I’m not as thankful for brutal honesty as I need to be.
I’m not as thankful that my taste buds still work as I need to be.
I’m not nearly thankful enough that people don’t see me as a flaming buffoon.
I’m not thankful enough to slow down and live, as opposed to acknowledging the hovering anxiety that stays by my head.
I will fuss about how crazy I drive my own self, but I don’t often thank the person in the mirror for the work that goes into keeping me sane.
Thanksgiving as a verb is not merely for gods, it is for one another. Gratitude toward that which is needed is an ancient tradition. The hunter thanks the beast for the meat. The ant thanks the child for not stepping on it. The sleeping person thanks one awoke for draping a blanket over chilly feet. I am thankful – head bowed thankful – that there are living, human beings considering the words I write here.
The common thread here is thanks without full knowledge of giver and receiver, thanks that carries itself through its actions and effects, actions speaking louder than words because for the most part we are communicatively inefficient, mumbly, incoherent things.
How to practice gratitude? Just look around!
Make it Opposite Day. Where we’re usually unobservant or unmindful, be observant and mindful.
I’m not thankful enough that my sisters-in-law are bright, caring people. Not thankful enough that my boss doesn’t try to work out personality issues via his position. Not thankful enough that I can hold a child or fifty pounds with equal ease.
I’m not thankful enough for me, myself and I, ‘cause, dammit, I’m pretty cool. Falsity is a b*tch. If you’re not thankful for who you are and what you’re giving, then who are you and what are you giving?
Me, I wear lots of hats and I’m thankful that my head is malleable. I’m even able to stare God straight in the face and say, “Thank you for my life.” Period. Not thanks for the awesome gift of life itself, but thanks for the particular bit of living I’m immersed in right now. My life.
Thanks for where I’ve kissed, held hands, cried, made babies smile, kept peace, shown errors, killed when necessary (bugs and wee beasties, sorry), eaten marvelous pizza, made people feel loved and my lovers know love, held on at all costs, roared in vain, been bored to freaking tears, despised all of humankind, marveled at Prince in concert, watched the last breath of life dry in my father’s lungs, and I have walked, walked everywhere. By sinew and determination my legs have carried me.
But I can’t say thanks for everything, ‘cause some things in life just aren’t right. And that’s where the holiday notion of Thanksgiving gets it wrong. Practicing gratitude doesn’t mean being thankful for everything in your life, but rather taking the time to figure out what you need to be thankful for.
I’ll never be thankful for harm coming to a child. For brutality. For intentional ignorance. I’ll never thank any deity for suffering. The day I can’t appreciate a lovely moment for what it is without the precarious balancer of suffering behind it, is the day I lather up in bacon grease and submit myself to the ice weasels.
How does daily acknowledgment of gratitude manifest itself?
What will you notice as you practice gratitude?
So much, and even more besides.
You won’t fret as much about what you don’t have. You’ll notice that particular ghost disappears from your life fairly quickly.
You won’t be as fearful. Not fearless, because this is, after all, a predator world, but you’re not on constant alert for that which could be taken from you, be it esoteric or corporeal.
Time will seem friendlier. Appreciating things on a regular basis means you notice them, and noticing removes you from the luge ride of mortality most of us wind along. Walk, don’t run, to smell the roses.
People will even seem friendlier. When you’re genuinely thankful, you smile more, you shine more, you probably even smell better owing to a difference in pheromone production. Who doesn’t respond well to all that?
You might begin to notice opportunities you never noticed before; even opportunities that never existed before, but do now as a result of the light coming out of your eyes. Others will want to help you and see you succeed because they know you truly appreciate not only their efforts, but them as people.
Your universe becomes more manageable. You’ll find you don’t need everything; that what you have is sufficient for the moment until a change is needed. The accumulation of stuff (sex, friends, emotion, money, food, objects) reveals itself as being inherently counterproductive.
Your mental and physical health trend upward. Conscious gratitude is a form of meditation; it centers you within what is, otherwise, a chaos of desires versus possibilities versus means. Things that used to bother you don’t. Or maybe not as much. Or not in the same way.
The experience of food becomes more than forkfuls shoved into a mouth, and so you’re likely to find – in practicing the daily gratitude of taste, sensation, nourishment, and sacrifice needed to provide your meals – a curious change in your eating habits: you eat less, which in turn might cause you to enjoy the feel and mechanics of your marvelous body as it moves around, which might make you want to exercise, which cycles right back to your mental health! Wonderful!
You become more interesting as a person because you actually notice NEW things. It’s not same in same out, day in day out. Simply being grateful for being outdoors on a nice day opens you to new flowers, new scents, new people, new sounds, new life that might intrigue you enough to learn more about them. That is a huge win!
Practicing daily gratitude will surprise you with an increase in your problem solving skills and creativity. Things that used to daunt you begin to seem imminently elementary. Why? It goes back to the mental benefits. Clarity. When you drill down into being thankful, you notice connections between things, while at the same time burning away the obfuscations of clingy, needy ways.
The biggest benefit? It gets you in touch with you. So many of us barely know what we really like because we’re so busy “grabbing life on the run” that a kiss might as well be a sneeze, an orange an apple, and homemade soup a carnival corndog.
Practicing daily gratitude is a way of using self-reflection as a means of expansion rather than containment. Even simply realizing just how many things are given to you on a daily basis can be eye opening: someone cooked pancakes for dinner so you’d have something pleasant after a long work shift; the elderly cashier at the grocer’s said “Thank you, dear” after you smiled and told her to have a great day; the postal carrier gave you an extra nod as he handed off your bundle; the driver sat patiently rather than make you run to reach the bus before it pulled off; a friend messaged you with a note saying nothing more than “Hi” but saying it totally, specifically, and joyously for you.
It’s not about saying, “Thank you, rock, thank you, tree, thank you, socks, thank you, hot guy holding the elevator for me.” You can be thankful for things in so many interesting and demonstrative ways! Give it a whirl.
If you’re not ready for it every day, all the time, try every other day. Try it at a fixed time, maybe in the morning where you allow yourself a moment to feel good. To express gratitude however you want to express it. Your gut will thank you, your soul will thank you, and whatever vibrations you give off will surely elevate those of the people around you.