Day two of this gratitude project: list 3 things every day for a total of five days. The ability to name things specifically is directly proportional to the positive (or negative) state of my mind. Generally, I am always grateful. Generally, I can always place myself in the hierarchy of woes and lamentations. My children are alive. My children are not in ICU. I don’t have a pregnant, unwed 16 year old daughter. I’ve never had cancer. I live in America. I have free speech, clean running water. As a woman, I can own my own house and wear provocative clothing. I have pretty good teeth and I don’t fear catching Ebola at church or Publix today. I can make a list. But being grateful is not the same thing as being happy. Practicing gratitude is a method to attain happiness. Happiness is an elusive, rare bird for some places. I went hunting today for an archived segment that played on NPR YEARS ago (maybe more than a decade ago). It was an interview segment about “practicing gratitude”. Be thankful for the smallest of things in your life. Be perpetually thankful. The thanks slowly build a scaffolding that can help you escape the deepest hole. So be thankful for tin foil and paperclips and eyeglasses and toilet paper. Be thankful for all the small niceties of life, the things that bring ease and comfort. I couldn’t find the segment.
Having bought into this Zen-like practice years ago, I know the power of gratitude. I know it has helped in the past. I am sure it can help again but it has the schmaltzy aura of Stuart Smalley in his SNL skits, “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me.” And I am not sure I can persuade myself to swallow the blue pill again. Can you do a gratitude exercise with the morbidity of an Emo teenager?
I think not. You have to put on your happiest, sun-shiniest, beatified face with a big, doe eyed smile and give your list. And the list has to be just as sun-shiny. And that’s where I am stuck. Because my gratitudes are quite dark as of late.
1. I am glad I didn’t go charge $1,000 on impulse shopping in a blind effort to snap me out of this mood. I am thankful I am not drawn to any of those impulsive, destructive acts like drinking, drugs, grandiose schemes, impulse travels or join a cult. I am thankful I am at my core a responsible person that doesn’t jettison her obligations in a misguided effort to lighten what feels like an overwhelming burden each morning. It is a dark fantasy to think one could just stuff some things in a backpack and run away.
2. I am glad for DISTRACTIONS: Netflix, Audible, Facebook, my smartphone, laundry, house chores, quilting, organizing Pinterest, painting my fingernails and toenails, ironing shirts. Watching the banana spider sit in the middle of her web and occasionally eat something that flies into her trap. The mind numbing, shallow minded tasks keep my in the kiddie pool.
3. I am thankful I have work tomorrow. Back to work. Put me back on the Matchbox car track and I can run that loop endlessly. It gives the day order and structure and disallows most diversions and deviations. And the obligations of it all keep me grounded. It’s what I am good at.
Maybe tomorrow, I’ll have a more sunshiny face. and attitude. But I did my homework. I can’t get in trouble cuz I did my homework, right?