Essence of Gratitude, 100 proof
I've been very, very lucky: This Thanksgiving, I've been able to spend time with both my parents and my brother, my husband, and my daughter too. Every single year I look back and see some point where one of us nearly died — and I look back and see the people who have died, too. When that happens, I feel the whole Universe stretch out above and below me, like I'm tethered to a mountain-top in a high wind, with space-pteradactyls whirling around and knocking people off left and right; yet somehow I'm still here, still able to breathlessly watch the whole thing while holding hands with my dearest.
We will all fall — it's just a matter of time — but until we do, we got to be on this rollercoaster together. Billions and billions of lives, most of them never so much as flickering within sight of each other, but there are a few (not perfect, not even enjoyable a lot of the time, but lives, and love) that I got to hold tight to. No matter how hard this year was or is, or what things happened to me or to others, I look at that and I'm just gobsmacked by how lucky I am.
So yeah. The gush of stunned gratitude that arises when faced with the awe-ful forces in the world and their power, and the blinding luck at the losses that skipped you again this year, is, I think, the essence of the holiday for me. And I'm happy with that; it feels very…human. Honest. And honest things, even when they're not pretty, comfort me.
Here's my takeaway from all that: Even the most stripped-down gratitude feels marvelous, if it focuses on what you have. And as we know, all great truths have as their opposite other great truths, which is borne out by the fact that even the most extravagant circumstances will feel bitter and cold, if you focus on what you don't have.
Gratitude, thankfulness, is being AWARE of what you HAVE. (There's that "awareness making the difference between good and bad feelings" thing again!) Even if you had nothing but your breath, if you focused on that, you would be happy to have it. (Heh, an elegant little lesson from underwater hockey maybe? ;)
But it's shockingly easy to wind up wallowing in what you don't have: Emo is cool, commercials preach dissatisfaction 24/7, and let's face it, it's a lot easier to excuse all your worst behaviors if you just focus on how wrong you been done, by gods or men.
Many, many forces exist to encourage you to focus on what you don't have, and it takes strength and presence of mind to decide not to think that way. Is it valid? Sure — I can formulate my life in negatives too, and trust me, they'd bring you down pretty handily. But the positives are just as valid (or more so — I think I can pretty easily argue that that which exists has more pull than that which doesn't!) — and staying focused on them keeps you feeling (not just talking) grateful.
I love the feeling of gratitude. I hope that over this coming year I remember to be grateful even more often. The feeling of gratitude — the feeling that's a direct result of focusing on the things you have, rather than the things you don't — leads directly to calm peacefulness, humility, compassion, and joy at being alive, no matter what the circumstances are. I BELIEVE THAT'S WHAT'S KNOWN AS A TOTAL FREAKING WIN.
May you remember too, and may we help each other remember when it's hard. Life is full of good and bad, positive and negative, but which way you orient your thinking most of the time has way more effect on your happiness than the actual content of your reality, which can always be interpreted in different ways.
Good and Bad is in your head, to put it succinctly. Keep Thankfulness close and your head will be an awesome, awesome place.