Wednesday, December 3, 2008

on being grateful

I attended a gathering the other night, and at one point we all shared thoughts about what we were grateful for. we had been asked to bring in representations of those things, if we wished, to place in the middle of us all as we shared our stories.
so many similar and different things, people, experiences, and feelings were shared . . . (though I was the only one who said "my bike"), but what I felt during the entire process was that everyone felt gratitude better than I did.
and I think of myself as a pretty grateful person.
but these people were really feeling it, complete with tears and wavering voices and deeply quiet tones.

since that evening I've been thinking a lot about what gratitude really is, and how it's supposed to feel. I've done some research, and I'm still certain I don't have the answer. gratitude is defined in many ways, but most use words like thankfulness, feeling, awareness, and appreciation. "a state of being grateful." and most of these can be accomplished at the thinking level. which is where I seemed to find myself the other night, when everyone else seemed to be someplace much deeper. I felt shallow (not just because of the bike comment), when everyone else seemed to be deeply engaged with their entire hearts and souls.
I wondered if true gratitude needed to involve a deeper connection than what I've been living.
and I'm not much further along with that thought process than I was that night.

today I passed a car that was making a terrible squeaking noise, and I thought, oh, thank you, I am so blessed to not have any car troubles at the moment. thank you, God, for my car that works so well. this is just how I think. and I feel this all the way into my heart, but it just doesn't always seem to be enough. it doesn't come with bells and whistles and hugs and tears, it just comes.

the other night a woman named Emma exuberantly shared her gratitude with us, saying that a year ago she lived without any gratitude at all. she just didn't think that way. and now, she is awash with gratitude and thrilled with living in that place.
perhaps I am just so accustomed to living here that I don't well up with emotion over it? I'm hoping that's the answer, because the only other answer I can come up with is that I'm not genuinely feeling gratitude. and that can't be possible, because I know I am.
so, perhaps I've worked this out now.
perhaps there are honeymoon phases, when one first learns the joy of being grateful. perhaps the intensity of feelings ebb and flow. perhaps we emote differently, though we may be touched just as deeply.

I am so grateful for a million things, and truly, for everything in my life because I know it is all for the best. as difficult as some things are, I know that to trade them would do me a disservice. but the other night I didn't want to wax on about my children, my family, my house, my friends . . . all of those things I am so very grateful for. I went right to the heart of the matter, and jumped in to the biggies.
I already gave you a preview, but, well, the bottom line is that my short list of things I'm grateful for, shared the other evening, was:

my bike
our canyons
my writing

thanks for letting me share those most important things here with you.

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