The Complexity of Gratitude

child-on-a-swing

Life is a stew. It is a delicious combination of ordinary chunks, slices, sauces and spices, that when cooked together properly, make a thing as close to heaven on earth as possible. If life is the stew, then gratitude is the onion. No stew worth it’s gravy was ever made without the onion.

I have always believed that I was a grateful person. Always. Yet gratitude isn’t as simple as you think. It comes in layers. You’ve got to peel and peel before you can get to the heart.

When we first learn the feeling, if not the word itself, we are young; a large whole fruit, fresh from the garden, untarnished by all that is to come. We are grateful for a parent’s hand, a favorite teddy, a swing that will take us to the moon if we let it.

Then the layers start to come off, easily at first and gratitude shifts. We learn about the suffering of far off people in other lands; starvation, pestilence, disaster. With every new understanding, more layers. “I am grateful that I have a house over my head, a family that loves me, pizza…”

Adolescence hits and more of the fruit gets peeled away. Life gets harder, even if you live in the soft, cushy, world of middle-class America. Gratitude, like everything else, is felt with a shocking depth that can only be attributed to raging hormones. Every joy and despair are sharp and penetrating. Every slight, every compliment, every crush… life altering. Just like the onion. After the crispy brown layers fall away, the first juicy layers  are the hardest to remove. In terms of gratitude, it takes years. “I am grateful for my eyesight, my home, my thick hair…”

As the journey of life moves forward, gratitude grows in a way that can only be described as harrowing. Every layer removed causes tears. Tears of joy, tears of loss and despair. But the closer you get to the center the sweeter the fruit become and your stew finally has the flavor it needs to cook properly. “I am grateful for love, loss, cashmere…”

As always, I am grateful for things that are both ridiculous and sublime, but all appreciation adds flavor to life.

  1.  I am grateful for my children. So achingly, painfully grateful that is boggles the mind.
  2. I am grateful that my husband is cancer-free. Everyday that it doesn’t come back and he is here sharing the journey of life with me, I celebrate!
  3. I am grateful that my feet aren’t any bigger than a size 10. Seriously, cute shoes are not made bigger.
  4. I am grateful for parents that loved me enough to prepare me for life; food, clothing, shelter, yes, but also lessons taught, not always painlessly.
  5. I am grateful, beyond measure, for the quality of friendships that have enriched my life. Women and men from all over the planet who have brought their knowledge, understanding and wit to my world.
  6. I am grateful that I am tall. I am a claustrophobic person that would simply die in a crowd if I couldn’t see over it.
  7. I am grateful for a strong intuitive presence that has steered me away from danger and brought  great opportunity.
  8. I am grateful for the bounty we grow in our gardens. Nothing tastes quite like that which you have nurtured and tended yourself.
  9. I am grateful for bitterly cold winter when the world rests and waits the rebirth of life.
  10. I am grateful for the struggles and sorrows as they make the thrill of victory sweeter, even if the victory is no more than a peaceful and uneventful day.

 

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