Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Discipline of Gratitude

November brings with it my hands-down favorite holiday - Thanksgiving.  Food & Gratitude - two of the most beautiful things in life, in my humble opinion.

I heard a phrase that caught my attention a few weeks ago, and knew right away it was a thought/practice I wanted to explore.

The Discipline of Gratitude.

It seems like it deserves capitalization.

What I take it to mean at first glance is to not just take the idea of gratitude lightly - as the latest buzzword or the latest supposed key to instant happiness and contentment.  Keeping a gratitude journal is I'm sure a legitimately awesome tool for a lot of folks, but it can also turn very rote very quickly (or even start out that way).

We who are blessed to have enough in our bank accounts to feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves all know in an almost dismissive way that we have a lot to be grateful for, and that everything else is all the small stuff.  But in the thick of day-to-day life, the small stuff becomes the big stuff, and we do sweat it.  In that context, it can be easy to write down that we're grateful for the Basics, but how often are we stopping and reflecting and feeling not just gratitude for it but feeling humbled with gratitude?

I've been pondering similar things a lot lately with my foot injury.  It hurts much more than I wish it did today, and since I'm waiting very impatiently for MRI results, my mind is left to its own worrying, worst-case-scenario-writing, self-pitying devices.  The discipline of gratitude, to me, seems entwined with the notion of perspective.

As my beautiful friend Laura often will remind me - we do not live in Aleppo.  There is almost no problem that we are facing in our blessed, blessed lives as New Yorkers - who, while struggle to make rent, are not living in poverty by any stretch of the imagination - that even compares.  The same idea of perspective, in my more mentally composed moments, is what reminds me that even if it takes much longer than I want it to (like it already has), I will get better.  Even though I struggle with the financial burden of my medical care and the work that's sacrificed, I have access to medical care and I can still do some work.  Even though not being able to walk normally/without pain is crushingly dispiriting, it's not like I'm going to lose my foot.

It's so hard to have the perspective that it's temporary, and sometimes I don't even want to admit to myself that it is because I'm stuck in that negative loop - and sometimes the negative mindset you know is much more comfortable, even when it's making you miserable, than the very frightening idea of hope and positivity.

There's a lot more I want to say about the discipline of gratitude, but - there's a lot more November to go.  I'll close this blog by taking the opportunity again to wish my beautiful big sister the happiest of birthdays!  I never have to dig deep to remember how grateful I am that she is my sister.

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