I was surprised when my friend Lisa told me she kept a gratitude journal. On the face of it, she had little to be grateful for—stomach cancer had returned and spread to her esophagus, chemo was nauseating and exhausting, and worry was ever-present. Lisa acknowledged that sometimes it was hard to find something to be grateful for. Some days all she could write was that she was grateful she didn’t snap at her son or grateful for a sunny autumn day.
At the time, my freelance writing business was on its last legs, and I had been looking for work unsuccessfully for months. But I figured if she could focus on what was right and good in her life, so could I.
A few entries from December 2009—
I’m grateful for my writers’ group—women who believe in my story and my ability to write it.
I’m grateful for cozy flannel sheets. I’m grateful for my Bunco friends who help share the burden of Kathy Duffy’s illness (another friend with cancer). I’m grateful for my first writing coach client.
I’m grateful for my youngest son Greg’s silliness—he crammed his 17-year-old body into a tiny Pokeman t-shirt he’s had since 4th grade and walked around the house singing, “I’m too sexy for my shirt!”
Written on a day when my oldest son Mike had returned from college for Christmas break and my husband John was preoccupied and frantic about work when Mike arrived—
I’m grateful for Mike’s maturity and wisdom. When I asked if he minded that John couldn’t spend much time with him tonight, Mike said, “He’s working his ass off to make my life and all of our lives better and nicer, and nobody really asked him if he wanted to do that, so No, I’m not hurt he didn’t have much time.”
From February 2010—
I’m grateful for John. He brought me flowers and said he appreciated that I didn’t complain about his lack of availability while he was under deadline for a grant proposal. I never thought to complain—I felt guilty for not pulling my weight financially—but I enjoyed being appreciated.
I’m grateful for Greg who nudged me to put together a celebratory dinner for John to mark the end of proposal hell. I’m grateful to have such an easygoing cooking partner. He stirred the polenta endlessly while I finished the sauce for the beef short ribs.
Cranky, mostly cranky. I’m not grateful for my hives or my migraine or my touchy tooth or my dog who vomits when she gets too hungry or my carpet cleaner that leaks and makes cleaning up after the dog even worse. But in the grand scheme of things, these are temporary annoyances (except for the dog—I’ve got to figure that out).
Although I no longer keep a gratitude journal, I am grateful for idea of it, and I’m even more grateful for Lisa’s friendship—she gave me so much during the 10 years I knew her.
If I were still keeping the journal this Thanksgiving eve, I’d say—
I’m grateful for my family and that we all can get together for this holiday. I’m grateful for my wise, fun-loving, generous Dad whose birthday is tomorrow. If he were here, he’d love having the family in one place, all the jokes and stories, the good food, and Pete’s excellent wine. He’d sit at the counter and “supervise” while I carve the turkey, and he’d enjoy the piece I’d hand him—a juicy hunk from close to the bone.