Gratitude: Not Just A November Thing
It seems like Thanksgiving started the day after Halloween.
It happened all at once: Shops changed their window displays. Grocery stores showcased different merchandise. Yoga teachers altered their class themes. All were asking me to focus on one thing: Gratitude.
So I brushed it off.
I attributed the unified idea to hokey commercialization. Something contrived and cliched. A cheap attempt to get me to buy something. Whenever I saw the words “gratitude,” “grateful” and variations thereof, I rolled my eyes and kept going.
Meanwhile, I wasn’t doing very well. Or rather, I didn’t think I was. Every week I had the same complaints and worries: I don’t make enough money, I’m not moving forward in my career, I don’t live in a good enough house, I don’t have this, I don’t have that.
You can guess the impact that has after a while.
I was spouting off the same “not-enough’s” to a friend. She asked, “Have you tried a gratitude list?” I immediately resisted it. I decided it was cheesy and wouldn’t work. I continued the despair-ridden complaining-worrying road, but the seed had been planted.
The next week I waited in line at my local grocery store, silently spouting off the usual list of everything that was wrong with my life: I don’t have enough money, I’m not where I’m supposed to be, and so on. I approached the register, where I usually grab my favorite White Chocolate and Macadamia Clif Bars. They were out. I don’t even have Clif Bars! Over the cashier’s shoulder was the November issue of O Magazine, whose cover read: “The Power of Gratitude.” I remembered my friend’s suggestion and decided to give it a try. Which just goes to show that if you want someone to listen to you, tell them Oprah said it first.
I took out a blank piece of paper and started writing. I felt challenged and uncomfortable. It was difficult to come up with answers. But—given how skilled I’d become at finding all the lack in my life—that makes sense now. I went for the obvious ones first:
I’m grateful for my family. My friends. My health.
I looked around my room: I’m grateful that I have plenty of clothes. A yoga mat. A roof over my head.
I started to feel lighter. I got more specific: I’m grateful for the freedom I have in my schedule. I’m grateful for the times I feel down so I can grow even more. I’m grateful I’m the kind of person who wants to squeeze the most out of life.
It was pouring out of me now, faster than my hand could handle. My hands! I’m grateful for my hands! I gazed down at my sheet of nearly indecipherable words. I knew what they said. More than that: I felt what they said. I became present to how all I needed was provided for me, and then some. What seemed very bleak was now overflowing with goodness. Even more miraculous, I went from plagued with worry to rich in gratitude. In fifteen minutes flat.
An hour later, my mind went back into its automatic complaint-worry pattern. The difference was I could catch the ickiness of it before it went too far. I re-read my list. I added to it. I felt enough-ness again. I realized that I prefer to move through the world feeling gratitude over worry. This shift is accessible to each and every one of us, no matter what month it is. Simply from a piece of paper and willingness.
So will you do it?