The Gratitude Antidote… Appreciation is the Cure
Growing up in Texas, I knew that every Thanksgiving my mother, the clear and present matriarch of the family, would end our meal with a single command. “Okay, now let’s go around the table and everyone say what you’re grateful for.” Eyes would roll. And the moans were audible. But out of deference to her (and because we didn’t really have a choice) we conceded.
I was in my mid-30s before I began to appreciate this ritual. My father died the next year. And my mother was gone four years later. But it’s never too late to learn her lesson.
Here in the US, Thanksgiving is of course a time of giving thanks. It is also typically a time of overconsumption. With a few quick words of thanks, we quickly “dig in,” pile our plates high and proceed to consume more than we need. And what does this get us? Some kind of miserable.
So what will move us us from a few obligatory words… to a true, deep feeling of appreciation?
Why be grateful?
We live in a world where more is more. Whatever we have, our eyes are trained on the next thing. The day we learn to reach for our favorite toy we begin to learn that what we have is not enough. And embedded in that belief is another one… who we are is not enough.
Advertisers know this well. Do we?
This is the virus that struck us down long before the one that dominates headlines today.
Whether we have or do not have, we live in a world where we’re conditioned to want more… be more… have more… do more. And, wherever we are on the bell curve, it is never enough.
We believe these new, cool, “original” things will make us happy. But they do not.
Are we listening?
10 years ago, I interviewed the artist Nall Hollis for my book. Standing in the kitchen of his magnificent sprawling studio in the South of France, Nall shared a secret I had yet to learn. “Katherine, you spend the first 50 years of your life accumulating things, and the next 50 trying to get rid of them.”
In recent months, life as we knew it has been derailed. Covid. Politics. Economics. Shipping. Life seems to be trying to get our attention.
This time we’re living now has offered us opportunities as well as losses:
- To look at what we have differently, rather than looking past it for the next thing.
- To unplug ourselves from the marketing machine that targets us and exhale into who we already are.
- To do less, to get still and witness the wonder of the natural world as it is, of which we are a part.
- To respond to this abundance creatively… with word or song or paint.
What is the value?
Gratitude is a deep breath of fresh air.
It is an antidote to the spiritual congestion of Regret and the emotional fatigue of Worry.
Regret keeps us in the past, focused on things we think we should have done differently, the consequences of our imperfect actions, and a sense of unworthiness based on our belief that we have somehow failed.
Worry has us living in the future, trying to avoid mistakes we’ve not made yet, circumstances we fear will annihilate us, and the exhaustion of trying to control what we simply cannot.
Gratitude brings us to the present moment, the only time when we can choose our actions, the only circumstances we can actually change, and the only place where we can experience the real power we have.
There are gratitude lists. Gratitude meditations. Gratitude practices. But in the end, gratitude is just a reset. A turn of the head. A letting go. A noticing. A feeling. An instant miracle received even as it is shared.
- Stop. Get still. Put your mind where your body is.
- Look. Notice who and what is around you.
- Listen. Turn in to your heart to feel the appreciation rise up within you.
- Give thanks. Express what you feel. Keep a daily gratitude journal from now until then end of the year. Get creative in it. Share your gratitude with another person.
Less is more after all.
What if we chose less? Chose simpler? Stayed closer to home? Polished what we have? What if we valued what we have more? Would we not then need less?
The voice of less is “Enough.” I have enough. I am enough. I do enough. One great, deep breath of appreciation for what is.
I’ll bet your Mother Earth would appreciate this conversation too.