75: Gratitude, Schmatitude

75: Gratitude, Schmatitude

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life

Gratitude, Schmatitude

If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get.

~Frank A. Clark

I’d never been the bubbliest person, but lately nothing made me happy. In fact, since my fiftieth birthday, each day held some new woe to grumble about, taking me quickly from discouraged to depressed. Desperate to find a way out of the mucky-muck, I called my friend, Pam, who always seemed cheerful no matter what life handed her.

Gratitude, she claimed, was the answer. Wallowing only makes things worse. “Instead, start each day with five things you’re grateful for. We can e-mail our lists every morning to encourage each other.”

With her sunny disposition, it didn’t seem that Pam needed encouragement, but I certainly did and so I agreed to give it a try. After a fitful night of tossing and turning, wrapped in my old flannel robe, I shuffled to the kitchen.

I heard an e-mail land in my mailbox. “Gratitude list.” I read through bleary eyes. It wasn’t even 7:00 A.M. How was I supposed to make a list when I was tired, irritable, and just plain miserable? The coffeemaker gurgled away as I tried to come up with something, but before a single thing came to mind in came another e-mail from Pam: “Let’s go. Where is it?”

With a sigh, I rubbed my throbbing temples, poured a steaming mug and inhaled the deep, rich aroma. Aaahh. The computer keys click-clacked against the silent morning as I pecked out the letters: “First cup of morning coffee.”

I yawned at the sun peeking from behind fluffy white clouds in a sky of cornflower blue. Wait, sun? Blue skies? The weeklong downpour had finally ended! Click-clack. “Not raining.”

Only two and I was ready to quit. Gratitude, schmatitude! This was ridiculous. How was gratitude going to change anything anyway? I had real issues to deal with — insomnia, a bad back, and the latest and by far the worst — hearing loss. I was way too young for that! It was humiliating to wear ugly, uncomfortable hearing aids. Still, I thought, my fingers poised over the computer keyboard, they did help. I grudgingly typed, “I can hear.” That was it. She’d have to settle for three.

“Only three?” she replied. “Scroll down.”

I dragged my mouse down the screen. She’d added comments next to my gratitude!

“First cup of morning coffee” — Nothing like it!”

“Not raining” — Sun… like God smiling.”

“At least I can hear” — Good, I have plenty to say. Now, send two more!” She’d added a smiley face.

“Can’t think of anymore!” I fired back. “Hardly slept, head’s pounding, and there’s nothing in the house for breakfast.”

Another e-mail: “Then let’s have breakfast out.”

Forget it! That would mean getting showered and dressed. I’d planned on staying in pajamas all day. Maybe even go back to bed. My fingers moved over the keys. “Thanks, not today.” I hit Send, swigged down the last of my coffee and refilled my cup.

“Suit yourself, but you still owe me two more to complete your gratitude list.”

Instead, I sent her an e-mail whining about sleepless nights, hot flashes, and sluggishness. This was the season of life I swore I’d handle gracefully. Instead, I was a cranky mess, peeling off layers of clothing and chugging ice water to keep from melting. I hit Send and fanned myself with a magazine.

Another e-mail! “So what? We’re all getting older. Everyone has problems. Look at me, a single mom with a limited income, an elderly parent to care for, and a car on the fritz more often than not. Still, I’m grateful for: God in my life. My children. Family. A roof over my head. A day filled with possibilities.”

She was so upbeat! My fingers flew over the keys. “How do you do it, Pam? How can you feel so thankful when life is so hard? Don’t you ever get overwhelmed?”

She wrote back. “Sometimes, but what good does it do? If I turn it around I’m happy for what I have and hopeful for what I want.”

I had to admit, it seemed like a good philosophy.

Pam continued: “My knees hurt from arthritis, but at least I can walk. I have to juggle bills, but I’m blessed to have a house. Wrinkles are just another word for smile lines. It’s simply a matter of outlook, Sue. That’s why I’m pushing you to see the positive side of things and develop an attitude of gratitude.”

“Take your hearing aids, for example. You think they’re so horrible, but I never noticed them. Before you got them I thought you weren’t interested in what I had to say. Remember our phone calls? I was ready to find someone else who wanted to listen to me. Turned out you didn’t hear half of what I said.”

And I thought I’d pretended so well.

“But now you do,” she typed. “Those ugly little things saved our friendship.”

I pictured her dazzling smile as I read the e-mail. Everything she said made sense. Not only had she put a positive spin on my complaints, she never once griped about her aching knees, clunking car, or mounting stack of bills. No, despite her challenges, she was thankful for all she did have, even happy. Maybe there was something to this gratitude stuff?

I thought about everything she struggled with. Suddenly, my stuff didn’t seem as monumental. I sat down at my computer, and in the subject line typed a single word: “Gratitude.”

My fingers flew over the keys, 1. With age come aches and pains, but the gym could help with that. 2. Sleepless nights? I could catch up on my reading. 3. Hot flashes? I could wear lighter fabrics in layers. 4. Today will be a brighter day. And, 5. I’m grateful to have such a wise friend.

I hit “Send”, ready to share a wonderful dose of thankfulness.

~Susan A. Karas

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