Gratitude is a practice. It's like learning to play an instrument or cooking. The more one does it, the better one gets at it, but even better, the more one does it, the more one learns to hear those very subtle tones in the music, or to blend different flavors - both producing a sensory explosion of delight.
In doing this month of gratitude over the past several years, I've always strived to find very simple things for which to express gratitude, not to focus on the obvious, big things for which we are all grateful.
Of course, I'm thankful for my family - shouldn't we all be? I have an amazing partner. In spite of flaky Gemini-ness (which must be very difficult for his solid Taurusness to endure), he stays. I don't deserve him, and I'm well aware of that fact, but the truth is that he seems to feel the same as the author who penned the "Marriage Isn't For Me" story that's floating around Facebook right now. It's not about him. It's about us, and for that lesson he's taught me, I'm eternally grateful.
And my children .... They are all amazing, and they surprise and delight me every.day. Even my older two, who went through some pretty significant shit being raised by a couple of people who should never have been entrusted with two innocents ... and, yet, they have both matured into a couple of pretty remarkable people. I'm not proud, because pride connotes that I have the right to take credit for who they are, and I don't. They did that all by themselves. I am humbled, and I'm awed, and I'm thankful that they have chosen to allow me to be a part of their lives. Both of them allowed me to perform their wedding ceremonies, and my son even let me plan it. So much trust. I don't deserve it, but I am eternally grateful.
Regularly, Deus Ex Machina looks at me and says, "We have a good life." The fact is that we do. We have an amazing life, and yes, shit happens. The roof leaks. Our cars break down. Jobs often suck. People get sick. Our pets die. The garden doesn't produce. The washing machine breaks. The freezer door is left open. Shit.Happens.
But through all of that, there is this practice. This practice of feeling how amazing and wonderful LIFE IS, in spite of the stuff that happens.
Perception. It's all in how one looks at it.
And what practicing gratitude - not just here, for a month, publicly expressing these things, but in my daily life and practice (because I do express gratitude on a daily basis - even for those days when I'm not publicly proclaiming my thanks) - has done for me is to give me a different outlook, to change my perception.
I'm not thankful in a at least it's not X happening to me kind of way, or in a I have it better than so-and-so kind of way, because to me, that would be insincere. That kind of gratitude means finding ways to make myself feel better by making another person seem worse - you know, looking at someone who seems to have everything going for him/her, and then, looking very, very closely to find that flaw so that we can feel better about ourselves by making them seem not so perfect.
I'm not thankful that I have it better than someone else.
I might have been at first, but practicing gratitude every day has shown me that I don't have to be thankful for my life because it's better than. I can just be thankful because it is what it is, and it's good, even when it's not.
I am grateful, extremely grateful, that I can be grateful.