Thoughts on Gratitude

I’ve been thinking about gratitude quite a bit lately. In fact, it’s going to be the subject of my first anthology. As a topic it’s much more complex and richly nuanced than I first thought.

I’m finding that the more I view my life in terms of gratitude, the more blessings I seem to receive. There’s something about the mere act of sincerely acknowledging the abundance in your life, putting it out there in the universe that you realize that these things are gifts, not privileges. This seems to attract even more abundance.

The more pragmatic side of me thinks that it’s not actually that you’re getting more positivity. It’s more that you’re becoming attuned to the largesse that was always there. Perhaps you have just taken it for granted, or have been focused on the more negative aspects of your life.

Crunchy granola gifts or clear-eyed perspective? Either way, I’ll take it! Thank you. More, please.

While discussing this with friends, I was asked, “Can gratitude ever be inappropriate?” That question intrigued me quite a bit. I suspect that gratitude in general is very influenced by the culture in which you find yourself. People in some countries just seem to be much more instinctively gracious than those in others.

Is one viewpoint better than another? The fact that we have coined terms such as “obsequious”, with its seemingly negative connotations, would lead one to believe that there is such a thing as too much gratitude.

I tend to think that any gratitude, if sincere and genuine, is not misplaced. But who am I to judge? I’m just happy to be here!

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Thank You, More Please

I was killing time over the weekend on the deadliest of time-killers: Youtube. I came across a light romantic comedy called Happythankyoumoreplease. The title alone got me curious. Plus, Josh Radnor is in it, and he’s pure sweet candy to my eyes, so why not?

It’s a cute movie. It doesn’t surprise me that it didn’t win any Oscars. It’s not that kind of vehicle. But it was a pleasant way to spend an hour and a half.

One of the things I love most about life is that you never know where or when you’re going to be pelted with a pearl of wisdom. In one scene, Malin Akerman, the actress who plays Annie, was telling a story about a time she was in this cab and the driver told her that she had a lot to give, but her problem was that she didn’t express enough appreciation. When she asked him how she should do that, he told her to simply say thank you, and always add “more, please,” because with gratitude the universe is eternally abundant.

When I heard that, I almost felt a mental click. It just makes so much sense to me. Even if you don’t believe in the laws of attraction, or a higher power or anything even remotely new age or spiritual or crunchy-granola, it just seems right to remind yourself that not only should you feel grateful, but that you deserve good things.

I have always liked to take a moment and look up at the sky and thank the universe, even for simple things like the feeling of wind on my face. Now, I plan to add “more, please” to that thank you. At the very least it will influence my attitude. That’s a bigger payoff than the average lottery ticket, right?

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How This Blog Has Touched Me

Today this blog made me cry. It wasn’t the first time. I’m sure it won’t be the last.

So far it’s always been happy tears, thank goodness. (I’m waiting for the day that my writer’s block is so overwhelming that I shed tears of sheer frustration, but so far I’ve been lucky.) Still, I never thought this humble project of mine would bring out such strong emotion in me. Had I known, I might have been too intimidated to start. But I’m so glad I did.

This time, the reason for my tears was a comment from a girl named April. She read one of my more popular blog entries, Why I Hate Alcohol. Then she commented in great detail about how it impacted her.

Discovering that something I wrote has helped someone, or made them look at things from a different angle, or taught someone something they didn’t know, never fails to move me. Sometimes I sit up here on my lonely little drawbridge and I write these things and it almost feels as if I’m putting messages in bottles and throwing them in the ocean. That these messages sometimes reach someone’s shore is gratifying beyond words.

Because of this blog, I’ve also made some amazing friends. Art, Carole, Anju, Sonia, Tony, Lyn, Valarie… so many more I couldn’t list them all, but each one an amazing person that wouldn’t have come into my life without this forum. And then there are the many friends I’ve met in other ways who have followed this blog and given me feedback and support. There’s nothing more wonderful than getting positive encouragement from someone you admire.

I’ve also learned a great deal. I’ve explored topics I wouldn’t have bothered to delve into if I didn’t think I’d have some reader to share them with. I’ve introduced myself, and you, to people I would not have discovered otherwise.

I’ve exorcised a number of personal demons, celebrated a number of victories, shared perhaps more than I should have, and wondered about any number of things. And I’ve improved my writing skills. Those are things I knew I would do. What I didn’t know was that having people actually read what I write has added a whole new dimension. You’ve validated, supported, and commiserated with me. You’ve given me wings.

So my message in the bottle for today is: Thank you. Thank you so much.

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[Image Credit: artisticallyinvited.com]

Little Shards of Emotion

When I was around 17 it was decided that I needed my wisdom teeth removed. Unfortunately three of them were so deeply impacted that the dentist had to saw away parts of my jaw to get to them. Needless to say, the healing process was no picnic. But what they didn’t warn me about was the fact that for the next 6 months or so, I would occasionally eject little shards of bone at random moments. It would always bring me up short. “Ptooey! Where did that come from?”

I have noticed that at various times in my life I’ve had the emotional equivalent of that experience. During times of great stress and/or great change, certain issues will rise to the surface and take me by surprise. Fears or insecurities I didn’t know I had. Anger that I thought I’d long since gotten past. Gratitude for things and people I had been taking for granted for ages.

When I start reacting in ways that even I can’t predict, it’s time for me to take a deep breath, step back and really think about the true source of my emotions. Often the current situation is simply reminding me of something from the past. And the older I get, the more past I have to draw upon.

It’s important for me to keep in mind that the question of where something came from doesn’t just apply to little shards of bone. And answering that question when it comes up is the key to understanding, coping, and moving on.

Shards

This is one of my fractals, “Shards” and can be purchased in the form of greeting cards, mugs, and prints along with almost 600 other fractal items here.

You’re Alive!

A few days ago we lost a cultural icon and a great man by the name of Leonard Nimoy, and millions will mourn his passing. At times like this I’m reminded of something I learned the hardest possible way this year. Life is very precious.

I know several people who seem to exist in a constant state of fury and irritation. These people amaze me. I can’t relate to them on any level. I want to say to them, “You’re alive! Don’t you get it? You can do anything. You have choices. What the hell do you have to be angry about?”

I think these people walk through life with blinders on. They certainly don’t realize they are throwing away the most valuable gift in the universe: their very existence. I look at them and think, “What a waste.” There are plenty of people who are no longer with us, who appreciated every exquisite moment of the lives they had, who would gladly take even a day of someone’s unappreciated lifespan if only they could be alive again.

When you’re in a rage, your vision narrows to a tiny little point. You don’t see anything around you. You certainly don’t take the time to stop and smell the roses. You’re too busy pissing all over them. Why would you want to narrow your field of vision like that? There’s so much to see! Life is just so freakin’ beautiful, people. I wish everyone realized that.

So next time you are angry because someone has cut you off in traffic, try this instead: take a deep breath. Look around. Then drive home and tell the people that you love that you love them. Because that’s what matters. Nothing else does.

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Last Day

Late last year my favorite person in the whole world had a stroke. Ever since then she’s had several seizures, another stroke, and has been in and out of comas. When she did come to, she was completely confused, and, basically, “not there”. Although her body lingered on, I was already mourning the loss of her essence. For all intents and purposes I had given up hope for my Aunt Betty. Even if I had lived next door rather than 3000 miles away, I knew we’d never gossip and joke again, and that devastated me.

Then the other day I was on Facebook and her daughter-in-law contacts me via her I-phone. She says Aunt Betty is walking and talking again! She sends me a photo of her, and she looks great.

The head cold that had been stopping up my sinuses so completely that I wasn’t convinced I even had nostrils promptly disappeared, and it hasn’t come back. It was a miracle. Because I was given back the person I love most!

She asks if I want to text with her. God, yes! And we chatted for about 15 minutes. It was definitely her. We have insider jokes and ways of talking that can’t be replicated. It felt like she had been resurrected. It brought tears to my eyes.

I knew that this was a gift that I shouldn’t take for granted. Who knows how long it will last. So I made a point of telling her everything I wanted to tell her but couldn’t all these past months. “I think of you every day.” “I love you very much.” “You are my favorite person in the world.” “I’ve always been very grateful to have you in my life.”

And what really, really got to me was that she told me she was proud of me. That’s a huge deal. At seminal moments in the 24 years since my mother passed away, I’ve often wondered if she would be proud of me, and of course there’s no way to know. So hearing that from Aunt Betty, the next best thing to a mother, meant everything to me.

They will be moving her to a less intensive part of the hospital soon, and hopefully she’ll then have a phone in her room. But in the meantime, my sister and I sent her flowers. I figured she could use some color to offset all that New England snow. I’ll also be sending her some photographs.

But I’m still in shock. Things like this just don’t happen. A dear friend of mine would call it a mitzvah. All I know is I’m beyond grateful that I had the opportunity to say all those things that I needed to say to her. Because of that, whatever happens now, I’ll be at peace.

And this profound life lesson got me thinking. Technically I have that gift with everyone I love. They’re still here. But they won’t always be. I should make the effort to tell everyone what I need to tell them as if it’s their last day on earth.

Actually I’ve always known that on some level, but I take people for granted. It’s a bad habit that many of us have. So I decided to invent a holiday for myself. I’m calling it Last Day. I’m going to celebrate it on the last day of every month, because that will be easy to remember, until such time as it becomes such a habit that I don’t need to designate a special day.

On Last Day, I’m going to make an effort to tell people I love just how much they mean to me. I’m going to do it until they’re sick of hearing it. I’m going to talk to these people as if this is our last day together, ever. Because some day, inevitably, it will be. But this is not meant to be a depressing holiday. Not at all. It’s a celebration, because I’ve been given the gift of knowing how important these conversations are.

May I never forget.

Happy Last Day, dear reader, and thank you for making this blog so special.

Betty's Flowers

[Aunt Betty’s flowers via ftd.com]