There truly isn’t room in our house for one more sock or one more spoon. We are full-up, twenty-some years later. Drawers and cabinets tend toward clutter, making consideration of their opening a hazardous, risk-filled adventure. I live with a perpetual and yet weak willingness to attend. But this weekend, the perfect storm emerged—conditions for declutter manifested!
Since my spouse was traveling, I found myself in an interesting dance between full-bodied reclining relaxation and energetic hyper-focused projects. As one super-engaging project would complete itself, I would be effortlessly led to serious porch resting; the cycle then would repeat itself. Fun was had, and some tidiness did materialize.
Deep in the belly of a bedroom dresser drawer, snuggled inside a squared and stained, pink-bordered pocket handkerchief of my dad, I found this note. This is me, blogging from a younger moment. My mother’s script in pencil beneath says, Written when Nan was about 6 or 7. Let me translate the note for you.
Dear Mother and Dad
This note I am writing
To you is to remind you
That I am thankful for
A lot of things. I am
Thankful for my gairt (guitar, I was a cowboy-wanna-be, obsessed with guitar playing)
and for my ampfier (amplifier, I was also a rock-star-wanna-be)
Aspiasle for your love. (especially)
Who is this child?
I adore her. How did she/I know, at that age, to sink into gratitude? How come, a thousand years later, as a default, I habitually lapse into what isn’t happening, constricting and tightening down on the moment, literally stopping the flow of breath and life through my body? How did this little girl, at whatever age, know that gratitude softens, opens, invites our connection with the flow state?
In the past, when I would attend a 12 Step meeting whose topic was announced as gratitude, I would feel an initial, slightly condescending disappointment, like, I am too spiritually evolved to hear about gratitude. Inevitably, despite myself, the meeting would become a powerful, heart-opening realignment. Inevitably I would leave feeling lighter, happier, more in the solution than before.
We know today that gratitude has a direct impact on lessening depression. We know that it changes the chemistry of the brain by directly activating brain regions associated with the neurotransmitter, dopamine, which helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.
Gratitude feels good! It feels better than negativity, entitlement, guilt, or whatever else its opposite might be in your world.
Let’s consider gratitude as a practice, rather than a random occurrence. Perhaps we have more responsibility to create the circumstances in which gratitude can emerge than we think. Perhaps we can partner with gratitude to literally, with skill and intentionality, change our brain and our moment. This sounds like fantastic opportunity today, as I sit with a brain that seems to be creating some mischievous friction with the moment.
I remember, early on in my sober journey in NYC, sitting on a rickety folding chair in yet another church basement—for a Jew, I’ve been in more than my share and every single one has blessed me! I remember listening to a woman share about gratitude. She talked about how she began the day with a prayer of thanks, for all she would be given in that day, no matter what it was. I sat bold upright!
Shouldn’t you wait and see what it is, before being grateful. I thought. What if something bad happens?
Surely, I heard her wrong.
Garnering up an emerging willingness to look at another person and speak actual words, I asked her after the meeting about her sharing. I remember her face. I can see her eyes. She affirmed what I heard—yes, she said, gratitude for the day before it begins.
This was a life-shifting moment for me. I practice this prayer of pre-determined gratitude.
How might we create the circumstances in which gratitude emerges?
- Starting the day with a prayer of thankfulness for all that we might be given in that day, no matter what it might be
- Journaling three things that worked well in the day and why they did
- A consistent gratitude list written or shared at night
What do you think? What about you? For what are you grateful? What worked well today, and why? Can you open the day with a prayer of gratitude for however that day might unfold, no matter what you are given? Folks out there in the peanut gallery of blogosphere (redundant?), keep me posted. I am firstname.lastname@example.org
Let’s end our time together with a moment’s breath, a moment’s remembrance of all we have in our lives.