Originally published in 2016
When the intention is to find the silvery lining, the half-full perspective but life deals a hand fundamentally lacking the up-side, how do you find hope? Further, how do you write about hope? If you don’t feel hopeful or optimistic, upon what do you grasp to have any measure of joy?
I find I become increasingly frugal and economical in my gratitude, very little is necessary to measure a modicum or joy. That whole practice gratitude mantra, right? I am happy for good coffee. I am glad for my own washer and dryer. I am happy to have air conditioning. These are true luxury items in the wider arc or human existence, so be happy, right? Some days, I am happy I find my car keys in the pocket of my purse I expect them to be. Some days, I am grateful for having only nine crooked fingers, accepting that my right index finger is Wicked Witch worthy and bound to bend farther towards Grimm’s fairy tale legends. I am grateful for wiper fluid to clean my windshield.
I set the bar low. And then I realize I am doing the exact thing I hold in contempt: aiming low. I am an aim high kind of person. Aim high. Take risks. Dream big. The theory being that if I aim high and only make 50% of my goal, then I made 50%. Then I reset my aim and try again. And again. And again.
But this practice gratitude, while it’s intent is meant to pull oneself out of the morbid doldrums, it becomes an exercise in aiming low. Or at least it has for me. Just planning a healthy meal, counts towards healthier eating even if I end up eating cereal and cheese puffs. Writing out a budget counts towards an personal investment plan and debt management. Yeah me.
I have to call bullshit. On myself. Not yeah me. Come on, woman! Get it together! And aim higher! And don’t be thankful for paper towels! Be thankful for the energy to finally paint the bedroom walls. Taping the paint chips to the wall for nearly two years did NOT count as a win. A win is washing the laundry…and folding it AND putting it all away! Simply sorting it into dirty piles does not count as winning.
And I get it: winning is not gratitude. And gratitude is not about winning. I understand the allegorical power of gratitude: the freezing bird is GRATEFUL for getting a steaming pile of cow shit plopped on it’s head. Hot shit keeps you alive in a blizzard. But you are not going to get me to find or feel grateful for a hot, stinking pile of shit on my head in August summer heat. Yeah, yeah, I know, cow shit makes great compost and can fertilize your garden and trees. Got it. But I am not a tree. Compost does not directly help me at all.
And then I realize I am selfish. Petulant and selfish. Yep. No doubt. Whiny, too. And then I realize I am grateful for a Sunday morning where I have nothing to do except complain.