What Does Gratitude Look Like? (Part 1)

As December crunched onwards, I was thinking about The New Year. You know – should we or should we not make resolutions? Should we try one of those do something for the whole of January things? Choose a word for the year and munch on it the whole year through? I started to get myself in a bit of a tizz about it – I really really really wanted to start this year strong. Really.

But of course, I started think about gratitude. Because gratitude was the strategy that was getting me through having visitors for Christmas – gratitude for family, for understanding, for skills, and memories, and the ability to recognise that I just needed some space. I even did one of those “come up with 50 things you are grateful for in 10 minutes” things, but never got around to posting the list. (Maybe tomorrow.)

And I thought, maybe 2016 can be my year of gratitude. It’s a noble sentiment, and I could immediately picture myself living through my days with a slight smile on my face, whispering to myself that yes, even in this, there was gratitude. Pollyanna would be eating my gratitude-inducing dust. (Pollyanna was a girl from a childhood story, who despite being very hard-done by spread cheer all about by virtue of her overwhelming thankfulness).

And then, life. I had one of those awkward and unmentionable hospital examination things – the one where you eat a severely restricted diet two days before, and then very limited fluids (plus not-so-lovely medicine) the day before, and then nothing on the day (with the added bonus of mine being scheduled in the afternoon. Brightspark, I am.) So I was fine and dandy on day 1 – after all I like eggs and cheese. Day 2, I was determined to be grateful. Hungry, frustrated but Pollyanna eat my dust grateful, you know. Because I had so much to be grateful for, and I knew it. I couldn’t see it, but I knew it. So I stared at The Dude when I came down the stairs to the smell of his pizza, and was determinedly grateful that….

Determinedly grateful isn’t really a thing, I don’t think. Sometimes, when you are pushed to your absolute limit, and you know things are going to be tough for at least a little while longer, trying to find gratitude in that experience, is a waste of energy. So the preparation for the awkward and unmentionable thing was useful because it got me thinking about the way I was thinking about gratitude.

Because, truth be told, I didn’t finish reading the Pollyanna book. I don’t want that kind of overly sweet gratitude in my life. I don’t want to be grateful because I ought to be grateful. I want a gratitude that is real. Substantive. That actually enriches my life, rather than drains my energy from the effort of it. Like a good seed that will grow in the soil of my heart. Not another obligation to show what a Nice Person I am.

Gratitude, like happiness, is a reflective emotion. You find it in moment of reflection, not in moments of action. So you look back, or forward, or at where you are now, and you can find a little spot within that says “I am grateful.” Sure, we can say “I am grateful for this, or for that” but maybe, sometimes, we need to just say “I am grateful.” And stop there.

I am grateful.

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