I posted this image on Instagram last month, and then also on Facebook, for Thanksgiving. My caption was something about how I made this because it's true, which it is. Unable though I am to trace the origins of my distaste for the words "gratitude" and "grateful" I assure you, the revulsion is real.
It's not that other people's happiness makes me uncomfortable. In fact, there's nothing I like more than the sound of someone laughing from the furthest reaches of their toes. Not even sushi. Maybe warm chocolate chip cookies.
Something about those two words, though, rings false to me. Saying that I’m grateful feels like a performance. It feels abstract. Were someone to ask me what I’m grateful for, I’d probably list The Big Things - my family, my health, my many blessings. (Shall we also discuss the word blessings? Perhaps we'll save that for another day...)
And don’t get me wrong - I appreciate The Big Things. But appreciating them doesn’t do the work I need it to do. It doesn’t help me tune into my present situation. It doesn’t help me distinguish the things that are working in my life from the things that aren’t. It doesn’t help me feel an emotional connection to the day-to-day, nitty-gritty, in-the-trenches circumstances of my life.
Case in point? Bacon. Each and every time I taste a slice of bacon I feel warmth and contentment and desire and satisfaction and happiness, yet I feel truly silly saying that I’m grateful for bacon.
And if gratitude doesn't have room for bacon, if it doesn’t help me notice the way eating bacon makes me feel, then it doesn't work for me.
What does work for me is simply to list (on paper or in my head) whatever awesome things I can come up with from my life, in whatever order they come up and with special attention to specific sights, sounds, people, experiences, tastes, thoughts, etc.
Today that list looks something like this:
- having my nieces over to play with my kids
- having the first orange tic-tac I’ve had in probably a decade
- the sound of the kids laughing
- the sound of the kids arguing
- wool socks
- soy lattes
- crow pose
- working on the letter L in my newest font
- rainbow markers
- my favorite podcast
- pears for lunch
- the smell of lemons
- my daughter’s footie pajamas
- how warm her hands are when she wears them
- getting through all of my email
- finally (maybe) finishing this blog post, which has been germinating in my brain for a month
- temporary tattoos
- the internet
- the feeling of wearing two sweatshirts at once and a blanket on my lap
- my wood floors, except for the places where nails stick up and tear holes in my socks
- silver foil
- colored tape
- my husband coming home early from work
Sometimes I call it my good list. Sometimes I call it Things That Are Awesome Right Now. Sometimes, like when I’m at yoga and my teacher suggests we think about what we’re grateful for, I mentally pronounce it gRADitude and think of things in my life that are super rad.
I guess it just makes more sense for me. It works. I can use it without feeling fake, or embarrassed, or abstract. I can use it for bacon.
After all, I want my gratitude to be something I can use with abandon. Something I don’t need to worry I’ll waste if I use it too often. Something that I can use to appreciate orgasms and swear words and the dance from Gangnam Style. Something that can handle sarcasm and bacon and my very particular love for phrases like “nerf turret” and “man tassels.” Because those are the good things. Appreciating those things brings me joy and contentment in my actual-real-life. Appreciating those particulars brings me back to my self and out of the constant swirl of comparison to others (Is my gratitude pure enough? Big enough? Am I grateful for the right things? Am I grateful for everything?). It allows for the fact that I don’t need to be grateful for everything as long as I am grateful for some things.