In honor of Baby Caleb, who finally, after a very long, tortuous week spent in the NICU, came home with his new parents and is now, thankfully, where he belongs.
So... I'm working on a book these days, a book about Happiness and Coupling. It's been an amazing opportunity to dive into the deep well of new research and ancient wisdom that we've acquired over the ages. Never in my life have I experienced such an awakening. It's made me rethink how I operate, and given me a chance to make some good, healthy adjustments. The results of which have been a spectacular sense of overwhelming gratitude.
That word used to irk me. Actually, that word used to never exist for me. Then, I began hearing it about 10 years ago, and I didn't know what to make of it. People would say things like, "I'm just so grateful for my friends, my family, my dog, my ability to breathe independent of a machine," etc etc. I suppose I, too, was grateful for those things, but I never woulda said it in that way, certainly not out loud.
Little by little, almost without my consent, I began to practice this attitude of gratitude. I did what I was told: I made lists of 10 things I was grateful for before bed each night for a week. This was in sharp contrast to the lists I normally made (about what I ate, how I should exercise, the ever-crowded "to-do" list, my worry about others, and my ability to enumerate all the people I really needed to call or else I was a really bad friend, etc etc). It was a sickness, I'd say. High functioning people often have this disease of compulsive list making. It goes nowhere. It sucks you dry. I don't recommend it. But then, some very clever person figured out that if you substitute out the "shit lists" and replace it with a "gratitude list" you still get the full thrill of list making, but you feel full (of gratitude) in the end, instead of empty (with dread or disappointment).
The feeling of actually experiencing my own gratitude was and still is deeply soulful to me. Turns out, when we let ourselves break out from the shackles of worry and move into a higher consciousness, rising above our base fears into the elevated perspective of enlightened beings that gratitude offers, we feel A LOT better. Hmmmmmm....
All the Greats sight gratitude as key in any life well led: The Dalai Lama has trained his mind to seek it out even in seemingly thankless situations, thanking the Chinese government for occupying his country for 50 years, and thanking every jerk we encounter for offering the opportunity to practice patience and compassion. Natalie Merchant's Kind & Generous??? An entire song about her gratitude! Martin Seligman found a way to teach gratitude training to soldiers as a preemptive defense against and treatment for PTSD. In his book, "Flourish" he says that he was brought in by General George Casey in 2008 to "create an army that is just as psychologically fit as it is physically fit." (Read that quote again, it will blow your mind that a military man said this at a Pentagon meeting during our lifetime!!!) Today, studies of over 800,000 soldiers have demonstrated that as psychological fitness goes up, PTSD symptoms decline. Psychological fitness is defined as resilience, and what fuels our resiliance? Gratitude! (and a few other things).
The ancients have known this, our modern science has proven it, so why do we resist the call of our ever-present gratitude? In my opinion? Because it hurts. When my annoying, overbearing intellectualism finally allows gratitude out of its rigid grasp, and into the Realm of Sensing and Feeling, it's kinda painful. There is definitely an aspect of pain in feeling our full load of gratitude. You can tell, because it often induces tears to form for "no good reason." Pain, that is the reason we avoid this overwhelmingly powerful emotion.
I tell you what, I am grateful Baby Caleb came to this earth. I'm grateful for his first of many teachings to us: Find your gratitude in every scary awful no good rotten situation, and we humans thrive. Our love in our marriages will also flourish! Resilience lies in our ability to seek out both the scant morsels and the lush fields of gratitude in our lives.
I am grateful to you for reading my gratitude rant.