The Challenge of Daily Gratitude
Gratitude is fleeting. Like any other emotion, you can only hold onto it temporarily, before slipping back into default, into the taken-for-granted normality of life. That’s unavoidable I suppose. Still, it pays to actively try and be more grateful.
It’s easy to see someone’s impact on your life once they’re gone. It solidifies, and it becomes clear after they’ve left, the things they instilled in you. The small parts of their character that became the big things. The parts of them that are noticeably missing when silence fills a room – they would have filled that silence.
I wish it was easier to notice these elements of a person when they’re still around, but maybe it’s not doable. How can you say, after all, what you will and will not miss? The parts you’ll miss might be arbitrary. The parts you miss might be the things you once found infuriating. I wish it was easier to be grateful for a person in daily life. This gratitude seems like a good recipe for living well.
Of course, when a loss happens, when you lose someone, you do become more grateful for those around you, at least for a while. You see the best parts of people shine – you forget about the flaws, or maybe just learn to accept them. You become more patient and thankful and you count your blessings. Life isn’t always easy, especially when you’re always looking forward, but when you lose someone you find yourself thankful for what you already have, whatever that looks like for you.
The aspiration is to tell people what they mean to you. These things often go unsaid. They don’t even have to be said. They can be shown. You can act out what people means to you through effort, through showing up day after day.
We have a habit though, of saving our nicest words for funeral days. Our egos force us to hide our nice words. They make us feel silly at times. They make us feel vulnerable. But they’re no good when a person is gone, at least, not to the person. They’re a source of comfort of course, but your nicest words about someone shouldn’t be hidden from them.
Life goes on. The gratitude fades and we forget until the next loss and the cycle continues. The challenge has always been to not forget. To try and stay grateful on a daily basis is difficult. We don’t and won’t get it right every time. But it’s worth an attempt.
I won’t tell you to be grateful. I can’t even reach that bar. But I would say to at least try to be grateful. Even if it’s a single extra thankful thought a day, that’s more than we were grateful for than yesterday. And it all adds up in the end.