I don't know about you, but as a child I was taught to say "thank you" as a duty for things given, including meals on the table. Later in life I was taught that gratitude was required in order to "get my attitude straight." I was also told gratitude was required to get more of what I wanted or, on the other hand, not lose what I had. It all seemed the idea of gratitude was, well, rather tedious and somewhat of a way of gaming the system. It also brought out the judge in me, evaluating if I had enough to be grateful for or not, which of course was based on criteria I made up about what "should" be. That, coupled with a culture that teaches me with every advertisement that I don't have enough no matter how much I do have... Well, let's just say it left me less than grateful more often than not. Put all of these ideas together and I was a jumble of mixed messages that left me feeling like I never quite got it right. Over the past few years, though, I've found myself rethinking all that. Or perhaps better said, re-feeling it.
It started with a sunset. I'd missed them just about every day for practically my whole life, but one day I happened to catch one. It was a stunner, causing me to think about all the ones I'd missed, and why, for some reason, I didn't miss THIS one. Right then and there, my heart opened up. Just like that. What was this feeling? What was happening? Oh, wait. Could it be... Gratitude?
But it wasn't an obligation, it was a feeling! A response. A natural result to noticing the striking beauty that was right there. Who knows why it happened that day? All I know is I started looking for more sunsets. And sunrises. Turns out, they happen every day, like clockwork. Who knew? I mean, we all know, but... who knew? It still blows me away.
The experience got something inside of me going. Without intending to, I was saying thank you more. Not only to people, but to... what... life itself? Whispers, shouts, words under my breath. Thank you. Thank you! Like a meeting with a star-crossed lover, only not so dramatic (and sometimes, way more dramatic). Bizarre. Gratitude was changing me. Yet I wasn't TRYING to be thankful. It was just... happening.
Today if someone asked me about being grateful (I mean, really asked) I'd be a true and total gusher. Let me start with waking up, I'd say, which happens about 5:30 AM. My love next to me. My awesome bed. Heat in the winter. The quilt I found at an old estate sale. And the smell of coffee. And the SUNRISE, oh yes, ever and still, different every day. And... Honestly... I'd be full out weeping before I got to 8 AM.
Gratitude, now, is not a prod or a promise. It's a posture. It's a way to stand up in the morning and face the day with my jaw dropped and my heart open and my sense of wonder fully engaged. I whisper "thank you" to the green that erupts in spring, the leaves that fall in autumn, the moment that... well, any moment. This moment.
What can I say? If I ever discover whomever or whatever is behind "it all," they'd better watch out. There's one full-out run and jump into a bear hug and a big wet, sloppy kiss coming.