The best life does not require fealty to feelings in the name of authenticity, but rather rebelling against negative impulses and acting right even when we don’t feel like it. Arthur C. Brooks
A friend of mine posted a lovely essay from the NYT about gratitude (here). The exact headline is “Choose to be Grateful” suggesting that the emotion we feel when we are thankful is actually something we can control. We can choose to be surly, unappreciative, misanthropic. Or we can go toward the light.
The problem, at the least the problem for me, is that it’s a choice I have to make continually – not just once and it’s done. And for me (and maybe for other people) that can be a struggle. It’s not that I don’t appreciate my life and the many things, tangible and intangible, that I give thanks for. It’s more that I don’t always look on the sunny side and dammit I compare myself with other people and other lives and see where things fall short..
Instead of saying, “Wow, I got this opportunity.” I’m just as likely to say “Wow, I got this opportunity. And why did SHE get this opportunity, and that one, and that one too?”
That said, paying attention to gratitude is a strategy I’ve relied on to get me through some dark times. The cliche’d gratitude journal has seen me through stints in my personal bleak house. As the article suggests, there’s scientific evidence that acting grateful moves one to BE grateful, your brain actually generates more positive emotions. So I was cognitively on to something – a self-help tool to lift a seasonal depression.
Our Thanksgiving was different this year. Well it’s different every year but this year we were missing a close friend who had taken his own life earlier in the year. It was so very odd not to celebrate with Nick, drinking a bubbly and eating oyster dressing. Whatever gratitude he may have had could not overcome his personal struggle. So we lifted a glass in his honor, grateful for the time we had spent with him..
The seasons remind us that life lives on fleet feet. But there’s always enough time to take give a hearty thanks for what we’ve got. I’m going to try to double down on my gratefulness and do so as gracefully as possible.
PS Thankful to Patti for her regular Visible Monday feature. Heading on over to join the fun.