Happiness? Ha! My life resembles a Jerry Springer show. In the past few months there have been love triangles, confusing betrayals, and severe illness. I’m not sure how to make sense of it all. Yet, as tantalizing as the details may seem, what happened to me is actually irrelevant. All that matters is how I choose to deal with what happened.
I wake up this morning and say a brief ode to my succulent plant.
“Thank you, thank you lil’ green being
You’ve given my life a burst of meaning….”
You see, I’m starting a daily gratitude practice. And today, after racking my brain for ideas, thanking the succulent was all I came up with. After all, it survived not just the past few months, but years of neglect and water torture. And here it is today, still green and providing me with oxygen.
I learned to use “thank you” as a coping mechanism many years ago.
Back then a major rift happened in my family, creating a feud akin to the Capulets and Montagues. At first, everyone felt hurt, betrayed, and became obsessed with minutiae from the past. We displayed our wounds like blind badges of courage. However, with the passage of time, our outlook softened and we found compassion. Although some family members chose to remain distant, others managed to heal by focusing on other positive things in life. Instead of staying plagued with hurt, we found appreciation for the little moments of joy– friends who listen to the same stories a hundred times, the hazy sunsets that bring beauty each evening. We said thank you as much as we could. Happiness happened…
By being grateful for what did exist, many of us learned to let go of what didn’t.
We cannot control most things in life. People will die, and it’s unfair. Loved ones will harm you, and it’s not right. Others will lie and cheat and steal and say things they don’t mean. They will do all of this because they are human and flawed. We are not perfect gods, and quite frankly, that would make us far less interesting.
Another important part of being human is appreciation. For nature, for the good in people’s hearts, and the endless opportunities to choose how we want to live our lives.
I try to remember all of these teachings as recent events left me bedridden with hurt. I want to lounge around with my ol’ bedfellows anger and depression. After all, they are very seductive, begging me to stay in their satin sheets forever. However, you can’t get anything done if you stay in bed.
So I get up, open up the windows, and try to find reasons to say “thank you”.
Some days it is the friend that bought my lunch, other days it is how the sun poured into my windows. And yes, today I appreciate the fact that I kept a plant alive for 6 years. Little by little my outlook is changing, and happiness seeps in, an emotion I thought I had lost.
According to an article in Harvard Health, research proves that expressing thanks leads to a more positive mental outlook. Expressing gratitude also has a ripple effect. Couples that appreciate each other increase intimacy. Managers who say regular “thank you” motivate their employees to work harder.
I wonder if my succulent plant feels motivated to produce more oxygen after I thanked it for existing?
It may, because I certainly am breathing better now. On my next trip to the Sierras I plan on taking in a big whiff of the sweet Jeffrey pines and finding a whole new set of things to be thankful for. The outdoors always remind me of my insignificance. This is grand thing, for my problems seem tiny in compared to the great awe I feel for the mountains.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. -Melody Beattie