This is the time of year that we are reminded to be thankful; to count our blessings. I rarely look at Facebook, but I suspect if I did, or if you have, we would see lists of people posting that for which they are thankful.
For the most part, I’m going to save you from having to read my list. But as I think about this task for myself, I am reminded of something from the movie American Beauty. If I remember it correctly, this passage, uttered by Kevin Spacey, is from the final scene of the movie:
It’s hard to stay mad when
There is so much beauty in the world.
Sometimes I feel like
I’m seeing it all at once and it’s too much
My heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst
And then I remember to relax and stop trying to hold onto it and then it flows through me like rain.
And I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid life.
I think perhaps the reason that Gratitude lists get annoying is that most of us treat them like an activity or a single step in the pursuit of how to be happy. It’s something we sometimes remember to do and sometimes not. Or, we do it, and then we check it off as done. Perhaps it might be more useful to think of Gratitude as a philosophy- a lens with which we look at the whole of our lives. I think that is the intellectual understanding that many of us believe we are utilizing when we make our “lists”. We use our line items to verify the philosophy is intact. But to truly operate from a stance of gratitude is to realize that it’s all a gift. That which brings us joy and that which brings us pain is a gift. The ability to feel all emotion, from sadness to grief, is a gift. The opportunity to have and to lose is a gift. The very act of being right here at this moment, no matter how wonderful or dismal, is worthy of gratitude.
It’s hard to feel grateful when the house is a mess and no will help clean it up. It’s hard to feel grateful when your car breaks or the dog runs away, you get cut off in traffic or you catch yet another cold and feel miserable. But if one is operating from a philosophy of gratitude, there is less temptation to separate single events into categories of good and bad.
One definition of gratitude is appreciation. Appreciation is further defined as having a full knowledge and awareness of someone or something. Often our inability to feel appreciation comes from a limited knowledge of someone or something. We see only what we see in context to us and what we want in this moment, rather than a more comprehensive picture. For example, the messy house is viewed by the number of toys on the floor and causes frustration. But to see that the same house provides a safe shelter where our family can grow is a larger picture with more information, and thus more easily appreciated. The broken down car is one view, but knowing that one has a job that can manage repair costs, provides for opportunities to consider a more grateful conclusion.
It’s curious that the word gratitude and great attitude sound so similar. They also have in common the quality of choice. In the end, there are no prizes for being grateful enough. But there are rewards.
I began this post by saying I would mostly save you from my list. But I am going to give you one item from my list. I am grateful for your patronage, for your time in reading my posts, your encouragement and feedback that helps to keep this blog alive, despite its sometimes rushed, typo filled, over comma’d and under proofread existence. Happy Thanksgiving.