I never believed in gratitude as a practice. I was offended by the idea that you could conjure it up out of nowhere. I pretty much believed you either had it or you didn't—like unicorn blood, as a friend of mine likes to say. Then when I hit bottom and started to bounce back up a few years ago, it was suggested that things would go a lot better for me moving forward if I tried to look for some stuff every day that I could be happy about or thankful for. Because no matter what's going on that makes me unhappy or scares me or feels insurmountable, if I stay focused solely on the garbage, that's what my brain will be and generate and look for: negative, broke-down, self-fulfilling prophecy garbage.
I am not the wide-eyed gratitude convert that I was when I wrote this post, and part of me really wants to punch me-then and see how grateful I am for that. But things are called practices for a reason, because when you practice a thing for awhile, chances are you get better, or at least it becomes more automatic. Most of our lives are habit, really, good or bad. Four years of including the notion of gratitude—or thankfulness, or appreciation, or whatever else you want to call it if you hate the g-word—in my mind and looking for what brings it to me have made a tiny dent in 42 years of negative thought processes that conspired with an addictive gene to kill me. I can say that for sure.
I still complain and I still see the dark sides of things. I'm sure I'm not always fun to be around. But I try to be grateful about something every day. I try to see what I've got instead of picking at the edges of what I don't. I remind myself that I have resources. I have a house and a car and clothes and food, basics that so many people lack. I'm not dead or drunk or interested in being either. Some good people love me and I love them.
These might seem like low bars to some people, like they did to me four years ago, when all I wanted was more more more, and especially not to feel any of the things I was feeling or to do any of the things I was doing, really. But for more people than the average person can maybe imagine, this bar ranges from plain old normal to really high. It's impossible to ever hit or they did and then it went away and they can't get it back. I can and absolutely, unfortunately do get caught up in the nonsense both real and imagined of life, because I'm human and that seems like one of our more consistent hobbies. I can forget the good things. But when I catch the bigger picture, I remember, as many an Etsy store print says, that there is always, always something to be thankful for.