I remember resolutions I made on the January 1sts of times earlier in my life that involved not doing something anymore, like not eating sugary desserts or not drinking coffee. This year I decided that I was going to try to limit the amount of cable news I watch every day. Not giving it up entirely, even though when I am away traveling and without easy access to a TV I notice that my mood seems lighter and I sleep more soundly. I’m very interested in what is happening politically these days—it seems more volatile and amazing than I ever remember—and seeing and hearing events transpiring at a distance in real time is exciting. Because it is also often frightening and therefore confusing, I am adding the resolve to find a way every day to express gratitude.
I once had a gratitude practice for over a year with a friend who lived in Massachusetts. We resolved to email each other, daily, saying something we were feeling grateful about. We did not comment about each other’s messages. The emails were reports, not conversations. Some days it was easy: The rains have finally arrived. My grandson took his first step and I was there to see it. The course I proposed to the program committee was accepted so I’ll be able to teach it.
There were also days when gratitude was more difficult: The Board meeting was contentious and lasted too long. The highway was crowded because it was raining and also rush hour. I was feeling sorry for myself being stuck in my car. Then I was feeling annoyed at myself for feeling grumpy when at least I have a job and a place to go home to and many people don’t.
Then I thought about how grateful I am now to have you at the end of this email who I know loves me and will not stop doing that even though I was so deluded for so long.
The hard days were the best practice. Over and over, compelled to feel gratitude, I get to have a moment of clear thinking.
These days, in moments of grump, I say to myself: Stop. Get a grip. What’s the bigger truth? The chance to be alive in a world is amazing.