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HomeViewpointsAMPLIFICATIONS: Gratitude


It really is easier to stop fighting against the tide all the time and just be happier with what you have.

Every year at Thanksgiving we go around the table and each person briefly lists something for which they are grateful. Several things usually come to mind, as I am always grateful for my friends who include us in their gatherings. This year we are having two Thanksgivings a few days apart, each with friends whom I love dearly. I am thankful for them, relieved not to have to cook a big meal with a throbbing bum knee and always happy to see people I sometimes only see on holidays.

What I say is that I am grateful for my daughter. I will be eternally grateful that the universe put us into each other’s orbits. It always, ALWAYS, annoys me when people tell me how wonderful I am that I “saved” my daughter when I adopted her because, really, it was the other way around. Not only is life more meaningful but holidays are also much more fun.

As I get older, I am becoming a more grateful person. I find it makes life easier. It sounds so trite, doesn’t it? But it actually is true. It really is easier to stop fighting against the tide all the time and just be happier with what you have. Not that one should settle or not strive for improvement, but life is so much easier if you realize that you look just fine and that your car or home or job is perfectly suitable. More difficult is the task of accepting people as they are without trying to change them.

I have found that the Buddhist practice of cultivating gratitude works remarkably well if you do it consistently and don’t question it. Most practices tell you to start with a journal and write down everything, no matter how small, for which you are grateful. One is supposed to do this everyday. I tend to list things in my head, though once I kept a “joy jar” to which my daughter and I would add small notes listing something for which we were appreciative.

Sometimes it takes a while to even realize there is something for which to be grateful. This past summer a friend of 45 years told me that the reason I had been hearing from her less and less was because “we have nothing in common.” I crumpled inside. We are very different people who chose very different paths in life, but I could have rattled off a dozen things we still had in common. I was also shocked by the random cruelty of her statement. She made a unilateral decision that completely changed a relationship that still held meaning for me, but I held my tongue. Had I still been in my 30s, I would have argued with her, but instead I numbly made it through dinner and never called her again.

We are still in touch occasionally online but, after sitting with this new reality for a while, I realized I was very grateful I had become the person who could just walk away. I also realized that I did not miss her need to offer unasked-for advice and I no longer had to work around her high anxiety, which I never spoke to her about but which I found wearisome.

Should she come back into my life, I know I will be grateful for that as well, because I do miss her and sometimes wish I could tell her something funny or recommend a book I know she would enjoy. For the present I am simply grateful that I care about all this a lot less than I expected.

That, I think, is the point of practicing appreciation. It makes for a more graceful existence and leaves space in one’s head for other things, other friends, other experiences.

And so, on Thanksgiving Day, I will publically acknowledge my hosts and give thanks for my daughter but, in my head, I know I will also be grateful that my frail mother is still with us, that my knee is being replaced in the spring, that my work situation is better than last year, that my health is improved, and that the Democrats reclaimed the House.


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