Thursday, November 28, 2013

Dog and Pony Show: Thankfulness Isn't Just for Thanksgiving

On Thanksgiving, people express their gratitude for a multitude of things that have happened to them over the course of the past year.  They say they are thankful for family, friends, blessings, and making it through difficult times.  It's a day to remember the past and a day to create memories for future perusal.  It is hyped as a twenty-four hour period of enjoying family you'd otherwise not visit and expressing gratitude for things and people you may or may not appreciate generally.  Much like Valentine's Day has become the day to express love, it is the official day of thankfulness and thus wholly artificial.

Gratitude isn't something that should be pigeon-holed into one day.  It's not a mindset that needs to be trotted out once a year, polished up and put on display for the entire world to see how in-tune you are with acknowledging your blessings. It shouldn't be used as a prop to have others see your life as something amazing, nor as a prompt for you to recognize that your life consists of some really good things. Gratitude should be a state of mind that exists every day.  The thing about being thankful is that the more gratitude you express in your daily living, the higher quality of life you have.  Perhaps not materially, because gratitude has never put money in my pocket, and I don't believe in the whole "power of positive thinking" bullshit, but in an spiritual and emotional way it will cause you to enjoy your life more.  It will make you present and as close to living fearlessly as you can possible come.

Express frequent gratitude for the little things in your life--the small moments where things go right, where the coffee is hot, the cat purrs loudly, you get the close parking spot, your child randomly gives you a hug and says "I love you."  Express gratitude for the lessons you learn from the negative things that happen as well. Every hurt, every mistake or misstep is an opportunity to learn something new about yourself or the world. When you express daily thankfulness, you stay much more present in the moment, you increase your ability to weather mishap, mistreatment or misfortune, and you appreciate life--your life.  Gratitude makes you resilient, it makes you cognizant and aware, and it makes you an active participant in your own life.

Too many people spend their lives waiting for the celebrating, holding back any expenditure of emotion for the one big thing that will make them happy. They go to work thinking that they'll be happy when it's done. They come home, thinking they'll be happy when they get to go somewhere fun.  They hang out with friends, thinking they'll be happy when they do something else. Always waiting for something better, they lose clarity and become fuzzy like a photocopy of a photocopy, two degrees removed from their own lives and unsatisfied or anxious about everything.  A lack of gratitude breeds emotional and spiritual discontent and creates an ever-present hole that will never be filled.  Nothing will ever be enough unless thankfulness becomes a daily habit, not just the dog-and-pony show of late November.  Be grateful for the blessings and lessons of your life. Do it now.  Do it always.