I had read somewhere that it’s good to keep a gratitude journal. We forget how many great things there are in our lives and when you start jotting them down and really get introspective about even the littlest of things, it is amazing how all the terrible things in life don’t seem as bad. Gratitude can surprise you. Once you start seeing things in a positive way, you can make almost anything seem like a gift. At first, it is difficult to get to the things that matter. My journal started off like this:
I am grateful for air – I need it to breathe.
I am grateful for food – I need it to live.
I am grateful for water – it is what my body is 80% of.
Then, after listing five pages of life-sustaining needs, I became angry with my journal (as you probably already are) and decided I needed to dig a little deeper which made me think of animals. Don’t ask me why. I am weird sometimes.
Animals don’t talk. At first, I thought, Oh, that’s a shame, poor things cannot communicate to us. But then I thought, If some people are annoying, think about how bad it would be to come home from work and listen to your dog or cat tell you what it did all day long. First, your pet would berate you for not paying enough attention to it. “Well, it’s about time! It seems like you have been gone forever. I have no concept of time and I am ageing faster than you, you would think you would want to spend as much time with me as you could. Why did you even get me? To pet once in a while? Oh! Thank you, master. Look, I am bored. I have this one flea that is driving me nuts. I give and give and give. I am your best friend, I love you unconditionally, and what do you do for me? Oh, you feed me. That same boring food every day. I see what you eat. You think I am stupid? I know there is variety in your meals, but I, for some reason, don’t deserve anything but this monotony.”
Then the animal would go into a longwinded, boring monologue about the day. “Okay, this morning there is this bird outside chirping and chirping and chirping and so I start barking, right? And the bitch woman who walked by screams, “Shut up” to me. She doesn’t tell the stupid bird to shut up, just me. So, I barked a few more times just to piss her off. I mean, she cannot tell me what to do, you know what I am saying? I hate her. Then, I heard something a few streets away, so I started barking again- and guess what? Yep, she started yelling at me again. It is not like she doesn’t make noise of her own. She has this loud music playing on this thing called “phone” I think. They yell constantly and when they do people cheer and applaud. Give me a break. I am supposed to just lie around and make no noise? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I am just in a bad mood. I think I will just have a biscuit and head to bed… Oh, can you get it for me?! I can’t get it myself!”
It turns out the main reason I love dogs is that they don’t talk.
Before my gratitude journal began, there were things out in the world that I wished never existed, like mosquitos. Mosquitos, especially at night, are the most annoying thing I can think of. I know there is some scientific explanation for why even the mosquito plays a part in balancing out nature but doesn’t make up for the fact that many times I have spent the better part of what was supposed to be a good night’s sleep hunting those bloodsuckers down. Then I thought, “Wait a minute… that’s what being grateful is all about. It is about the mosquito and the fly and other bothersome creatures. If we didn’t have them, what would I complain about?” Who wants a world where there isn’t a reason to complain?
There are people in this world who never complain. “Hey, you know Chris’s girlfriend, Anna? She never complains about anything. Isn’t that great?” What am I supposed to talk to her about? Eventually, that is how people bond. What a boring relationship if every conversation went, “You like humidity? Me, too.”
“I love when mosquitos bit me, it reminds me I am alive!” “You know what doesn’t bother me? Frostbites… Yeah, it makes me forget I have fingers for a while.”
Small talk would be impossible. Small talk is something I used to dread. Now, since I have found ways to be grateful, I realize that without small talk people at parties would just stare at each other and eat twice as many chips. Now I love to start up a conversation with someone and discover, through small talk, where they live. How fascinating.
“How long have you lived here?”
“Oh, for about five years.”
“Isn’t it nice?”
“We love it.”
“Great. I am gonna go talk to that guy over there about how unseasonably cold it is this summer.”
“Okay, I should probably stand by the meat platter and discuss where to buy the freshest vegetables.”
“Isn’t it fantastic we aren’t just staring at each other?”
“Yeah, this is a really good party.”
My gratitude journal is turning out to be an exercise in tolerance. I stubbed my toes on my table and realized I should wear shoes inside. My dog knocked over my plant and it made me hang all my plants. Now I have more room for books and candles!
Gratitude is about taking that frown and turning it upside down. How can you turn a frown upside down when it is already down? It should be upside up. Gratitude is looking on the brighter side of life, even if it means hurting your eyes. Gratitude is something we can learn from each other if someone will talk to you. Gratitude is appreciating the things we cannot have, like a talking dog.