“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying, thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.” Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love.
An abundance of gratitude essays have found their way into blogs and e-newsletters across the land. Griping Your Way to Gratitude by Juliet Funt (JulietFunt.com) wrote one of my favorites. Humorous and honest, Juliet candidly acknowledges it’s not always easy to nurture gratitude in tough, even tragic, times. “It has been my experience over and over that after I am heard and witnessed in what is difficult, gratitude can finally flow with more authenticity.”
Griping well: Ever practical, Juliet provides tips for productive venting. If you need to get something out, vent to only one person at a time. Be careful not to get stuck in ruminating about complaints and grievances. And, consider griping twice — “once to get the story and feelings out;” and once to engage in what Juliet calls “Constructive Complaining” with the person who can do something about the problem. (Check out her website and e-news for more!)
Practicing gratitude: OK, now that you’ve given yourself permission to gripe if you need to, how do you add in gratitude? Like shooting hoops or playing the piano, we get better with practice! This point was brought home at our Thanksgiving table. On each plate, before we passed the food, we found a gratitude card and a glitter pen for writing and drawing. Family members made lists, wrote poems, drew pictures and shared. Not that it was a competition, but my two nephews, ages 8 and 10, outshone all of us with their enthusiasm & creativity. When I commented on this to their mom, Terri, she said, “we’ve been practicing!” Starting last summer, each night at dinner they write entries in a gratitude journal. At first, Terri said, the expressions of thanks were the obvious things you expect (or hope for) — family, friends, the dog, chocolate. But as the days went on, it was obvious the boys were thinking about gratitude, collecting experiences throughout the day to add to the journal at night. The hummingbird nest on the porch. The cloud formation that looked like a clown. They were practicing — everyday.
The Challenge – Accepting Expressions of Gratitude: Sooner or later someone will express thankfulness to us — for who we are, for something we’ve done. How often do we push that away — or counter it under our breath? “Oh, that was no big deal.” “If they really knew me, they’d never say that.” What if we simply said “thank you?” What if we made the effort to mindfully take in and accept their appreciation of what we have offered to the table of life? A sweet practice to add to living gratefully.
The philosopher Cicero called gratitude the parent of all virtues. Interestingly, modern psychological research affirms the wisdom of the ages, finding the practice of gratitude associated with happiness and helpful in managing stress. If you are unsure of where to start, try griping your way to gratitude, practicing gratitude, saying thank you. Let the words of Albert Schweitzer inspire, “each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
*Originally published in the Orange Cat Newsletter
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