So, this past Thursday was Thanksgiving day in the United States. It is, of course, a day to give thanks, based on the time many years ago that the original settlers had reaped their first harvest and it began to look like maybe they could do this new world thing after all. I’m quite sure that you’ve all been inundated with emails and blog posts and newsletters about gratitude and giving thanks, but I’m adding mine, too.
I once wrote an article that began, “Watercolors, like earth girls, are easy.” * And sometimes I feel the same way about gratitude. It often appears as the facile answer. Just be grateful and everything you want will appear! There’s numerous Oprah quotes to that end, such as this one: “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”
Part of me rolls my eyes. Because, doesn’t it all seem a bit superficial and simplistic? Yes, yes it does. I don’t know about you, but I’ve closed my eyes and felt deep thoughts of gratefulness and opened my eyes and the world was still the same. Gratitude didn’t change anything.
But another part of me believes. After all, I attend a church that hands out gratitude journals to complete every November. And I have a lot to be grateful for (I won’t bore you with the details, which I mention often here). But mostly, because being aligned with gratitude feels a helluva lot better than its opposite, which to me is getting mired in grumbly crankiness. Cynicism. Because cynicism is cheap, too. Cheaper than gratitude, I think.
I’m for anything that makes me feel better. And, according to Pedram Shojai in his new book, The Art of Stopping Time, “Practicing gratitude is healthy. It helps paint a worldview of optimism and hope. People who practice it are consistently happier—we’ve seen this in multiple studies.”
So there you have it. Gratitude does make you happier. And here’s my bottom line: “to whom much is given, much is expected.” (John F. Kennedy, based on the bible.) Feeling gratitude for what I have reminds me that I have a duty to appreciate it and give it back. For me, the best way to give back is to do what I’m put on this earth to do, which is write.
Then go to it.
And most of all, let’s all be grateful we have the privilege to do this, to express what we want, when we want to. There are many, many people the world over who don’t have this freedom.
*Apologies to any watercolorists out there—my point was that watercolors might look easy in the hands of a master but really aren’t. Oh, and the earth girls reference is to the movie from 1988, in case you weren’t yet born then.
Please do feel free to leave a comment on what you’re grateful for.