On a walk on the beach with two friends during a recent dance festival in South Carolina we passed a woman who had a medical boot on her foot. Our conversation turned to something like this:
“What a bummer! Hope she isn’t here for SOS. She can’t shag in that.”
“But she has her foot and leg. She is fortunate compared to the bombing victims in Boston.”
“Isn’t that the truth. How horrible!”
“Sure puts in perspective how most of the stuff in our lives is nonsense.”
“We are so lucky. Especially to have our health. To be able to be here.”
For the rest of our stroll we shared heartfelt sentiments about things we are thankful for. We could have gone on indefinitely; we have that many.
Topping our lists, of course: family, friends, health. Way up there: having enough income to live comfortably, living in the U.S., being free in every way. All commonly taken for granted.
It’s the continual deluge of routine good fortunes that go most unnoticed and unappreciated.
Off and on since acquiring a copy of Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance, A Daybook of Comfort and Joy in the mid-‘90s, I’ve kept a gratitude journal. Some entries:
• My car started this morning.
• Storm stopped before I left work.
• Mom called today.
Lately, I would describe myself as an optimist. That wasn’t always the case. A close friend frequently called me “What If” for my tendency to anticipate everything that possibly could go wrong in every situation. In fact, when planning events at work, “What If” was my standard final meeting agenda item.
Several decades ago a different friend jolted me with this frank statement: “Do something about it. Or stop complaining.” Soon after that I made this plaque:
That was also about the time Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking became a major source of inspiration.
My dog-eared copy:
My synopsis of that cherished book: You often can’t help what happens to you but you can control how you react.
A favorite Peale quote: “When you get up in the morning, you have two choices – either to be happy or to be unhappy. Just choose to be happy.”
Finally, I got it. Accept what is, and make the most of it. Life is so much better now.
Chatting on the phone today with a friend, who happens to present motivational workshops, I mentioned that I was writing a blog about gratitude. “Today is all we have, really,” he said, validating these ramblings. Particularly as we age, it’s important to make the most of every minute, we agreed.
From experience I have learned:
• Being grateful brings contentment.
• What you weren’t hoping for or expecting often is better.
• Generally what you fear most does not happen.
• There is usually another way to get it done.
So why be pessimistic?
Since I retired nearly a year ago, gratefulness has come more naturally. I do say, “Thank You, God.” A lot.
Replaying Rhonda Bryne’s CD of The Secret in my car to and from work helped to condition me. Quotes by motivational speakers from The Secret, which is based on the law of attraction and positive thinking, include:
• “Whatever we think about and thank about we bring about.” – Dr. John F. Demartini
• “Gratitude is absolutely the way to bring more into your life.” – Marci Shimoff
• “Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” – Brian Tracy
Then there’s this one, new to me, from Meister Eckhart, a German theologian and philosopher who lived 700 years ago: “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”
Most of my prayers used to start with “please.” Now most start with “thank you.” That truly is the secret.