Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude and trying to summon the appropriate amount of it, especially as Thanksgiving approaches. Intellectually, I know that gratitude is the antidote (or at least a proper response) to many negative states we may find ourselves in – like envy, pain, disappointment, and even apathy. But sometimes it’s just not that easy to feel. I guess that’s one of gratitude’s ironies; you’re more likely to have it when everything’s great, but it’s a complete no-show the minute times get tough. So that being said, I’ve struggled with being thankful this year.
Now I know that I have innumerable blessings to count, but of course, many of the most profound ones often end up getting taken for granted, which is a terrible shame. After a while it’s like not being able to see the forest through the trees, which I think boils down to perspective. But just recently, because of a new perspective on an event from the past, I was able to access a huge amount of gratitude, which has given me a better attitude. An attitude of gratitude (sorry, couldn’t resist).
It all started the other day when I was in a funk because of a number of frustrations that seemed to be mounting. My emotions were raw and confidence was low. I remember I was staring at my hand for a moment, and then it hit me. A most unexpected memory flooded my brain from when I was about 4 years old, maybe slightly younger. I was with my mom at a neighbor’s house. All the adults were occupied in conversation, and I was bored, so someone gave me a pad of paper, a pencil, and some crayons. Even at that age I was not impressed with crayons – I thought they left such an inconsistent mark on paper, nothing like what you’d see in the smooth clarity of a cartoon. I was obsessed with cartoons. Anyway, I remember deciding, with rather firm resolve, to draw a realistic looking hand. How hard could it be? So I held out my left hand as a model and put my pencil to the paper. Not knowing where to start, however, I stared more closely at my hand. And then I noticed the detail. There were lines and creases on every finger and in the palm… and then I focused in further and saw even smaller lines and skin texture and finger prints, and on and on. I’m sure my eyes became large as I realized just how complex a little hand could be. I threw down the pencil, immediately frustrated to the point of anger. The amount of detail had overwhelmed me and my quick temper had taken over, causing me to commence sulking. Continue reading