17 November 2015
Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude. ~ A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
Life is fluid, ever-changing, winding and twisting in unpredictable ways. Sometimes that’s exciting. Other times, it’s scary.
Even though this is so clearly obvious, I often find myself wanting to lock in one kind of experience — one ongoing pleasant, happy, comfortable place. Once upon a time, I actually had the notion that this was possible. That if I worked hard enough and accomplished enough that this was how life would become. I can chuckle over that naiveté now, perhaps a bit wistfully, but actually it was exhausting trying to arrange life and myself into a prefixed image of perfection.
As I wrote about last week, more and more, I’m able to surrender to life’s great spectrum of ups and downs, to stop being in contention with the nature of life and to let life be. When I manage this, a layer of tension eases. I’m more able to respond to what is with more presence, more elasticity and more caring.
Gratitude is helping me with this. Oprah has advocated keeping a gratitude journal for years because she believes it’s so important. She says, ‘The cultivation of gratitude, plain and simple, is the way home—it is the thing that changes your life.’
I’m finding truth here. And also power. Although events beyond my control surround me constantly, my experience is something I can cultivate and curate. Life is a creative project.
And, gratitude is a practice. It’s a way of creating a satisfying and joyful life. It’s not a feeling or an attitude only for the good days. It’s a begin again practice, meaning I will forget, get off track, drop the ball entirely — and then catch myself. And begin again.
Last weekend, I had a wonderful day on Saturday. I went to the farmer’s market with my husband, on a terrific tandem ride with good friends, and pranced around the kitchen to the Dixie Chicks on loud while fixing a new recipe for dinner. Circumstances and events created a state of ebullient happiness within me.
Sunday lurched into a whole different affair filled with worry, fear, wild broncos bucking in my chest.
I was not happy Sunday. But I could find things to be grateful for. Giving thanks for them did not fix the problems, but it did provide me with a cushion.
On the days when happiness feels out of reach, gratitude is a place of comfort. Gratitude for this day. For the text connecting me to a nephew. For the glory of the last sunflowers of the season on my dining room table. For laying down beside my husband at night in the shelter of our home.
Some days it can be tough, but it is this simple. With practice, I’m finding it can become a compass that helps me navigate confusing times, a life jacket when seas are rough. Gratitude provides resilience.
And, it does much more than that.
In her research, sociologist and author Brené Brown has found a strong bond between gratitude and joy. That they are, in fact, inextricably coupled. That joy resides in a sense of gratitude, and that both of them together help us live in a state of open-hearted well-being.
I’m finding this, too. As I practice, I’m building a repertoire of connection to the good in my life. I’m reminded to give thanks for the people and things that create joy for me. I’m creating a network of good news that infuses and warms me, a leavening for both joy and satisfaction.