Thank you all for your incredible birthday wishes! They overwhelmed me in the best way and I am so grateful for them.
I’ve been thinking about gratitude a lot these days. Every once in a while I get a flicker of clarity about how much I take for granted. I have so much and yet I tend to focus on what I don’t have. Didn’t make enough money, wasn’t smart enough, could have been more compassionate. Sound familiar?
I am learning to be more conscious around what I complain about in my life, if these things are rational and justified, or just habit. We all need a heartfelt venting once in a while, a nasty rant, a whine, a holler. This is all a healthy, normal part of being human. It’s the habit part that I find dangerous. It’s the lack of awareness, that can skew our perspective of what a gift our life really is.
The Buddhist perspective would probably say that we need to learn to accept things as they are, that there is no “good” or “bad.” There is just what is.
But we tend to celebrate what looks good to us – (getting the job, making the dough, winning the race) and tend to label other things as “bad” (the breakup, the layoff, the terrible rash). The irony is that we can often look back and say, “Oh, thank God that creepy boy broke up with me. I would never have met you,” or “Now it all makes sense. That layoff allowed me the space to see that I wasn’t actually happy in that career,” or even, “Wow, those terrible blisters were my body hollering at me to change my life and slow down. I’m finally listening.” (Y’all remember the blisters right?)
I suppose I’m just saying that when we see something is “bad” it’s simply one perspective on the thing. Often we have no idea what we’re talking about.
My friend Jen told me about a “gratitude lunch” that she recently attended. It was hosted by an amazing woman named Moe who has been through some serious health challenges these days. She invited every person who has made her life easier in some way to her home. (Even the woman who does her dry cleaning!) According to Jen, the irony was that everyone in that room was filled with gratitude for Moe and all said in some way or another that she had actually saved their lives.
So how do we get in touch with our gratitude? I know that I feel grateful for simply breathing after several days of a cold. I felt grateful for simply walking after 6 months of healing from a broken leg. I feel grateful when Matt comes home after a long bicycle trip safe and sound after I’ve been worrying to bits. Pain gives us access to gratitude. But it quickly fades away and we forget.
A teacher of mine once said, “If you’re bored, you’re not paying attention.” And I think it applies to gratitude as well. If we’re not in touch with what we’re grateful for, maybe we’re not paying attention.