Shadows of Gratitude



My friend Kathy, who writes from her little house in the woods of Michigan’s upper peninsula, yesterday wrote about gratitude.

She was inspired by the writing of two others, and she was pretty inspirational herself.

If I could remember how to link to things, or if I had the stamina to figure it out, I’d link to all three.

It’s an important thing to remember,  to be thankful.

About twenty years ago, my mother was similarly inspired when she heard Sarah Ban Breathnach speak on the Oprah show about her book, Simple Abundance; a Daybook of Gratitude and Joy. She really took it to heart. For the rest of her life, Mom counted her blessings. She had always been one to “look at the bright side” so it was a subtle change, but important to her. Mom gave Breathnach’s book to me and several of my sisters that year for Christmas.  I remember, too, a short but heartfelt lecture about it.

“Just read it, Cindy, and sincerely give it a try! Just give it a chance, and see if your life doesn’t improve…”

I say things like that to my daughters when it seems they are struggling or unhappy. I suggest books or programs that might help to make sense of the chaos their lives seem – to me, from this distance – to be in. Even over the telephone, I can almost hear the sound of their eyes rolling, they do it with such vehemence!

A talk like that was rare from my mother, though, and I listened.

I read the book, as she requested, and started a “gratitude journal.” Not being one to throw away perfectly good paper, I have it still.  It looks like I was pretty faithful about writing down the things I was thankful for  from April 9, 1996 through May 10, 1996. There is one entry in December of that year, then a long interval until July 24, 2001…then February 3, 2002…then February 1, 2005, where the first entry is, “I’m grateful I didn’t let 3 entire years go by without keeping up with this.” Very funny. I kept up the daily practice, then, for another five days. That’s it. I’m not even a quarter of the way through the book!

What is even more startling than my lack of dedication to the task, is my pathetically negative attitude.

I have my moments.

“I am glad to have two beautiful, sweet daughters”

“…my friends and family”

“…my grandchildren”

These sentiments repeat frequently enough, as well as gratitude for a package, a letter, a good book, a sunny day, a fresh snow, a warm cat curled beside me, the arrival of Girl Scout cookies…

I’m grateful that I at least noted these good things because mostly my gratitude journal is shameful.

“I wasn’t totally depressed today”

“I’m so glad the tire didn’t go completely flat”

“My hair looked okay for a change.”

“I did not sit home alone feeling sorry for myself tonight”

“I’m glad I left the party before I got even more depressed”

“I am grateful to have made it through the day”

“I feel okay today”

“I’m glad the green paint doesn’t look so bad on the bed frame”

This is like the “Dark Side” of gratitude!

It’s no wonder I didn’t keep up with it…I was horrible at it!

Freshly inspired by Kathy’s enthusiasm, I think I’ll try again.

I still have plenty of pages to fill, after all!

7 responses »

  1. I, too, read Kathy’s post. I don’t think I commented on it though. Seeing the good and being grateful can be hard, especially if one doesn’t have enough brain chemicals to do it. But with some discipline recording, or even reciting, thankfulness can become a habit. Once a habit it might actually take and become a regular way of thinking rather than a daily struggle to recall what you’re thankful for that day.

    Keep up that gratitute journal and let us know how the light begins to shine a little more brightly in your world.

    • Thanks, Sara! I can see that I’ve come a long way already from 1996, as far as general good humor and knowing how to get out of a funk if I start to fall into one. And I think I have learned to notice and appreciate the good things around me. It wouldn’t hurt to practice writing it down though. It was awfully fun going through those old writings and seeing how much I’ve changed. Thanks for reading, and for your comments!

  2. I think Kathy’s post inspired a number of people. How cool that you are taking up her challenge and that your mother persuaded you to start a gratitude journal a while ago. I should try something similar. I had to laugh at the kinds of entries you made–being thankful that the tire didn’t go completely flat. LOL Thanks for sharing your inspiration with me this morning, Cindy!

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    • Kathy, I always look forward to hearing from you! I hope your cold is gone, and that you’re enjoying Springtime and having all you treasures around you, now that your giant crate has arrived. Thanks for finding the humor in this…I certainly was laughing at myself, reading through my doom and gloom moods!

  3. Cindy, I was sitting on the couch–ready to go off for a walk with a friend very soon–but suddenly felt inspired to come over to your blog. So enjoyed reading this, and your sharing about your mom’s gift to you. Smiled, thinking of the eye-rolling between mothers and daughters. Have been thinking a lot about why gratitude practices go strong and then taper off. Was mentioning to someone that last time I got bored with it. (How in the world can we get BORED with practicing gratitude?) But something wanted equal time for whining and snarling and negativity, perhaps. This time I’m trying to stay present to the “hidden gifts” within even the more negative emotions. If something is arising negatively, there must be a hidden gift within. What is the negativity trying to say? And how can I love it so it blooms? That is the question… So glad you shared this precious post. It made it very “real” that you shared your challenges as well as your successes. Blessings, Kathy

    • Thank you, Kathy, for these generous thoughts. You make good points about staying present. I know there is a part of me that equates cynicism with worldliness or intelligence, and that puts a negative spin on the “Pollyanna People” who ALWAYS see the good in everything. That doesn’t mean that I should never see the good in anything! I do not have to be afraid to just be happily present in this moment. It doesn’t mean negative things can’t happen…but just that fear of the bad should not replace appreciating the good. That’s where I am trying to be. Thanks for reading, and for your comments!

      • Sometimes I’ve noticed that we sometimes try to shield ourselves from more pain by qualifying our appreciation. We think we’re preparing ourselves in case it all “goes to hell in a handbasket”. I know that’s a strategy I’ve used in the past.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s