Gratitude (with thanks to Marla)

I follow a blog written by a female named Marla (, and there have been times when her posts have resonated so loudly of familiarity inside my brain that I feel compelled to leave a (what always turns out to be lengthy) comment. Recently, she shared a post about being grateful, and what really hit home for me was the part where she reminds us that we spend seconds in being grateful and then hours finding things to grumble about.

Here is the part that really stood out to me:

“I think humans have a hard time holding on to gratitude. When you have something (or someone) to be grateful for, you spend about 15 seconds being grateful, then the next 9,000 hours stressing over stuff you can’t control.”

“No,” you say, “that’s not me. Maybe someone else, but certainly not me.”

Fair enough. But then again…

You are excited, thrilled, over the moon. Your boss has finally seen your level of output and that you go above and beyond every day. He gave you a raise! You can’t even imagine how you could possibly thank him for recognizing you out of the bunch. You want to take him out to lunch as a thank you. Before you even finish your happy dance, your brain is now ripping through all of your bills to see where this “extra” money is going go. Is it to that vacation you’ve been dreaming of? Those nice shoes? No. Taxes, electricity, car bill. Suddenly, the air has been let out of the balloon, and you deflate. 15 seconds high, 9,000 hours staring at spreadsheets.

You are minding your own business doing the dishes when someone comes up behind you. They whisper, “I love you,” in your ear. You feel a flush of happy-warmth flood you. You are so lucky to have found someone as wonderful as them. You don’t deserve someone like them. They make you a better person. As you gaze lovingly at them as they walk away, your eyes falls on the overflowing trashcan, the right corner of the trash bag has been pulled into the can and is currently below a pile of coffee grounds. The banana peel on top is threatening to topple to the ground. You know you told that good for nothing kid to take it out hours ago. Anger floods you all over again because the argument about the messy room comes back, full force. 15 seconds flushed with love and gratitude, now, you have the next 9,000 hours to contemplate how spoiled your kid is getting.”

My very first feeling was a profound sense of, “Ut oh, I’ve been caught.” And I suspect anyone who has read those paragraphs is feeling like he or she has been called out as well. I’m embarrassed to realize how true I live those reactions. In fairness, my gratitude for things usually lasts for more than 15 seconds (an unexpected compliment can make me smile all day as I rehear it in my brain), but soon enough, there will be, minimally, a return to the “meh” feeling and sometimes even more negative than simply “meh”.

This is a subconscious shift for all of us, not a plan to shift so quickly away from feeling grateful. But why? And what can we do to make ourselves more open to feeling gratitude for longer periods and more often?

Sure, the easy answer to that is to write a list of things we are grateful for. And that’s easy to do if we include the roof over our heads, food on our table, etc., etc., etc. But that’s not something that’s likely to be the solution to keep gratitude in the forefront of our minds (most of us have probably thought about doing this at least once.) Maybe we could keep a gratitude journal and select a specific number of things we will name as grateful for each day. We’ll probably start out with good intentions, but I suspect that we won’t last an entire 30 days before we become bored or it becomes too difficult to think of something new for which to state we are grateful.

As I was writing this and thinking about it, I wondered what would happen if we shifted our focus from tangible things (home, food, etc.) and focused on the actions daily that we did or didn’t take for which we are grateful? Honestly, I don’t know if I could find something in that theme for which to be thankful, largely because I have many days during which I have no interaction with humanity outside of this screen. Nonetheless, there are days when I do have that kind of interaction, and with a little bit of mindfulness, I can find something for which to be grateful. And, to be honest, there have been times that I should stop for a moment and be grateful for times when I didn’t act on a specific thought or emotion. When I think about it, there are often times where someone or something (usually someone) pushes my buttons, and while I may feel the bubbles of anger well up inside me, I am able to control myself from spewing out whatever my reaction is. I mean, when I hold a door open for someone or let someone out in front of me in traffic, I’d like an acknowledgement of some kind and am disappointed when none is forthcoming.

And what if we take it a step further? What if we make, when possible, the effort to share with the other about being grateful and why? (I actually do that at times from an unconscious level.) Now, I’m not sure I want to speak openly to the person who just pushed a button and thank them for allowing me to be grateful for not reacting in a moment of anger (can you imagine the many different repercussions of doing so?), but I should be sharing my gratitude for the times people make me grateful in positive moments. And as I said, I do that often, but not as a conscious thought.

Or, because our lives are always so busy (or so we tell ourselves to keep from adding on additional duties and tasks), maybe setting aside a day a month where, for a certain number of hours, we will sit still quietly and focus on the things we have found over the last month for which we probably didn’t think about being grateful for but which perhaps we should have been grateful for.

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys a morning cup of coffee or tea, those moments where we sit quietly and enjoy those beverages could become our “grateful” moments. Or perhaps, whenever we are stuck in line at a drive-thru, we’ll use that time to focus on what we have for which to be grateful.

And we truly need to ‘think outside the box’ about those things for which we are grateful. I suspect we’ll all be a little bit surprised that we have many people in our lives for whom we are grateful. For example, I have a routine 3-month follow-up appointment with my doctor this week. I am actually looking forward to it because it took me 5 years to find a doctor whom I felt actually listened to me and didn’t treat me by rote for ongoing issues (like my diabetes). Her finger remains on the pulse of my known medical issues, but she also makes time to question what other issues I might be facing and, if she can’t think of something for me to try right away, she makes a note for herself to do some further research before my next visit. I am extremely grateful for that level of care, and more often than not, I end up saying “thank you” when our visit is over. Just announcing my gratitude makes it more conscious to me that I feel it.

Maybe you are someone who is always announcing your gratitude and always aware of the feeling of it. (Most of us are not.) I know that I’m going to become even more aware of things for which I am grateful and, whenever possible, spread my gratitude on to others. I’m hoping that this might even change my focus so that the things that ‘push my buttons’ become less noticeable because I’m too busy focusing on the good!

It doesn’t hurt to try!

Thanksgiving Day, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving Day! Even if you don’t live in the United States where Thanksgiving is a national holiday, having a specific day on which to take time to stop and be thankful is something you can still add to your own traditions.

I’ve started this blog post 3 times, after trashing my first 2 attempts. In March, I made a decision to take a sabbatical from all ‘official’ holidays in 2021. Which isn’t entirely true, I guess. I took a sabbatical from all of the preparations around those holidays that seem to center around food and/or gifts. I felt like I needed to reconnect with what the meaning of each holiday was, not what tangible things were associated with them.

A few years ago, a social media site friend started something where, from November 1st through Thanksgiving Day, we listed one reason daily for which we were thankful. If you ever watched the movie “Miss Congeniality”, you know that, sooner or later, everyone wanted “world peace”; and when those participating couldn’t think of an answer, they just read the posts of others and borrowed one, changing a couple of words.

As those posts came up in my history, I read my answers, surprising myself that I had some good and probably unique answers among mine! But I’m pretty sure I had some “world peace” answers as well, because we all tend to be grateful for certain things.

I don’t know if I could find 25 different things to say I’m thankful for without becoming passe and boring. But I’m going to try and come up with my top five here.

#1. I am truly thankful for our service men and women have had and who are, giving up being with loved ones on holidays in order to be out in the world maintaining our rights and freedoms. While we should be thanking those people each and every day, this year gave me the opportunity to be more reflective on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Patriots Day and Veterans’ Day and the history behind those holidays. I didn’t need a cook-out with friends; in fact, I enjoyed those holidays much more because I gave reference to their true meaning.

#2. I am always thankful that I know and have a lot of positive people in my life who bring me joy in sharing a part of their lives with me. Some are acquaintances, some are friends, falling in categories from casual friends to good friends. And then, there are those great friends and best friends, people who support me and acknowledge me in good times and bad, and who never judge me for what I think, what I feel, what I do.

#3. Though I’ve recently learned that my landlord is someone who will lie in order to ‘cover his butt’, I am still thankful to have a livable apartment, although, the longer I live here, the more I wish I didn’t.

#4. I’m thankful to have savings I can use to replace my beloved car, even though I don’t like taking a chunk from them. And I’m certainly thankful that I have several months in which to find something I’ll be happy with rather than have to settle for something. No doubt, it will be the last car I ever purchase (unless my car is in an accident and doesn’t survive) and even though I only put between 1500 and 2500 on it a year in miles, I don’t want to drive something I’m not happy with.

#5. I am over-the-moon thankful that I have an amazing brother and that we have the relationship that we have. He (and my bestie) gives me advice whenever I ask and sometimes, even when I don’t specifically ask! When he sees that my thinking might be somewhat skewed, he’s willing to suggest the “what if” questions to help me look at something in a different way. The innate trust we’ve been able to build between us is something I know other people don’t have with siblings, and I try never to take it for granted.

My life, when I look at those things, helps put into perspective how much I do have to be thankful for. And so today, when I make a sort of “compact turkey dinner for one”, I will remind myself that, while I am a long way from having everything I want, I DO have everything I need!

Take some time to reflect on the many things you have for which to be grateful, and carry them in your heart every day.


I don’t know if it’s the oddity of the world in 2020 or the realization that, despite that oddity, the clock continues to tick time by and moves me closer to making another revolution around the sun, but I seem to be spending a lot of time reflecting my life – not just this past year but memories that are 20, 30, even 40 years old. People who have passed through my life, who haven’t been thought about in a long while, become vivid again in my reflections. Some of those people have passed on, some of them have simply moved past the place where I fit in their life, or I’ve moved past the place where they fit into mine. I think that’s probably normal and something all of us experience through life, but sometimes I look at those same people all these years later and realize I have used the word “friend” far too liberally in the past; so many of those people were more simply colleagues I enjoyed working with than friends beyond work. Leave the job and we miss a few of them for a while, but we don’t give the effort to remain in the same close touch we had when we were together five days a week…. and what we had in common through that time becomes blurry as we go off and focus on the next step in our lives.

Thinking about all of that also reminds me how often we use the term “love” as a word of adoration or admiration we feel for someone, when, in truth, what sense of “love” we truly have for them is simply loving what it is they bring to our lives. More than once, when my chiropractor has done an especially good adjustment that my body needed, immediately afterwards, when the pain I’d been in is suddenly gone, I’m apt to say, “Oh my god, I love you!” Okay, I do like him, would be honored to have him as a friend, and love him with the same capacity with which I love all fellow humans, and fortunately, he knows what I’m saying when I say those words to him, but…. I nonetheless have expressed a personal love for someone who is not someone I couldn’t live without! It is in no way a romantic love or even the love one feels for a close friend. But honestly, at that moment, there is no one I feel I love more!

This year, because of some medical issues, including my dislocated shoulder, I have had to put myself first for probably the first time in my life. I have simply not physically been able to do and to be the person that people have always known me to be. I’ve also had to ask for assistance from my best friend and my brother on occasion, something that it always pains me to do. I’ve always had an internal struggle because I want to prove myself independent and capable, and that makes me not want to ask for help from anyone. And also, when things become really bad, I don’t feel like I really have a safe place to fall because I’ve built people’s expectations that I don’t need a place to fall!

2020 is coming to a close, and I’m pretty sure that no one is going to miss seeing it go. There were weddings and births that occurred in 2020 which were joyous events in the lives of people we love. But all of them were overshadowed by the pandemic that has plagued our world for most of the year. Celebrations were small-scaled and people had to ask many persons they wished to share in their celebration to stay away for precautionary and safety reasons. Pictures will be the only memory of those events.

A friend of mine recently stated that 2020 was a “different” year than all of the previous ones, but there have been good things that have happened as well as bad things. For this friend, a small business that was started in early 1999 grew exponentially in 2020, and the business became profitable within 15 months and remains so. And yes, the business grew in large part because of the pandemic. Many people are out of work, but many people are able to work from home because of technology and therefore still have their jobs. Many people work at jobs for which they are considered an ‘essential’ employee, and while they have had to take more risks by going to work every day, they still have a paycheck and income. Many restaurants have adapted to be able to offer take-out service and even delivery, meaning they could at least continue to make income and keep some of their workers employed. And one of my favorite things that happened in 2020 is that retailers finally returned to what Black Friday was intended to be and closed their doors on Thanksgiving Day, keeping them closed until 6 AM on Friday morning! Retailers, as well, have been able to turn their brick-and-mortar businesses into online businesses in order to continue to make some money and keep some workers employed. And those who did become unemployed because of the pandemic did have a substantial amount of time during which their unemployment benefits were increased to an amount that may have made them more money than their paychecks did!

I want 2020 to be over simply because I want all of these reflections to then go away as I look forward to the next year in my life. I remain a pessimistic optimist about the future. I want to be able to stop dwelling in what I’ve lost over the years of my life and reprogram my brain to count all of the things I DO have in my life. It’s not a palace, but I have a place to live. I’m not eating filet mignon every night (not even every year, to be honest), but I have enough food to feed my body. I do have health issues, but I still have all of my limbs and my body still functions, even if it’s slower and sometimes with mild pain. I have the best brother in the entire world and a pretty fantastic best friend who continue to be willing to ‘put up with’ me. I have other dear friends out there in different parts of the country – and the world – who care about me and my welfare.

I had all of those things in 2019, and I’ve not lost them in 2020. So my final reflection may be this: Learn to be more grateful for having what you need and less whiny about not having everything you want. In that light, I too am able to say that 2020 has just been a ‘different’ year.

POST SCRIPT: I have decided to take some time to go “off the grid” – to “unplug” – from all social media and socialization platforms which use the internet as their source. Like many, I’ve become numb to a lot of life because of the constant bombardment of negative news and dissonance when it seems obvious to me that we need more positive news and unitedness during these times. I cannot remove those things from the world, but I can remove them from being a constant in my life. This is a commitment of at least 8 days (Dec. 26th through Jan. 2nd) and I may be slow about returning to everything immediately. I won’t be writing blog posts during that time (I’ll jot down any ideas that come to me) nor reading any blog posts either. But this will surely be one of the first places I return to when my self-imposed sabbatical is over.

So, this is my last opportunity of the year to say ‘thank you’ to all of my readers for believing I have something worth value to share. And thank you to all of the amazing writers out there whose blog posts I always look forward to. I wish each and every one of you a peaceful, joyous and safe holiday season, and I wish for all of us a new year that brings hope for a brighter future in 2021!

To you and yours…