Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Gratitude List

I have developed the impression that ‘gratitude’ is sort of an old-fashioned idea or is seen (particularly amongst the stiff-upper-lip Brits) as a bit soppy or perhaps it’s seen as somehow subservient. Popular culture tells us we’re entitled to all the good we get. I won’t argue with that concept, but if one never registers any gratitude, what use is the good in our lives? In the absence of gratitude we are condemned to a life of discontent.

Some friends taught me long ago that it was a good practice to periodically write a gratitude list and to carry it with me, even, for frequent referral in bad times. I’ve written most of my gratitude lists when I was at my lowest; sometimes I had to dig deep to find anything for which I was honestly grateful, but finding one or two things at first, others rolled along. The longer my gratitude list, the more I felt bolstered up against the present troubles. It enabled me to spend more time looking at the good than at the bad and that was a big source of strength.

Compared with other times, my life is brilliant these days and my list could probably go on forever, but walking to my sewing circle this morning, it crossed my mind to think about what I might put on such a list. Today I am very grateful for:

1. Having Bill in my life. He is probably the most thoroughly decent man I’ve ever met. He also happens to be smart, funny and to share many of the values that I hold. I know he’s not perfect, but he’s one of the best things ever to have happened to me.

2. Having had the family that I did, particularly my parents. I grew up knowing that I was very loved and wanted. This isn’t a gift given to every child. They weren’t perfect either, but they gave me wonderful things like time and patience, work ethic, respect for others, permission to be myself. I could add each of these individual endowments and many others to my list. I don’t have a lot in common with my remaining family (my parents’ lifestyle was fairly bohemian in the midst of the Bible Belt), but I know we love one another and pull together when it counts.

3. I enjoy good health. Some of it is down to my efforts, but a lot of it is a gift. I have my sight and my hearing (such as they are) and all the other faculties one needs to enjoy a full and active life. Although afterwards I felt like I’d been rolled down a hill in a barrel, as of last night I can still run as far as 7 miles even if it takes longer than it used to. My asthma, if that diagnosis is correct, is more of a nuisance than a major threat, at least for the time being. There is an endless list of afflictions I am grateful not to have.

4. It’s generally always a mistake to compare ourselves with others, but if I’ve learned anything from my travels it is to compare myself not with my neighbours or my friends, but on a much wider scale. In that bigger scheme of things I have to acknowledge that I am very wealthy indeed. I have everything I need and a great deal of what I want (and most people I know are actually in that same situation). I could list my home, my car, my clothes – the lot.

5. I have friends that I enjoy, people in my life that I care about. I don’t have as many life-long friends as I might, had I stayed in my home town instead of moving away and then abroad, but I’ve kept a few and made a few more on the way and I’m grateful for the special people who are in my life. Though I may not see them for weeks, months or years, we are in contact thanks to the miracle of the Internet and in my thoughts very frequently.

6. I’m grateful for the life I’ve led thus far, even the parts I didn’t much enjoy at the time. I mostly like the person I’ve become and I love the life I’m living now. I don’t know that, had the past been any different than it was, I would be what and where I am today. After that bit of philosophical reasoning, perhaps it’s clearer to say I feel very lucky to have travelled as widely, had interesting jobs, met interesting people and experienced the things I have. Had I had a different life, made different choices, it may still have been as rich, but the life I’ve had up until now has far exceeded what I ever dreamed about growing up.

I’ll stop here; you get the idea, I’m sure. The next time you feel a bit of dissatisfaction creeping in, I recommend getting out a paper and pen and jotting down your gratitude list. Works every time for me.

1 comment:

Rick Stone said...

Glad to see you on the world of blogging. You can keep up with Joanne and my travels, and other adventures, by going to http://www.oldchief1.blogger.com.