"Could the secret to a fulfilling life be that simple?" I thought to myself. "Could it truly be...gratitude?"
I put the book down. I’m turned off a little.
It’s kind of like when I was a die-hard fan of Sia before she became mega famous, and then she became mega famous and I got real hipster about it and started listing to The Postal Service again.
Gratitude is just so popular right now.
And not just your typical please and thank yous. I’m talking meditating to Enya, essential oils slowly misting in the room and whispering “thank you” into the universe.
Gratitude books, gratitude courses, gratitude journals.
OK! OK! You write down what you’re grateful for every morning. WE GET IT, OPRAH.
I remember trying a gratitude journal. I just kept mindlessly repeating things like, “1. My husband, 2. My healthy pregnancy, 3. My parents, 4. Pizza and … 5. Preparation H. Definitely Preparation H (refer back to No. 2).
But what I was really focused on was how grossly hot it was outside, that Ebola was making a comeback and how my thighs were rubbing together when I walked.
I was unpacking my office when I stumbled upon “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. I didn’t even know I owned the book. I have no idea where I got it, but I felt compelled to stop, sit and read. The book is about the spiritual importance of gratitude — but expressed in a way where it finally ticked the “Aha” box in my mind.
No matter how doused I am in blessings, it’s never quite good enough. And no matter how much good I encounter in a day, it’s a bit unfortunate how easily it can all be made irrelevant by the person who cut me off in traffic, the Facebook’s “trending” list and Starbucks putting way too much cream in my cold brew.
What’s our deal?
Go into your Facebook feed right now. Read the comments, especially on news stories. Everyone is on a misery slip and slide with no intention of getting off any time soon. Some people even seem to be enjoying it.
Think about the Adam and Eve story. They had everything they could have possibly wanted, but still felt entitled to more. And this one thing — the ingratitude of it all — separated them from love.
So maybe there is something to this gratitude business. Could one, at least eventually, find pure joy by focusing on goodness?
Even in the midst of sadness or grief or injustice?
As a parent, there’s so much I want to control for the emotional and physical safety of my girls. But no matter how controlling I can try to be, I’m really in control of so very little.
So what if gratitude is the starting point, the foundation where light can overcome the dark? The place to run back to when the atrocities of men like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby are revealed and it all feels so hopeless?
Maybe it’s gratitude that gives us the strength to push forward to create lasting change when our children are afraid to go to high school, people of color are afraid to get pulled over and women have to endure the unwanted sexual advances of men in power.
It shouldn’t be so simple. But what if it is?
All I can do is try.
So I hold my Poppy in my arms and breathe in her sweet puffy red hair and rosy red cheeks, and I feel gladness. I hold my Lucy’s hand in the parking lot and I feel so thankful for the simple love exchanged between us. My husband and I laugh at a stupid joke and my heart knows it’s all good. I put butter and salt on a yellow potato and rejoice.
And there, joy can be found. Strength can be conjured. Compassion emerges.
Surprisingly, I find a renewed energy to finally give a crap enough to stop complaining and actually do something. OK, fine. I DO GET IT, OPRAH.
Took me a few years, but it’s finally clicked.