Six Days!

So, I leave for Australia in six days. SIX DAYS!!! Six days from the time this posts (about 10:15 AM EST Sunday) I will be on a plane somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.

I have been planning and talking about this trip since last June. I reserved a wheelchair accessible van – one of the only wheelchair accessible vans available to rent on the island of Tasmania – in August. I found a travel companion in October – thanks again Kelly! I created a crowdfunding site for fundraising in November. Thanks to generous support from friends, family and strangers, I finished my fundraising in December. I booked our flights and secured entry visas for Kelly and I in January. I started making lists in February – things to pack; tasks to complete before leaving; emergency contact instructions – you should see my lists! If I just get through this week….

My Personal Assistants have been very helpful, but the number available to work keeps dwindling. One is out on medical leave, recovering from surgery. Another was taken out of work by her doctor because of complications in her pregnancy. One had a car accident on Thursday and is without a vehicle for the near future. I had to terminate another one last week because she had not responded to my multiple attempts to communicate for ten days. I have no time to recruit or hire new staff right now. It will have to wait until I come back. I’ll be hiring in April, so if anyone knows of a potential applicant in my area, please send them my way. No experience necessary. Fringe benefits include cookies and the occasional opportunity to travel.

My suitcase for the trip is packed, and there is plenty of room for me to stash some Vegemite and real Cadbury for the return trip home. If you live in the United States and you’ve never had real Cadbury (as in, Cadbury made anywhere else but here) you’re missing out. I lived on Cadbury Twirls, Dairy Milk and Flake during my exchange year. I toured the Cadbury factory near Hobart four times during my stay. Each day at school, we would run up to the canteen on our break and stock up on chocolate bars for later. My friend Ulla and I would collect everyone’s money, then she would push my wheelchair to and from the canteen so I could carry everyone’s purchases. One day a concerned guidance counselor pulled me aside to ask if I was eating, whispering “You know, anorexia is very common in exchange students.” I had never heard that rumor. All the exchange students I knew, myself included, were packing on the pounds. Apparently, she had never seen me coming back from the canteen with a lap full of Cadbury bars. The Qantas weight limit is 50 pounds per bag. At this point, I can safely bring about 10 pounds of chocolate home if I wish and not have to pay extra in baggage fees.

My iPod is loaded with audiobooks. I have a new photo card for my camera. I have address labels printed for all the postcards I need to send. This week I will pick up the gift I am bringing to my host parents, who are letting Kelly and I live with them while we are in Tasmania. Today I am doing the final edit of the slides for my presentation – it’s why I’m going so I do have to make that a priority.

My cousin Jim recently compared vacation preparation and excitement to the anticipation of Christmas. If that is the case, I am getting close to Christmas Eve levels of excitement. Six days, in case you forgot!

Gratitude Lists

This morning I read a post by Kim on SpiralSpun about simple things which brought happiness into her life. She was using a gratitude list to find reasons to be cheerful. I am a fan of gratitude lists because they help us focus on the good things in life.

It is easy to get sucked up in the negative. The news bombards us with terrible stories of war and disasters. This week my Facebook feed has had stories and photos from friends experiencing cyclones, hospitalizations, crime and death. I have a vacancy in my Personal Assistant staff, which is causing me to alter my routine and scramble to find coverage. When my basic needs are up in the air, my ability to stay in the moment is tested.

Gratitude lists cause us to change our attention. They force us to find positive. And when we shift from negative to positive, we become more aware of how much we have to appreciate. I find it is easier to be generous and charitable towards others when I review my gratitude lists. I need all the help I can get with being charitable these days!

Composing a gratitude list, even if it is only a mental list and not one written on paper, makes me less bitter. My lists keep me in the present, and help prevent anxiety over potential future problems. Last week when I realized I was wasting hours trying to solve my wheelchair charger dilemma, a gratitude list helped bring me back from the edge of yet another meltdown.

Gratitude lists don’t have to be grandiose. Although Kim’s list contained ten items, sometimes just one reminder is all it takes to snap me out of negativity. If I were to create a list today, it would include the following things for which I am grateful:

  1. The space heater under my desk which helps keep my feet warm in the winter.
  2. Cuddle-duds. Required attire for this chick in a chair from November – April. Thin enough to provide extra warmth without adding bulk or weight which would restrict my limited movement.
  3. Fifteen days until departure for Australia.
  4. The Broadway channel on the internet radio station I’m listening to. Now playing: “Electricity” from Billy Elliott. This leads me to….
  5. Memories of fun times with my best friend Stephanie. Thinking of her always makes me smile.
  6. Cadbury chocolate. Not the cheap kind made in the USA, but real Cadbury like the bar in my desk brought to me by a friend who recently traveled overseas. I will be returning the favor next month when I return from Australia.

Sure – this is a short list and there are more things for which I am grateful. But taking time to notice the small things, as Kim suggested in her post, means I am less likely to take the larger things (like my job, my car, my accessible apartment) for granted.

Give it a try. What is on your gratitude list today? Share it with the rest of us in the comments!