!

  3. Janice,
    Lovely, lovely words and a celebration of gratitude.
    I added “Janice’s Friend” to our healing prayer circle group – this is Findhorn’s week to begin the prayers…so the energy will begin close to home.
    I too got negative cancer testing results – it is quite a high feeling, too – then peaceful.

    We loved UP and I am glad it was a positive distraction from the surprise soon to arrive.
    What a lovely memory. Thank you for sharing.

    About to get on the train and go home. UNICEF fundraising ebook is posted and I am thankful for that experience.

    Blessed be…
    .-= Patricia´s last blog ..Harvest Potluck UNICEF Fundraiser =-.

  4. Hi Janice.
    I’m celebrating the news of your negative test results with you. Wonderful! Though, very sorry to hear of your friend’s news; life can be bittersweet sometimes. It takes courage to face the difficult times in life and a person doesn’t always realize just how much courage they have until those times present themselves. ((((Hugs!))))
    .-= Davina´s last blog ..It’s Midnight & I’m Still Single =-.

  5. Janice,
    I am grateful for having our paths cross in this great big world. You bring joy and peace into my life – in ways you will probably never fully know.

    So, it is so good to read this – to read about your cancer results, and to read about the joy that comes from moments together – birthday parties or just a little alone time, one on one…

    Thank you, Janice, for being “you”…
    .-= Lance´s last blog ..Exposed =-.

  6. Hi Janice .. I’m so pleased to hear you are healthy – but really sorry to hear of the news of your great friend – it is such a devastating illness, but I do hope that she has enjoyed this past year with her family.

    Being overwhelmed with our emotions drain us .. and it’s good to take time away – we’re here and will be. Thank you for the thanks – even though I’m a relatively new Reader .. it’s good to be with you as we both live in the UK.

    Both of these posts .. are great .. and I’m so pleased to hear that kid enjoyed his film .. and your daughter realised that good things come to all who wait – though sometimes we wonder why! Brilliant that you kept it secret – well done.

    Keep your ‘pecker up’ .. thinking of you
    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inspirational Stories
    .-= Hilary´s last blog ..What Christmas memory comes back to you at the beginning of December? =-.

  7. Thinking of you on this cold, frosty South Texas morning. Hoping you’re staying warm and cozy on your lovely northern island. I was so touched when I read this post I had to step away and let it all settle for a while. You hate it when your friends are in pain, and your words are a powerful testament to that. It’s easy to get overly stimulated and have to unplug for a while. That inner doc always knows what’s best. I’m so glad your outer doc gave you a good report. Love and gratitude to you, Janice.
    .-= Brenda ´s last blog ..Flying Lessons =-.

  8. Thank you to every single one of you for taking the time to reach out and comment. Reading the comments today after watching my friend be carried out of the ambulance and back into her home was like reading a beautiful patchwork prayer. You all write with such genuine kindness and wisdom.

    Like Brenda, I had to step away for a wee bit before I wrote this. I was deeply moved and grateful for all your empathy and hugs. It’s only since I stepped back and stopped commenting for a few weeks that I’ve fully comprehended how much time each one of us spends immersed in communication and support within our blogging community. I’m grateful you still visit and took the time to comment, even though there’s tumbleweed rolling along the pages of my dusty, abandoned blog.

    I never, ever take a single comment for granted and look forward to the day I can get my WordPress fixed and go back to responding to everyone individually as soon as an email alert comes in (WP help, please?!) I miss reading all of your blogs, but realise that I really do need to unplug and nurture my spirit for a wee bit or risk a mini meltdown.

    I don’t want Sharing the Journey to become one of those blogs that dies before its first birthday.

    Thank you. I hope to visit your homeblogs again soon.

    1. PS I replied below, but I forgot to say, I’m hoping you’ll be my WordPress saviour when the time comes. I have no idea what I did to stop the WP email alerts coming in.

  9. WE don’t want Sharing the Journey to die before its first birthday either! Don’t ever feel like your blog is dusty and abandoned. I, for one, have actually been very grateful for your less than daily posts. There is always so much good in them that I come back and re-read again and again before I actually comment. Your blog is one of those calming places I can come to at the end of a busy day, and just take some time to actually think about your message. Then I spend the next day or so before I come back and read it again. And in the next few days I read it again. Invariably, I see something new each time, or something new impresses upon my soul. Like Brenda, I sometimes need to let it settle for a while. By the time I’m ready to comment, I come here, hoping that a new post hasn’t quite yet taken its place. I feel unrushed here—unlike the entire rest of my life! Your posting when you need to, surely works for me!

    Of course the main thing I have been thinking about in relation to your post, is the fragility of life. I have been so fortunate in that I rarely struggle with health problems. Other than a blood clot in my lung that nearly took my life twelve years ago, I have no complaints. So when I hear that your test came back negative, I was so relieved. But to hear that your friend is now struggling makes me pause. Your observation that gratitude involves GIVING thanks hit me right upside the head. (I had to read it twice before I caught that!) So publicly I am here to give thanks for my good health. Instead of having to pray for any health problems of my own, in gratitude I will instead pray for your friend. I will pray in thanks for your test coming back negative. Janice, you truly make me a better person when I read these powerful words that you share.

    The story of the little boy at the theater brought tears to my eyes for two reason. One, my own dad was just like the dad you described. I felt that boy’s pain, just as surely as when it happened to me years ago. Second, I applauded your patience and understanding of the situation. How easily things could have gone sour if not for your wisdom. I have such a good hearted friend. I am grateful for you.

    I loved the story about your daughter’s birthday and the surprise her friends held for her. Again, your wisdom in withholding the fact that there was a surprise coming in the middle of her pain, was astounding. I don’t know if I could have kept it a secret. I too easily want to make it better. Yet, by allowing her to feel that pain, you made the gift of her friends all the more valuable to her. One of the sweetest lessons in life is learning that sometimes in the middle of excruciating pain, there is someone behind the scenes plotting to make us happy. It’s only when they yell “surprise” that we realize we fretted for nothing. It helps us, over the course of our lives, realize that most of what we hurt over, was not as bad as we thought.

    I really enjoyed this message of Thanksgiving, Janice. Even though the holiday is over, your message tells us that the holiday really should last all year round. And thanks for celebrating with your American friends!
    .-= Randi´s last blog ..Sunday Serenity 11-29-09 =-.

  10. Ok, I admit it. Like Randi, I’ve been plotting behind the scenes to make you happy. I wrote a post and dedicated it to you. It has Scottishness in it. Take your time, no hurry, but read my post because it’s bound to make you smile to see that someone wrote a story just for you. 🙂
    .-= Brenda´s last blog ..Why the Dragons Went Away =-.

  11. @ Brenda,
    Your post did make me smile. I almost missed it by not logging on to check the comments here until I was feeling refreshed enough to write with gratitude and spirit, but after you mentioned that your son had done some techy work on your blog, I couldn’t resist a wee peek! I love that I never, ever know what to expect over at your place! Thank you. I really appreciated it. You are one of my online friends who knows that grief can come in all shapes and forms and that it loves to disconnect the part of the brain where the logic lives. I have an arsenal of coaching techniques I can draw on to help me in troubling times, as well as coaching buddies and online friends, but grief just smiles sadly and switches off the computer, lets the phone go to answering machine and forces me to disconnect for a while so that I can save all my energy for the kids.

    I’m feeling a lot better today and have allotted a set amount of time to catch up on comment replies, checking for personal emails and maybe updating the blog. Thanks for still popping over here and contributing to keeping the ‘boxes below’ healthy.

    @ Marc, my very own Welsh Dragon…
    Thank you. You’re a sweetheart. I’m guessing you’ve been taking good care of yourself, curled up around the pile of dragon treasure that is your health and wellbeing. So glad to have you back! What you go through with your health every day should humble me, but ironically, on days when I’m down, it doesn’t make me feel any better comparing myself to others and feeling lucky – it just makes me feel for them even more! All days are a blessing, but you’ll know what I mean when I say today’s a good day, one to be used as fuel to get me up and at it. The comments our blogging community leaves on each other’s blogs is like medicine for the spirit, don’t you think? If your Christmas card arrives late, it’s because the wee baby dragon that carried it down to Wales burped and burned it…

  12. @ Randi,
    No, I wasn’t ignoring your comment… I was letting it percolate, then real life intervened. I’m feeling better, logging on for a wee bit every day, but still walking the tightrope between throwing myself back into blogging with a passion and shutting down completely. I’m managing that by prioritising responding to any comments left here, at The Kitchen Table Space and over at my coaching column.

    I’m so fond of all the folk who visit here; such different writing styles, such unique hearts and varied lifetyles. I’m enjoying taking the time to breathe between posts, too. I’ve actually been having inspiration for posts again, flitting in and out of my busy days as I take care of the family and try to get the house ready to welcome Christmas.

    Thank you for taking the time to re-read my posts, to always share what you’ve got from reading them. Often you hit on something I was hoping to add to folks’ lives. I write for pleasure, because something deep inspires me – compels me – to write, but I never post unless I think there’s something someone might gain from reading what I write. Even if it’s just companionship, empathy, the triggering of a memory or an insight, I’m glad I called the blog Sharing the Journey, instead of giving it the name of my first site, Loving the Details. .I usually love most of them, but there’s a lifetime of learning in the details I resist and haven’t been able to love yet.

    One of the sweetest lessons in life is learning that sometimes in the middle of excruciating pain, there is someone behind the scenes plotting to make us happy.

    Beautifully put. In my coaching certification, there was actually a proficiency we had to demonstrate called Recognises the Perfection in Every Situation. It meant that we, as coaches had to show in our approach that we genuinely experience the world like this; we also had to demonstrate that we were encouraging clents to explore the concept, too, in their own way, within their own life circumstances. You’d make a great professional coach, as would many of the folk in our community.

    I’m so sad your dad didn’t seem to appreciate the treasure he had in you. We do. I hope the wee boy from the cinema goes on to love good films, no matter how his family react.

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