Finding a path to joy

Focusing on gratitude gets you through life’s challenges

Angelique Ashby represents District 1 on the Sacramento City Council<i>.</i>

Angelique Ashby represents District 1 on the Sacramento City Council.

I struggle occasionally with feeling anxious. It's the worst feeling. I waste way too much energy on worry. One thing I have found that helps is to center my focus on things I'm grateful for—to really think about all the good.

I keep a journal, not daily, but pretty close. In that journal I write about my worries and my hopes—but I also spend time reminding myself of all the blessings in my life. The top of that list is always people: my kids, my husband, my extended family (especially my dad), my friends, my community, my team at work.

I'm also fully aware of what a gift it is to serve Sacramento, to have an income, to have a home and reliable transportation. I haven't always had those things and I'm grateful I do now. I'm grateful to live in California and to have good health. I'm profoundly grateful for my education, and the doors that have opened for me, at least in part, because of those academic achievements at UC Davis and McGeorge School of Law.

It may sound strange, but I'm also grateful for my scars, the ones that made me stronger and helped me find my way.

It's the season of gratitude and like many others, I'm often nostalgic around this time about friends and family who have passed away, but I try to be grateful for the time I had with them at all. I'm grateful to have mementos of important figures in my life—like the wedding ring I wear that once belonged to my beloved grandmother. It makes me happy to see it shine on my hand just as it did on hers.

Life is full of challenges, big and small. My family is dealing with the extraordinarily difficult challenge of having a loved one move through the stages of Alzheimer's disease. And sometimes it's all very overwhelming. I find that fixing my attention on things for which I am grateful creates a pathway back to joy. It's not always easy to do. But it's always worth trying. Hope is a powerful emotion and gratitude is her best friend.

I will leave you with this, though I'm not sure of its origin, it certainly rings true for me: “The secret to having it all is realizing that you already do.”