Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Reflecting on gratitude

I subscribe to the “Word for the Day” from gratefulness.org, and not only do I receive an inspirational and usually thought-provoking quotation from the site every day in my email inbox, but most of the time I even remember to read them.

The fact that I’ve stayed on this mailing list for about six months is itself a break in tradition for me. I don’t know whether or not other people have this same habit, but I tend to subscribe to online newsletters or daily emails that I think sound interesting and then within two days of signing up wonder why these people are cluttering up my mailbox again. Various posts from Amazon.com; the occasional cooking advice from Epicurious.com; daily recipes from Whole Foods; the ubiquitous Fly Lady: in every case, I saw one promo, believed this was someone I wanted to hear from every day, and then within a week of subscribing found myself scrabbling frantically for the “unsubscribe” button.

But I’ve resisted that reflex when it comes to “Word for the Day,” because so often these quotes are so worthwhile. For that matter, simply requiring myself to stop, read the quote, and reflect on it long enough to decide whether it’s relevant to my life or not is a good discipline for me in slowing down and absorbing text. More often than not, the daily reflection contains at the very least a kernel of thought-provoking sustenance.

And so the ones I like, I keep in my in-box until I feel like I’ve worn out my capacity to reflect on them, whether that happens inside my head, in my journal, on my blog or in some other format. I cull quickly, though; the point isn’t to storehouse these quotes. I keep only those to which I truly believe I’ll take time to give more consideration.

Yesterday I took a moment to scroll through the ones I’d saved in the past few weeks and came across this one from Sarah Ban Breathnach: "Gratitude is the most passionate transformative force in the cosmos. When we offer thanks to God or to another human being, gratitude gifts us with renewal, reflection, reconnection."

Admittedly, it’s fair to say the idea of pausing to observe gratitude is not a new idea for me. As I’ve mentioned before, one of the manuscript readers (or “beta readers”) of my recently published memoir actually grew so weary of my mentions of gratitude for all the good things in my life that she actually scribbled “Enough already!” in the margins, at just the point where I was waxing grateful for the lack of terrorist attacks in my neighborhood. All right, maybe that one was a touch of overkill. But in general, I’m grateful. I’m grateful for all kinds of things.

Nonetheless, I don’t always see it as Sarah Ban Breathnach does: “the most passionate transformative force in the cosmos.” (Because frankly, if that is in fact that case, I’m sort of surprised I’m not more, well…transformed.) But the next part is thought-provoking as well: “…gratitude gifts us with renewal, reflection, reconnection.”

So where does the truth lie? Am I merely a Pollyanna, as my manuscript reader suggested when she confessed to being exasperated with all my expressions of gratitude? Or am I indeed on a path of continuous transformation, exerting positive energy throughout the cosmos?

Just in case it’s the latter, I’ll take a moment for gratitude today. I’m grateful that after the pump malfunctioned yesterday in the barnyard, leaving me with no way to fill the animals’ trough with water other than shoveling in heaps of snow, it inexplicably started working again several hours later; and I’m grateful that the electricity stayed on all day – last week’s five-hour blackout left me with a full season’s worth of appreciation for heat and light – and I’m grateful that I made strong inroads on the work that I have on deadline this week for three different clients.

Gratitude is definitely a positive force. One that transforms the cosmos? Probably so, if applied liberally enough on the macro level. Today, I’m grateful on the micro level for those things that worked out well yesterday. And I’ll continue to look for reasons to express gratitude today.

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