It is often so much easier to complain than to be thankful. For some, it can become a habit; a habit of negativity that is more addicting than nicotine or alcohol. I’ve found it is impossible to be deeply depressed when you are grateful for something…anything. It doesn’t have to be a big item. Most of the power of gratitude actually lies in the small, everyday experiences. These are the tiny items we tend to look past, every day; a flower that just burst into bloom as a riot of orange with a yellow heart, a tiny bird hopping through the sprinkler or a dog chasing a ball or its own tale. There’s so much joy in the carefree romp and lope of a dog when they run with pleasure, or a kitten ripping around a circle of yarn on the floor.
You know that feeling of dread when we have lab work drawn or an X-ray performed? When the results come back negative, we’re pleased, but that true feeling of gratitude doesn’t last for long, does it. Often, we think we have nothing to be grateful for, but that is never true.
You can be grateful it’s raining outside because the ground needs rain or you can be grateful for the sunny day without a cloud in the sky. The weather and gratitude is a rather relative thing, depending on each of us and where our feet are planted and our own health. Gratitude for the “big money” items like God, love and peace, well, they’re sort of obscure unless we get down to the specifics. Gratitude is very personal and appeals to the heart of our being and is therefore different from person to person.
It helps me to know God is love. Your face often brightly glows when you love someone else, love yourself or just love your surroundings. The emotion of love is a feel good ticket item. If you or I love just one person in our lives, we should be grateful and show appreciation not only to that person or persons but to our creator. It’s the most joyous of all the emotions. Certainly, there is also heartache in loving someone, but is it really love? We’ll ponder that one. Sometimes love can be disguised as something else. It can be lust, vanity or just plain chemistry. Sympathy or need can masquerade as love as can a hundred other human needs. It can appear as love for a blooming Gerber daisy, a deer walking across the street in grand style while all the traffic stops out of respect for him or love for a golden/orange sunset. There is much to love and be grateful for in this wonderful world. The conductor/musician Arthur Rubinstein said, “I have found that if you love life, life will love you back.”
Let me add my own version of that by saying, if you love life, then life will have your back.
I find I am often so grateful for the innocents in my life because their very presence in my life brings laughter, light-heartedness and joy. Our children, our grandchildren and our pets all come to mind as the innocents in life. Certain friends can offer an unqualified love and therefore gratitude. Sometimes just the thought and projected periods of the early years or the anticipation of a treasured memory can bring gratitude. My daughter and son-in-law and their children are waiting to bring a new chocolate lab female puppy into their home in two weeks. They already love her. She is already real to them. She is also a relative of their dear Herb, their chocolate lab they lost last year. We were chuckling this morning to know the pup is already three times larger than our little Yorkie, George. The dogs will be great friends once he decides the only threat she poses to him is stepping on his tiny feet. There is joy in all those thoughts and I am grateful for that. Joy and gratitude are most definitely in the eyes of the beholder.
I am not grateful for cancer, chronic pain and disabling conditions but I am grateful for all the wonderful friends I have made both in my nursing and writing careers. I can hate the diseases but love the experiences because they have taken me to loving and kind physicians and fellow nurses, radiation technicians and lab personnel. It’s wonderful how we can pick love out of the trash heap of life and somehow that makes the bad times more palatable.
Sometimes we can love memories almost as much as we loved the event when it was occurring. There’s a cute story by James W. Moore from his book, Some folks feel the rain; others just get wet. He tells the story of a man who got lost in the country and got his car deeply stuck in the mud. He walked to a nearby farm to get some help. The farmer said, “Warwick can get you out of that ditch.”
He pointed to an old mule as being Warwick. The man who was stuck in the ditch had doubts looking at old Warwick. The man whose car was stuck in the mud figured he didn’t have anything to lose and watched as the farmer hooked old Warwick up to a rope and then to his car. The farmer snapped the reins and shouted, “Pull, Fred! Pull, Jack! Pull, Ted! Pull, Warwick!”
The old mule pulled the car from the muddy ditch with very little effort. This, of course, amazed the car owner. He had to ask, “Why did you call out all those other names before you called Warwick?”
The old farmer smiled and said, “Old Warwick is just about blind. As long as he believes he’s part of a team he doesn’t mind pulling.”
Now, that mule had a memory that saw him through and it was the sweet memory of being part of a team. Those memories were as real to him as his long lost mule buddies.
Each of us, in spite of what we are experiencing is not alone. You and I by the very nature of this blog are part of a team. There is much strength in team work. Our team can number into the thousands…millions. We have our families, our health care providers, dear friends and all of us who also suffer to muster a very strong team. Team work is a wonderful thing. Be grateful. A friend calling to check on us, a giggling grandchild, and a hug from a spouse and so the list of gratitude grows. In turn, calling a friend in need, giving a hug or giggling with a grandchild can also be a greater cause for gratitude.
It took us four years to sell our home in California, 16 years ago. Our daughter was already up here, building her life and career alone. I was trapped in one of the hottest places in CA with a terrible reaction to the sun and the sundial seemed to be moving at a snail’s pace. We kept having Open Houses and because of my health issues, they were difficult. I baked cookies so the house would smell enticing. I wiped slobber off of walls from our 150 pound Saint Bernard shaking her sweet head, I weeded the garden by lamplight in the evenings to avoid the sun and still no buyer came along. The market was glutted with new homes and we were one of many in a downward spiraling real estate property mess. I was so very grateful when a buyer came along, I promised my maker I would say a prayer of gratitude each time I drove across the Columbia River to buy groceries, each time I enjoyed a beautiful sunset and each time it rained. I haven’t forgotten that promise these many years later and I still utter a prayer of gratitude for all of the beauty that surrounds me each day.
Make a goal of uttering the magical words, “Thank you,” each day.