I've been thinking about gratitude a lot lately.
Being one of the more fortunate ones to escape Hurricane Sandy with absolutely no loss at all has reminded me how grateful I am, but I'll get to that.
I was thinking about gratitude before the hurricane hit. It started earlier this year actually. Most specifically, on May 28th.
I had been trying to figure out ways to be more grateful for a couple months. If anybody had asked me at any one time whether or not I considered myself lucky I would say "the luckiest." And if anybody asked me if I were grateful I would respond "very."
I was aware of my good fortune, but it just didn't seem like enough.
Kind of like how it's not always enough to know somebody cares about you, sometimes, or often times, you need to hear it as well.
I felt like the universe needed to hear my gratitude in some way, but more specifically, I wanted a way to be more vocal about it. Not for anybody else, not because I needed anybody else to hear it. I needed to hear it, I needed to hear myself say it.
I just wasn't sure how.
I watched this TED talk earlier this year about a guy named Shawn Anchor who studies Happiness. He talked about an experiment in which they gave people a list of actions to do for 3 weeks and measured their happiness at the end. The participants all stated they felt happier after doing the activities. One of those activities stood out for me.
It was to write down, every night, three things that you are grateful for. He didn't give any rules or parameters, just that you should call to mind three things, and write them down.
I thought about doing it for a while. Too long in fact.
At the same moment, and for an even longer period of time I had been trying to figure out what to do with this book my sister had given me.
It's a beautiful hardcover ruled journal with a quote on the front that says:
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone - Neale Donald Walsch
She gave it to me after my last play, which she came to see on two of the four nights it was up. She gave the book to me as a gift with a wonderful candle that also had a quote on it. It said:
My sister is very supportive.
The candle was easy to use, the book not so much. It was such a wonderful, substantive piece that I didn't want to just fill it with ramblings and drivel.
And then I had an idea: It could become my gratitude book.
So I opened up to the first page and titled it as such.
And nearly every single night that I have been home and slept in my bed, I have written down 5 things I am grateful for that day.
The study said to write down three, but I am so disgustingly fortunate that to write down only 3 would be to ignore so many wonderful things in my life. It would feel like cheating and I wanted to do this right.
And so I've done it. It's the last thing I do before I turn out the light. Sometimes they come easy, sometimes I have to think a little bit. I try not to be repetitive but it's not illegal. Certain things make the book weekly:
I like those nights where I spend more time thinking about it. I think because I feel like I am deriving the most out of the activity. I'm not just shaking off what sits on the top of my head, but actually applying thought, evaluating my life, recapping my day, contextualizing what happened.
Often by the time the end of the day comes were are so excited to get to sleep that we turn out the light moments after climbing into bed.
And for good reason. Climbing into bed is an amazing feeling.
I am reminded of that old adage
The unexamined life isn't worth living.
I like quotes.
I don't spend my nights going over every single moment of the day trying to attach meaning and significance where none was. I'm not trying to fake a feeling or superimpose an emotion. I am just looking for those things in my day I have to be grateful for. I do it on good days, I do it on bad days.
On good days it makes me feel blissful. On bad days it makes me feel lucky.
Very, very, lucky.
And while I've only been doing it for several months, I truly love the exercise. I love how it makes me pay attention to my life. I love how if I go back and read it I might have no idea what happened on that day or what I was doing other than the sun was out and I laughed a lot.
However as the months have ticked by, it, the exercise, is starting to feel like not enough. Maybe it's inflation or heightened awareness, the way running a mile every day for a month makes you think it would be no problem to run two miles, or three miles.
I'm noticing this feeling that I could be doing more to... to show my gratitude.
But showing sounds like such a weird word. And I've also felt it hasn't been the right word.
These thoughts were in my mind, though probably not at the forefront, yet present.
And then Hurricane Sandy hit.
To be continued...