Gratitude is both a thought and an action.  Without both, gratitude is incomplete.

          This time of year brings back warm memories of family gatherings for Thanksgiving, when my father always posed the same question, "Will everyone share what they are grateful for?"  Around the table we would take turns reciting the usual list:  family, friends, good health -- all of which were (and still are) valid and true.

                          Autumn Leaves I

                         Autumn Leaves I

 However, at my age I find myself experiencing gratitude on a daily basis.  Not only has acknowledging my gratitude taken on more importance, but my focus has changed.  Although I continue to be grateful for friends and family etc., my gratitude now relates to intangibles: freedom, peace, love, etc.  At the top of my list is how grateful I am for my ability to think and act creatively.

          I recognized my love of creating at age three when I had my mother make tents out of blankets so I could crawl underneath with my crayons and paper and create to my hearts delight.  In this hiding place I felt safe.  Although my love of drawing and making collages was initially caused by desperation (the need to escape my mother's demanding and controlling personality) my urge to express myself visually, eventually morphed into something more than a defense.

          In eighth grade I painted my first oil painting and discovered that when I was making art, I felt connected to my inner self -- to the true me.

          As an adult, I went one step further and finally realized that creativity is not just about being artistic -- a realization that occurred when I began a master's degree in social work and found I loved writing papers.  Eventually as a psychotherapist, I opened a private practice, which was a highly creative venture. I also discovered that I had to think creatively when I worked with individual clients, each presenting a unique problem,

          I found it interesting that many clients either didn't know they were creative, dismissed it as not important, or were too fearful to honor their creative voice.  Their excuses were varied. They were too busy, thought it was a waste of time, or didn't believe they would succeed. They were also afraid of many things, i.e. judgment, being laughed at, feeling selfish and not finding their true calling.

          I believe we honor our creativity through action, and when we do, we feel emotionally healthier.  I remember a male client who took piano lessons as a child yet never played as an adult.  He finally bought a keyboard and took lessons.  He now plays for his church. I also think of  the depressed woman who created a volunteer organization filling backpacks with school supplies for underprivileged children.  Of course, her gift in return was no more depression. Expressing creativity is a gift, not only for ourselves but also for those who witness the beauty of our gift. 

          Everyday we have the opportunity to give the gift of creativity, be that cooking a new recipe, arranging fresh flowers for a friend, or creating an unusual "random act of kindness."   In this time of world-wide fear and sadness, using our creativity to express caring, beauty and joy is invaluable.

How do you express your inner creativity?