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“as i walked down the avenue, the late afternoon sun was turning the lovely and dying sycamore leaves into fragments of brilliant stained glass, and i said to myself, ‘this alone is worth the price of admission to our broken and glorious world.’” – Linda Larsson
Breaking every rule of a gratitude practice
Over the weekend, my husband and I had to go to New England to winterize my parents’ lake house. We’ve always had a rule that we don’t make that drive unless we stay for a minimum of three days to give us time to recuperate before making the long drive home. We broke that rule in a big way for this trip. We were in New Hampshire for 10 hours – 7 of those asleep.
I will confess that despite my fledgling practice of gratitude, I had a gargantuan case of the “I-don’t-wannas.” In addition to ignoring the myriad thankful possibilities offered by this trip – beginning with, “I am grateful to be part of a family with a lake house.” – I was busily beating myself up for feeling cranky rather than grateful.
That’s right. It was only November 5, and I was already breaking all the rules of my month of gratitude.
A magical moment reignites my gratitude
That all changed as we drove out in the dark, wee hours that most would hesitate to call morning. We came up over a rise and glimpsed – for the briefest of moments – an enormous shooting star framed by a break in the trees. My husband whispered, “Did you see that?” All I could do was nod.
The sight of that star was, to borrow Ms. Larsson’s words, “worth the price of admission” of that long, long road trip. In fact, the memory of seeing that star leaves me feeling deeply grateful that we made the whirlwind trip.
For me, that shooting star will always be a compelling reminder of the power of gratitude to reframe absolutely any aspect of your life. In the two seconds when I beheld the wonderful, mysterious beauty of the cosmos I was transformed from an exhausted, crabby, automaton going through the necessary motions to get a job done, into an awestruck person profoundly thankful to be in the right place at precisely the right time.
Practicing gratitude makes us feel like we’re always in the right place at the right time
To take this a step further, I am beginning to believe that one of the wonders of gratitude is that – when we’re practicing it – we walk through life feeling like we are always in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. It’s only been a few days since I saw the shooting star, but supporting “evidence” is pouring in.
For example, I was cleaning the cats’ litter boxes when a flash of light caught my eye. It was sunlight reflecting from one of the tiny mirrors I hung from the lilac which is planted just over the basement window. Right in the middle of the yuckiest of jobs, I smiled and thought, “I love those little mirrors. I’m so happy to know they sparkle down here too.”
A day or two later, my mother-in-law had arrived for dinner, but the Eagles were still playing. My husband and his mom were in the living room watching the game while I set the table. I paused for a moment. Something about the sound of their voices, the sudden late afternoon darkness on the first day of standard time, and the warm light of my dining room lamps made me feel cozy and – you guessed it – profoundly grateful for our Sunday dinners together.
When we’re paying attention, life delivers grateful moment after grateful moment
No, life isn’t perfect. Sometimes we have to take crazy long drives when what we really want to do is stay home. Sometimes we have to do really gross jobs. But, if we’re paying attention, if we’ve set the intention to practice gratitude, life will deliver moment after sparkling, cozy moment to feel grateful that we’re here living and breathing and loving in this glorious, messy world of ours.
“Please notice when you’re happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’” – Kurt Vonnegut
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