Gratitude is the door to abundance


Whatever it is, let me start it with gratitude.

Gratitude is fertile ground. Put in the seeds of your dreams and desires. Keep the ground watered and pull the weeds. Soon the seeds will grow.

(Conversely, anxiety is fertile ground for all your fears. Stay worried and you will harvest an abundance of fears.)

Gratitude has nothing to do with what you have, how good or easy you’ve got it, whether you get what you want or don’t. Gratitude is not concerned with such petty measurements of value, such judgements of experience. Gratitude embraces it ALL, looks at the big scope and opens wide with a YES, with brave willingness to receive every gift, no matter how unexpected.

Gratitude is not just training yourself to notice good instead of bad, to see positive and ignore negative. Gratitude is the skill of finding the good in the bad, highlighting the positive in the negative.

Gratitude removes the need for illusions. You don’t have to act as if you like everything, or pretend that everything is ok, no problem, we’re all fine here. Gratitude frees you from the need for a polished-up societal veneer of happiness.

Gratitude teaches you how to be okay with unhappiness, how to be okay when things are not okay. This is powerful, because when you don’t have to stay where you can pretend to be happy all the time, you find so many more options.

You can use gratitude to reduce the power that “bad situations” have over you. What we fear is pain. Bad situations are bad because they cause us pain, in one way or another. Gratitude is not a state of ignorance, where you need to pretend that pain is not real. No. Pain is real. Gratitude is the ability to acknowledge the pain, to receive it (instead of resisting it), and to pull the gift from it.

Gratitude knows that there is always a gift.

Gratitude is necessary for acceptance. When you “accept” without gratitude, you’re submitting to something you don’t value. You’re being passive, surrendering out of fear or frustration. Giving up. That kind of passive surrender either deadens you or pushes you to an opposite reaction, an extreme. Gratitude is an alternative route. It is a balance of acceptance and intention. It is both hands open. Gratitude helps you to accept what others can give, without giving up on what you really want to receive.

Gratitude lets you say, “It’s all okay, even when it’s not,” and actually mean it.

Gratitude helps you relax in the moment, even in the most painful or difficult or uncertain moments. You can only relax in two situations: when you feel fully in control, or when you’re okay with not being in control. Gratitude enables the latter.

The more you practice gratitude, the easier it gets. You get better at finding the good, embracing the whole experience, receiving the gift.

Gratitude is a gentle way to face your fears. No aggression or intense conflict needed. Gratitude doesn’t demand a victory; it just diffuses the power so there’s no longer a threat. That’s a good place to be: free from threat, out of danger.

Gratitude helps you face that fear of scarcity. You’re afraid of not being enough. Maybe you’re afraid of not getting enough. Gratitude shows you, graciously, over time, how silly that fear is.

Gratitude is the door to abundance. It’s the way you begin to see what’s already there. It’s a different kind of seeing-is-believing. It’s a reframing, it’s a language that opens up new concepts, enables new and better definition.

Gratitude helps you assign your own meaning to anything that happens. It shows you that you don’t need to pretend or defend; that pain is not an illusion, but it’s also not the whole story.

Gratitude tells you the other side of the story. You can feel safer, live freer, and breathe easier when you hear the whole story. And when you learn how to tell the story, how to write the story for yourself—well. That’s when things get interesting. That’s when anything can happen.

More: Gratitude vs Ambition

Successful people tend to be the most ambitious; the irony is that, as ambitious people, they do not see themselves as successful.  

Ambition’s unrelenting voice keeps pointing out the next goal, the next mountain, the next challenge, the next level. 

Does that mean ambition is <gasp> bad? Well. I think not. What do you think?

Reading Notes #3

Everything you didn’t know you wanted to know about systems

Gather round, boys and girls. Today we are talking about systems: what they are, how they work, and, more importantly, how they don’t work.

Don’t care about systems? Well. Maybe your life would be easier if you did.

“Our point, repeatedly stressed in this text, is that Systems operate according to Laws of Nature, and that Laws of Nature are not suspended to accommodate our human shortcomings. There is no alternative to learning How Systems Work, unless one is willing to continue to run afoul of those Laws.

Whoever does not study the Laws of Systemantics and learn them that way, is destined to learn them the hard way, by direct encounter in the world of Experience.”

Experience is not a gentle teacher.

“We live in a new age of faith, an age of faith in systems. If there is any one belief which is not challenged anywhere in the world, it is this faith in systems.”

There are certain skills that, when gained, can upgrade your entire experience as a human.

Cooking, for example.

You don’t have to learn how to cook in order to enjoy an excellent meal. But without the skill of cooking, you are dependent on some other person—someone who has gained this particular skill—to provide you with the food you want. If you learn how to cook, you can provide the food you want for yourself, pretty much anytime.

“No one, these days, can avoid contact with Systems.

In self-defense, we must learn to live with Systems, to control them lest they control us. As Humpty Dumpty said to Alice (though in another context): It’s just a question of who is to be master, that’s all. No one can afford not to understand the basic principles of How Systems Work.”

Being able to understand and work with systems is an even more fundamental skill than cooking or navigating or, say, time management.

It’s more fundamental because skills often involve systems: that is, a skill such as cooking can be organized systematically, and may involve multiple systems (a system of measurement and a system of quality control, for example). If you understand systems and are skilled at working with systems, you’ll be better at gaining skills which depend on or incorporate systems.

You will be better at learning, in general, which is helpful for a lot of reasons.

“Systems are like babies: once you get one, you have it. They don’t go away. On the contrary, they display the most remarkable persistence. They not only persist; they grow. And as they grow, they encroach.”

Another important reason to understand systems—and learn how to work with them (or against them, as the case may be)—is that understanding systems (in general) helps you to recognize the specific systems at work in the little bit of reality you inhabit.

“The person immersed in a System does not recognize that fact. It is like the situation of the goldfish in the goldfish bowl: the fish does not recognize that it is swimming in water and that there is an ocean of something called air beyond that world. The Systems-person does not consider himself or herself to be such.”

The ability to recognize systems is important because reality is mostly made of systems: a bunch of systems smashed together, in various states of functionality, in disarray or disintegration, some shiny-and-new, some decrepit, some benevolent, some malicious, all with their own purposes, all with many layers of complexity.

“Am I, unbeknownst to myself, a Systems-person? The answer is always, Yes. The relevant question is, simply, Which System?”

Here we are in the middle of this churning, turning, spinning, ever-changing reality, trying to plant our feet on something we call “solid ground” so we can establish our autonomy and pursue happiness.

Escaping from involvement in a System is like passing over an invisible threshold; one does not know there is a threshold and one does not know that there is another universe on the other side until the transition takes place. Then there is the moment of shock as one Frame of Reference collapses and another is installed. After that everything is quite clear again.”

We can work really hard, for a really long time, and get precisely nowhere.

To get somewhere—especially to get to a consciously chosen and desired somewhere—we have to understand the systems which are around us all the time.

“The decision to become involved with a particular System should be made carefully, on the basis of a balanced judgment of one’s interests. One need not drift (or sail, or barge) into Systems uncritically: CHOOSE YOUR SYSTEMS WITH CARE. Remember: DESTINY IS LARGELY A SET OF UNQUESTIONED ASSUMPTIONS.”


  • Understanding systems helps you to recognize the systems in your life.

  • System recognition helps you to see the effects of any given system.

  • Seeing the effects of a system helps you to control them: you can lessen or remove or escape the unwanted effects, and increase or maximize or emphasize the desired effects.

“We are free to seek out ever more appropriate Models of the Universe.”

General system understanding ⇢ specific system recognition ⇢ increased ability to choose and control the effects any given system has on you.

“The actual moment of shifting from one Model of the Universe to another is highly unsettling. There is a pronounced sense of disorientation, which is only relieved when the new Frame of Reference clicks into place.”

Knowledge is power. Know your systems, and you can figure out how to do something about them.

Honesty is the price of freedom


Here are a few thoughts I have about honesty.

Getting what I want starts with knowing what I want. Knowing what I want starts with basic questions and honest answers: What do I want to give? What do I want to receive?

The law of sowing and reaping (or karma, whatever you want to call it) is the practical working out of honesty. What I give is what I receive. The input determines the output. I can’t cheat it. It’s life being honest with me: here’s what you really are, here’s what you’ve really given, here’s the return on your contribution to the universe. It’s coming back to you now, but more of it. The universe provides exponential returns (pressed down, shaken together, running over) so I can’t ignore them. It can be heaven or hell. It doesn’t judge, it just returns: “sow the wind, reap a whirlwind” or sow care, kindness, value, respect, love, directness, freedom, learning, and receive it back, multiplied.

Honesty is the most beautiful treasure in the universe, to me. How real, how valuable, what a gift. Beautiful in all its forms, all its expression: direct, subtle, spoken, shown, with words or face or body or sound or attention or creation or anything.

Honesty is asking to be seen. It can feel like a risk—it is a risk—but it’s also the most important thing I can do because being seen, being real—AH. That’s what we want, what we’re looking for in one way or another.

Home is the place where honesty is easiest, where it is most okay. Home is where I feel safest being seen (or most seen).

Acceptance is the relational working out of honesty. It’s amazing, to be accepted. To be seen and to be accepted no matter how messy I am, no matter how much I spill over the edges or just break the mold completely. That kind of acceptance can come only when I allow myself to be seen. Or, another way to say it: I control the acceptance I can enjoy because I control how much I allow myself to be seen. I control the level of honesty in which I operate.

Facts and honesty are different. You can force or manipulate someone into giving you the facts or “telling you the truth” but you can’t force anyone to be honest with you.

Honesty is a choice you can only make for yourself, internally, freely.

How honest we are with others flows always from how honest we are with ourselves. And how honest we are with ourselves depends mainly on how brave we can be in any given moment.

Being honest with myself means asking the difficult questions. The difficult questions are not the most complex or confusing ones. Often the difficult questions are the simplest ones. The difficult questions are the ones with answers I’m afraid to face. There’s a potential answer I want, or don’t want. Either way, I’m afraid of seeing what the answer is—so I avoid the question.

Avoiding the difficult questions can only work for so long. Avoidance and dishonesty create internal conflict, misalignment, friction. States of tension. Eventually the pressure is too much. Things break. Honesty always forces its way up and out.

Honesty has many forms of expression. It’s in eyes, in face, in body language, in tone, in movement, in the way the eyes move, in where the attention goes. It’s in what we do and what we say and how we say it, and what we don’t say, as well.

Honesty is expressed by me. It also is expressed in what happens to me. I think that I don’t control the situations and circumstances of my day. But I do, by my intention and attention, and by my inattention. My brain filters reality according to my settings: what gets priority, what gets seen, what gets noticed, what is allowed to be real, what is ignored. All of that is up to me.

Honesty is unavoidable. What I am comes out, must always be expressed. I cannot camouflage my values or beliefs for very long.

Honesty is expressed most clearly in the patterns, the long-term patterns and waves and forms of a life.

I want honesty—with myself, with others, with the world, in my work, in play, in learning, in growth, in everything. I want honesty because I value it for its own sake, but more: I want honesty because I value freedom.

Honesty is the price of freedom.

When we venture into honesty, and allow ourselves to be seen, we free ourselves from this need to pretend. We can still pretend, but we don’t have to. We get to drop the pretenses and expectations, which are a prison.

We are all asking a question that’s something like, “Am I okay?” We need the answer to this question so we can move on and do more interesting things than wonder if we are okay. The answer to this question is always Yes. You are okay. I am okay. We are all okay. But we don’t believe this answer until we know it, truly, for ourselves. If I tell you that Yes, you are okay, you might feel okay for a minute. Then you will find a reason not to believe me. “Ah, she doesn’t really know… She doesn’t know about that one thing….”

As long as you are being less than honest, you have a reason to doubt that you are okay. You are not showing up for real in the world. You are showing up half real, half hidden. Or some other ratio. But whatever part is hidden will always make you wonder. It will bring the question up over and over again: Am I okay? Am I okay? Really? What about the part no one knows…? They think I’m okay, but they don’t see that hidden piece. If they knew, they wouldn’t think I’m okay.

That’s why honesty is so important. Honesty is the way to answer that question fully. If you can get honest with yourself, that’s enough. You don’t have to share your secrets with the world (unless you want to) but you do have to face them yourself. All of them. Yes, especially that one—the one you want to ignore. That one most of all.

You don’t have to write overly long confessional essays like I do. Although, if you want to: go for it. We could all do with a little more permission to be honest.

Finite and Infinite Games


I decided to play with Substack’s podcast-y feature. Here’s an audio version of my notes on Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse. Written version here. This was fun to do (and is completely unedited) but I’m not sure it’s worth the upload time. If you have opinions, let me know. I’m not really a podcast person sooo 🤷‍♀️.

Happy Sunday!

- Annie


Podcast-reading alternatives: here are a few lengthy discussions/summarizations of the book: here’s one from Made You Think and here’s one from Stuff to Blow Your Mind (who names these podcasts?) and here’s an interview with author James Carse.

Reading Notes #2

Infinite play resounds with laughter

“When I think about creativity, it is always in relation to a foundation. We have our knowledge. It becomes deeply internalized until we can access it without thinking about it. Then we have a leap that uses what we know to go one or two steps further. We make a discovery. Most people stop here…

…we cannot calculate our important contests, adventures, and great loves to the end. The only thing we can really count on is getting surprised. No matter how much preparation we do, in the real tests of our lives, we’ll be in unfamiliar terrain.”



I don’t use many exclamation points. Kind of frowned upon in the whole techy-writing-SaaS world. You gotta be Serious if you are Making A Tech Thing that will definitely, no question, Change the World. None of those frivolous punctuation marks with their glamour and pizzazz. No sentences containing the word pizzazz. I kind of understand that last one.

News is maybe too generous of a heading.

News in my world:

  • The library is shutting down for an indetermined length of time for a major overhaul/remodel. That’s cool, except for the part that I work at the library 3 days out of the week. Guess it’s time to start that coworking space I keep talking about.

  • HALLOWEEN HAPPENED. We survived the chaotic trick-or-treating experience. Is that news? I don’t know. I feel like it’s significant.

  • That’s really all I have for you.


A few important reminders for myself or anyone like me:

  1. You can learn what you need to learn when you need to learn it.

  2. Nothing is wasted.

  3. You can’t go backward.

  4. You do not want to do all the things. You want to do some of the things. You want to do them so bad, in fact, that they scare the shit out of you, so you avoid doing them by trying to do all the other things. This is called procrastination and it’s a waste of your time. Go ahead and fail at the things you really want to do. You’ll learn how to do them better, next time around. See #2.

  5. You’d rather spend more time and effort on something you enjoy than get more results faster on something you don’t enjoy. Because the process is the outcome. If you depend on the outcome of a particular process, then you’re locked into that process. Exceptions are possible. Sometimes you can buy your way out, but that tends to be a trap.

  6. More people care about you than you realize. And they’re willing to do things – extraordinary things – to help you and support you when you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t hide behind your barriers of privacy or independence or self-sufficiency. None of us are self-sufficient. Autonomy is a lie. We depend on each other, we create communities, and those communities sustain us… Or, if we refuse to take part in them, we wither, slowly but surely. Don’t try to be a lone wolf, don’t pretend that you always have to be the hero. Those are self-defensive reactions built on fear and ego mythology. Let ‘em go. Say, “I could use some help, and here’s how.” See what happens.

  7. 80% of the stuff you spend time on isn’t important. If you only had electricity for two hours a day, how would you use that time? If you could only access the Internet once or twice a week, what would you do? The few things that pop up as your top priorities – the items you would accomplish in your limited accessibility – that’s your 20%. That’s your Most Important Things list. That’s what you pay attention to, that’s what you give time to, and you let the rest slide off. It’s a distraction.

  8. You tend to overestimate yourself in some areas and underestimate yourself in others. It’s difficult to get a good, objective view of what you’re capable of. That’s okay. Go ahead and try whatever it is you want to try. Be open to your own potential. Maybe you can do more than you think. Maybe you need more help than you think. Maybe both.

  9. There’s enough time in each day for the work of each day, if you don’t pressure yourself into trying to do things that seem important but aren’t, really.

  10. You only need to know the next step.

  11. You can step out of roles, obligations, or commitments that don’t work for you. Very few things are meant to last forever. Maybe you’ve already passed a good endpoint and you didn’t recognize it, and that’s why you’re so tired now.

  12. What’s in your head matters more than anything else.

  13. Getting up early is good.

  14. Solitude is important. Get some everyday. You’re cranky if you don’t.

  15. Your brain works a lot better when you free it from distractions and short-term urgencies. News, internet randomness, social media, dinging emails, irrelevant urgent now now now now now items flooding in. Control the inputs.

  16. You don’t have to force yourself into anything. Say no. Say not now. Say never. Say let me think about it. Say no thanks. Wait until you’re sure, until you can say Yes with an open-hearted joy (there may still be fear in it, that’s okay), or don’t say Yes at all.

  17. Without fail, what you ask for will show up for you. You may not recognize it. It might come in a weird, unexpected way. Try to be open.

  18. Every possible scenario in this growth of life is good and acceptable and beautiful. There is no wrong way to go about it. Judge not anyone you encounter, but most of all, judge not yourself. You are doing fine.


I finished it and immediately started reading it again.

“It is an invariable principle of all play, finite and infinite, that whoever plays, plays freely. Whoever must play, cannot play.”

I don’t know what else to say. It makes my brain hurt a little bit, but in a good way? Is that a thing? Yes. That is a thing. It is stunning.

“Infinite players cannot say when their game began, nor do they care. They do not care for the reason that their game is not bounded by time. Indeed, the only purpose of the game is to prevent it from coming to an end, to keep everyone in play.”

It’s another case of the absolute right book at the absolute right time, so maybe it’s not the right time and you’ll look at it and think, Meh, but maybe it is the right time for you, so at least give it a try.

Because it is fucking amazing.

“Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries.”

If you have too many books on your to-read stack, you can podcast-read it instead. There are a few lengthy discussions/summarizations of the book: here’s one from Made You Think and here’s one from Stuff to Blow Your Mind (who names these podcasts?) and here’s an interview with author James Carse.

“At which point do we confront the fact that we live one life and perform another, or others, attempting to make our momentary forgetting true and lasting forgetting? What makes this an issue is not the morality of masking ourselves. It is rather that self-veiling is a contradictory act—a free suspension of our freedom. I cannot forget that I have forgotten.”

The idea of wearing masks, or playing roles, is one that keeps coming up for me. Must be something I need to learn here.

Jung mentions that the individuated person can step in and out of roles at will.

Carse echoes with the statement that finite play isn’t possible without “self-veiling” of some kind, which means stepping into a role, performing, acting a part, wearing a mask in one sense or another:

“The issue here is not whether self-veiling can be avoided, or even should be avoided. Indeed, no finite play is possible without it. The issue is whether we are ever willing to drop the veil and openly acknowledge, if only to ourselves, that we have freely chosen to face the world through a mask.”

There’s a naïve view that says, “Let’s all be perfectly honest and completely real all the time with each other and drop all the masks and the roles.”

Perhaps that’s the ultimate goal, but getting there is a process. Getting there requires first being completely honest with ourselves, and that’s not easy. There’s no deception like self-deception.

“…all the limitations of finite play are self-limitations.”

The important distinction between infinite players and finite players is not that finite players wear masks, and infinite players do not. Rather, it’s that infinite players realize consciously what they are doing; they don’t take it seriously.

“Since finite games can be played within an infinite game, infinite players do not eschew the performed roles of finite play. On the contrary, they enter into finite games with all the appropriate energy and self-veiling, but they do so without the seriousness of finite players. They embrace the abstractness of finite games as abstractness, and therefore take them up not seriously, but playfully.”

Finite players, on the other hand, forget that the role is a role, that the mask is not the face behind the mask. They get lost in the parts they play. They forget that they can unmask, that they can step out of any role, or change it at will. They forget that their identity, or self, is not contained in a role but that a role is simply a way to play with other selves.

“We are playful when we engage others at the level of choice, when there is no telling in advance where our relationship with them will come out—when, in fact, no one has an outcome to be imposed on the relationship, apart from the decision to continue it.”

Carse extends these basic concepts of finite and infinite play into all the big areas of life, and that’s where it gets really interesting. Relationships, politics, economics, property, patriotism, sexuality, health, all these games we play with ourselves and each other: understanding them in terms of finite and infinite play is eye-opening.

There’s a path here towards that ideal of openness, honesty, realness. I like how Carse describes openness as vulnerability, as an ongoing process of growth and play with others. It’s not about rejecting privacy. It does not require unrestrained emotional vomiting or masochistic exposure.

“Because infinite players prepare themselves to be surprised by the future, they play in complete openness. It is not an openness as in candor, but an openness as in vulnerability. It is not a matter of exposing one’s unchanging identity, the true self that has always been, but a way of exposing one’s ceaseless growth, the dynamic self that has yet to be.”

It is about getting to your own core, and then operating from that core. It’s about seeing that the limitations of finite play (thus: any system, any role, any mask) are all self-limitations. Then choosing freely how to play with those limitations, put on and off those masks, step in and out of the roles, and use those games as opportunities—not to win, not to defeat, not to manipulate or control or hide or deceive, but to play.

“To be playful is not to be trivial or frivolous, or to act as though nothing of consequence will happen. On the contrary, when we are playful with each other we relate as free persons, and the relationship is open to surprise; everything that happens is of consequence. The finite play for life is serious; the infinite play of life is joyous.

Infinite play resounds throughout with a kind of laughter.

It is laughter with others with whom we have discovered that the end we thought we were coming to has unexpectedly opened. We laugh not at what has surprisingly come to be impossible for others, but over what has surprisingly come to be possible with others.”


Journey Through Grief Without Losing Yourself: I was pregnant with my second child when we buried Mom. I visited all three boutiques in my hometown, shopping for a black maternity dress. I felt strong, almost stoic, through the entire service. The songs, the eulogy, the procession, the graveside prayers. Then it was time to place a rose on her casket and walk away. My whole body began trembling.

  • Alternate title for the above: You Want Emotions? I GOT EMOTIONS!

Action Over Perfection: So here is a cool thing that happened. I wrote this little post some time ago. Then Adam Holownia, founder of Eudaimonia, wanted to make an animation out of it. So he did. Here it is:

It’s super fun to see my words put into a new creative output. Partnerships and collaboration and community and cooperation — these things are great. They make us more than we are.

So here’s a weekend challenge for all of us. Pick one or two or none. Have fun.

  • Play with the limitations. Take the masks on and off. Step in and out of roles.

  • Find a partnership or start a collaboration.

  • Think about what you want from relationships and community. What do you want to give? What do you want to receive? Define it for yourself, and be deliberate about offering and accepting only what you want. Let the other stuff pass by. It’s not for you; it’s for someone else.

  • Tell somebody something real. Peel off a layer. See what happens.

  • Tell somebody you like them for who they are. Look them in the eyes. Mean it. We all need to know that who we are is good, is enough, is fucking amazing.

  • Tell yourself the same. Look in the mirror. Do it for real. Do it over and over.

  • Dig dig dig dig dig dig dig to the core. I think we have to keep doing this. I think we can probably get better at helping each other do this. I think that’s worth thinking about.


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