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May 6, 2013

Grateful – to be or not to be

This morning I woke up grateful. I literally woke up feeling grateful for a roof over my head, blankets and a pillow, beautiful weather, and a host of other things.

That was today. Friday and Saturday were very different. And that’s what has me thinking about whether it’s genuinely useful to have an “attitude of gratitude.”

To be blunt, I’ve frequently thought that phrase was a load of crap. I mean, sure, I’m grateful for the things I have – who isn’t, right? (Can you hear the attitude I was really living with?) Honestly, I was thinking more along the lines of “Why should I be grateful for something I worked to get?”

Maybe that’s why I can see the difference this time. Maybe that’s why it’s easier to be grateful now than it was before. You see, I didn’t WORK to get what I have now. It was given to me.

It seems reasonable to me that God may have taken everything away just to teach me some lessons about being grateful. Or, more accurately, He let me make choices (we do have free will) that led to this whole situation. And yes, I can say Yvette did this or that, but this isn’t about being mean to her or blaming her. It’s about what I’m learning. 🙂

Friday and Saturday I was not grateful. I woke up feeling negative and didn’t pause at all to be grateful. Even after I was up and doing things, I thought about being grateful but my heart really wasn’t in it.

The result was that I had a bad day Friday, and most of Saturday. And that’s where the lesson came, I think. I realised I had learned something today, but I think the lesson actually happened Saturday. Has that ever happened to you? That it takes a couple of days for it to sink in, and you realise you actually learned something?

Anyway, I just thought it was really crappy that I was upset all day Friday and Saturday. So I went for a walk Saturday afternoon.

There’s something about going for a walk that makes me feel good. Of course it has to do with getting outside, breathing fresh air, and being in the sun, but it’s SO dramatic that it feels a little like magic.

Now, in addition to walking, I also use that time to pray and meditate. Saturday, I prayed and meditated on being grateful.I realised that I wasn’t very grateful Friday or Saturday, and asked myself basically: “Okay. So what DO you have to be grateful for? Is there anything?”

It used to seem stupid, or maybe shallow, to be thankful for good health, or freedom, or a place to sleep. And keep in mind that I’ve been homeless and bankrupt before in my life. So I don’t think it’s experiencing those things again that has given me a greater appreciation for being grateful.

What IS DIFFERENT this time is the people I’ve been able to interact with while homeless.

This time, I had no income coming. I had no job to rely on, and my business was in tatters. That made me completely dependent on the charity of others. Again, not the first time in my life this has happened. So that’s not exactly it, either.

The people who helped me are different. There’s Lorna and Tom, Millie, Karen and Dan, Gordon and Cathy, John and Sue, and the list keeps going. There are a lot of very good, caring people in PADS. They’ve listened as I explained the Getting Happy book project, and they’ve encouraged me to keep going with it.

Their willing support and encouragement is what has opened me to being grateful. I don’t have an explanation for why, but I feel certain it’s what I’ve received from all these people that has made the change in me. Made the change in me possible?

So, it is worthwhile to be grateful? I think it is. When I compare how I felt Friday and Saturday with how I felt yesterday and today – even Saturday evening after my walk – I feel a lot better being grateful.

The real question, I think, is how do you get there when you’re not feeling particularly grateful? Do you have to lose everything before you’re entitled to some epiphany? That would really suck wouldn’t it?

My answer is: Look for something you really enjoy having. Now, this isn’t a “sit in your chair and think” sort of exercise. If that works for you, cool. But I think, if you’re really stuck in a negative place, you probably need to get out and look around.

Think about what would happen if you were in a car accident. They happen all the time, right? So what if you were hurt and couldn’t walk anymore. Really imagine what that would mean to your life. Does that make you a little more grateful for having your health?

At first, you should expect to feel a small amount of gratitude. Being grateful – like riding a bike, using chopsticks, or playing guitar – takes practice. The more often you are grateful, the easier it is to see things to be grateful for.

I know…that sucks because you have to work at it. Work is a four-letter-word. You want some magic bullet or trick so you’ll always be happy and grateful. Well, cranium ex rectum, my friend.

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