Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gratitude

Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough.
~Oprah Winfrey


When I was in my late 20s and going through a transitional period in my personal life, I ran across the quote above--in Reader's Digest, of all places--and it inspired me to begin keeping a gratitude journal. The idea of the gratitude journal is that each day you write down five things for which you are grateful. The entries don't have to be detailed, and you should try to pick different things each day.

Having done this fairly consistently for the better part of a year, I can tell you that it is not always easy to find five things in a day for which you are grateful. You quickly exhaust the obvious things, like good health, family, friends, pets. Some days I could not think of anything beyond the very basic and mundane: air conditioning, Advil for a headache, making one more green light than usual on my way to work.

I do believe that keeping this journal helped me to shift my thinking and to view my life--which, at the time, was far from what I had hoped it would be--in a more positive light. I don't do it consistently anymore, but I do pick it up again from time to time. I also maintain a "gratitude list" on my work computer and look at it when I'm having an off day.

With Thanksgiving Day coming up on Thursday of this week (at least for us here in the U.S.), I have been reading many emails and status updates on Fac.ebo.ok this week about things for which the writers are thankful, and they got me thinking about gratitude. It seems to be typical of most people that we tend to focus more on what we don't have or what is bad or negative in our lives than on what we have that is good and positive. I think this is especially true in a goal-oriented society like ours, where we are always striving for the next thing, the better thing.

This tendency to focus on the negative, or the lack, in life has become more pronounced than ever for me since I realized that TTC was going to be harder, and take longer, than I'd thought and that we might never be successful and have a child of our own. Despite the many good things in my life, I have spent most of the past year or more focusing on what I don't have: my own child.

So allow me, for a moment, to briefly mention all the things for which I am grateful. I'm grateful for having been born in a country where many freedoms are my birthright. I'm grateful to have been raised by two parents and a grandmother who loved me, nurtured me, and never abused or neglected me. I'm grateful to have had a close relationship with my grandmother, who had such a different world view from anyone else in my childhood because she had been born and lived in what was practically another time, having been born in 1903 and seeing the invention of the car, the airplane, television, and more.

I'm grateful for having a sister close to my age with whom I grew up and to whom I am still close. I'm grateful for my little nephew, who may be the closest thing I ever have to my own child. I'm grateful to have good adult relationships with each of my parents and to still have them around as I approach middle age.

I am grateful for our public educational system and student loans, for without them I would be uneducated. I am grateful for having been given the intelligence to pursue my interests and the opportunity to change careers when I came to believe that doing so would be for the best. My education and the jobs I have had have brought the majority of my friends into my life, as well as giving me the ability to be self-supporting and giving me a purpose.

I'm grateful for the many friends I have. After having been something of a social misfit through high school, having a lot of friends was something that for years I could only dream about. To this day, I know a make a greater-than-average effort to keep in touch with my far-flung friends, and it is worth it for me.

I am grateful for my golden retrievers, who bring a smile to my face every single day. I'm grateful that I have the time, the money and the ability to help people who need it.

Last, but not least, I am grateful for my husband MM. We will be celebrating our first wedding anniversary this Saturday, and he commemorated the occasion today by sending a beautiful bouquet of flowers to my office a few days early so that I could enjoy them before the holiday. It's strange when I think of how close I came to marrying someone else, only to meet MM mere months after breaking my engagement. Had I married my ex-fiance, I would never have known MM at all. I can't say that that would have been a tragedy, because I would never have known what I'd missed, but I will say that this may well be one of those instances in life where things happened for a reason. I couldn't imagine anyone more suited to me than MM, and I know he feels the same about me. We fit.

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We will leave early Thursday morning to spend a few days at my father's house in New Mexico for the holiday. I hope anyone reading this has a good Thanksgiving Day, surrounded by loved ones.

4 comments:

  1. Wonderful post...that quote from Oprah (and the general concept) is very powerful. Thanks for sharing it!

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  2. Maybe I should start doing that -- writing down things I am thankful for each day.

    I'll start today with - I am thankful for my husband, he is my rock, and takes better care of me than I deserve sometimes

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  3. This is a beautiful, inspiring post. Congrats on the anniversary and the wonderful DH. I loved the part about being thankful for finally having friends after a tough time of it in high school, this was me too, I was convinced for too long that I would never emerge from the shadows. There is so much to be thankful for, thanks for the reminder.

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