What About This Thing Called Gratitude

As you know, gratitude is all the rage these days.  I think it started a few years back when Oprah said on her show that gratitude was responsible for her success, that once she began writing down what she was grateful for, her life turned around.

I've had a rocky relationship with gratitude.

I love the theory of it.  What could be better than to spend a few minutes basking in the glow of all the wonderful things in your life, focusing on all the good you enjoy?  (And, as a brief aside here, do you ever have moments when you are, say, in the supermarket and you look around with wonder at the vast array of good stuff that we have available to us?)

And yet, when I sit down to do this, it feels phony.  For instance, "I'm grateful for the birds singing outside my window."  Well, I am.  They are singing at this very moment as I write this.  But for some reason it sounds sappy and childish to say it.  I've found gratitude lists written a few years back and I cringe when I read them.

So I indulged in gratitude in fits and starts, and generally end up with mostly stops.  Recently, though, I had a breakthrough about gratitude and came to a brilliant conclusion about my rocky relationship with gratitude.

I'd been thinking of it as settling.  As in, settling for what I have, not what I want.  Settling for what I think I should get, instead of getting my heart's desire.  As an example of this, consider a story my friend told me yesterday.  After going through a number of vacuums in the past few years, she finally bought herself the expensive, efficient vacuum she had always wanted.  Her point was that if she had just bought what she wanted in the first place, she'd still have the expensive vacuum because it would have lasted.  Instead, she spent as much on cheaper vacuums which fell apart and had to be replaced regularly.

For me, gratitude was like that cheap vacuum–the second choice, the also-ran, the thing I settled for.  No wonder those gratitude lists sounded sappy when I reread them.

Lately, however, I've been revisiting gratitude.  I'm doing a program with Christine Kane, and one of her practices is called Gratitudes, Gains, and Gifts.  Every night you're supposed to sit down and write down in your journal, the gifts you've received, the gains you've made, and what you are grateful for.  So there are those pesky gratitudes again.  Maybe it is because this time making a gratitude list is paired with looking at accomplishments and serendipities, but at the moment being grateful is a bit easier for me.

I'm still working on it, though. 

One of the biggest things that I'm grateful for is my writing and often I note things related to that, like, "I'm grateful I finally finished that @#$% chapter rewrite."  As a matter of fact, much of my gratitude list is writing related.

So what about you?  What are you grateful for, in your writing or otherwise?  And what do you think about gratitude?

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