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April 11, 2012

Photo by What What. Used under a Creative Commons license.

I know I complain all the time, but not all the time REALLY. At some point – probably far too late in life – I realized how ugly it is and how no one really wants to listen to someone whine.

So I do things to try to remember gratitude and thankfulness and grace in small things (as Schmutzie would say).

I don’t have too many spiritual practices, but every day when I wake up, I say a simple prayer, stolen from a Pops Staples song:
Thank you God for another day
Help my brother along the way
And please bring peace to the neighborhood.

Then my second stop comes when I walk out the front door and touch my Hamsa, take a moment to breathe and to observe the beauty of the morning as Goldie waits impatiently for her walk. I say the Unity prayer for protection:
The light of God surrounds me;
The love of God enfolds me;
The power of God protects me;
The presence of God watches
over me;
Wherever I am, God is, and all is well.


Except I say “us” instead of “me” because, well, the dog.

Those tasks done, I try to carry that spirit throughout the day. Sometimes I make it. Other times I haven’t gotten down the block before I’m screaming “OH COME ON!” at some moron who is driving like an idiot braised in jerkwad sauce.

You never know – it’s kind of a crapshoot whether Thankful Suebob or New York Cabbie Suebob will show up for work, depending on factors like the weather, the extent of my lateness, and on my hormonal balance that particular day.

There’s someone on twitter that I had to filter out lately. It doesn’t matter who she is, but she has what would seem to be a great life – a job anyone would want, a few kids, she’s always traveling hither and yon – and yet, almost every day she’s grumbling about things.

Her coffee isn’t hot, or there isn’t coffee, or there isn’t enough coffee. And the day is too long and the emails too many. And the weekend is so far away…

I want to take her by the shoulders and say:
Look. If you have food to get you through the day, you’re already better off than about half the world’s population. As a woman, you’re treated better than 99.9% of women in human history. You don’t live in a war zone, or under a terribly oppressive government, or in a malarial zone. So shut up and enjoy the great good bounty that has been given you.

But I don’t. Because that would be aggressive and mean and would just upset her more. Because I have my days, too. Because it wouldn’t change anything. Because it’s not really my business, and because the lovely makers of TweetDeck gave me the filter feature. And mostly? Because I can come here and blog about it. Thank you for listening.

Do you have any gratitude practices?

  1. April 11, 2012 14:19

    A Course In Miracles, don’t cha know..

    • April 11, 2012 21:01

      Of course. I want to start the lessons over again. It is truly the best thing.

  2. April 11, 2012 15:59

    This is more anti-annoyance than pro-gratitude, but I often make up elaborate stories which would explain the bad behavior of strangers (perhaps the person who ran over my foot with their heavy shopping cart while yakking on a cell phone about purses and who did not notice or apologise… is actually blind but is bravely going shopping anyway because their neighbor’s orphaned puppy needs food and maybe they’re actually fake-talking on their cell phone to use the tactic of echo-location to navigate through the store because they’re too embarrassed to admit that they’re blind?).

    Trying to come up with something often amuses me enough that the “aargh!” settles down (and, in the process, I occasionally remember that “inexcusable” behavior sometimes has a simple, non-offensive explanation, like: maybe that unreasonably grumpy person is dealing with chronic pain, or just had a friend die, or is worried about bills? maybe the person who cut me off has been told that if they’re late to work one more time, they’ll be fired? ).

    A cautionary note: this can definitely backfire sometimes. If you conclude that someone didn’t meet up with you when scheduled because maybe they were rescuing kittens from a tree or perhaps someone superglued their pants to the seat of the bus while they were on their way, but it subsequently turns out that they were in fact just blowing you off because better plans showed up, you can end up even more annoyed than you would have been. But it’s often fun anyway? 🙂

    On the more pro-gratitude side, I think it’s helpful to keep taking brief pauses to really “taste” the good parts of wherever you are (a shower; seeing bright green leaves; a warm, fuzzy sweater; the sound of the wind blowing; a not-jammed printer; the fact that, this century, we don’t have to deal with chamber pots (!); a cup of tea; etc.).

    It’s sometimes hard to balance being honest about how life is not perfect with not-being-a-whiny-grouch (because, honestly, “everything is perfect! all the time!” can be approximately as annoying as “my coffee is never quite right and this is horrible”). The world is broken; the world is still filled with many good things; and trying to express both of those in the right balance is a bit of a challenge sometimes. But yes, hooray for the “mute” button sometimes, especially for constant streams like twitter!

    • April 11, 2012 21:01

      You’re right about balance. I find people who are fakely positive almost as annoying as whiners – maybe more annoying, because whining is at least REAL.

  3. jillian permalink
    April 11, 2012 18:34

    I became a widow 2 years ago at age 34, with a 2 year old daughter. Let me tell you, it sucked — diagnosis to hospice and aftermath. It still sucks. But I did pick up some kickass coping skills along the way. My favorite gratitude practice is RUNNING WATER. Running water, you guys!! I have it!! I have 4 rooms in my house where I can go and open a tap, and have as much clean, perfect water as I want, at any time. Plus 2 hose bibs outside.

    Wait!! You guys!! I can even get HOT WATER. As much as I want. At any time. I can even TAKE A SHOWER IN IT. I can even sit down in the shower and think for a few minutes after I get clean. I do it every single day. So decadent, right?? I don’t even know the numbers but I bet it’s a very small percentage of people that have unlimited, clean, hot and cold running water. 10%, 20% maybe? I am so freaking lucky, it blows my mind sometimes.

    • April 11, 2012 21:00

      Oh, wow, me too! I give thanks for running water all the time, and especially for hot running water. To me, it is the pinnacle of civilization. Take away my internet, my phone, my fridge – but leave me hot running water and I will somehow make it work.

  4. rotarykat permalink
    April 11, 2012 23:25

    I’m a mostly positive, benefit-of-the-doubt kind of person, but gratitude practices? Not so much. I love the idea of your morning rituals. I’m going to try something like that. I definitely need to learn to be more purposefully grateful.

  5. April 12, 2012 06:35

    I think having my dogs keeps me balanced. No matter how irritating my work day was, or how painful my commute was or that my bra strap kept falling off my shoulder and annoying the crap out of me, I can walk in the door and see those furry faces and my world rights itself again. It’s just so simple to them. They are just happy I’m home. And that I feed them! Then we head outside for a long walk and see the sunset. After all that fun when we are all cuddled up together, I realize how lucky I am to be able to have my beloved ones, my home, the ability to feed us all and a good enough body to enjoy what nature has provided. As my grandma used to say- baby, it’s just not that deep.

    • April 25, 2012 10:43

      “baby, it’s just not that deep.”

      genius. i’m totally stealing that line. your grandma sounds like she was (is?) awesome.

  6. April 12, 2012 09:39

    I have been complaining far, far too much lately and this was a reminder I needed. Thank you.

  7. April 12, 2012 17:06

    Chris and I used to say grace before our evening meal. I kind of let that lapse, but I’ve been working real hard at remembering to do it. Because it’s important sometimes just be grateful for brushing your teeth. Gratitude is a practice.

  8. April 13, 2012 10:46

    This has got to be a message to me, because yours is the second such post among my blog-friends that I’ve read about gratitude. And I have been taking my good fortune too much for granted lately.

    I connected yesterday evening with a friend who is dying of a particularly virulent form of cancer – they have done everything they can do for her and she will have no more of it. And I just thought to myself how brave she is and what a shitty chance it was that she came to be afflicted like this, and others like me are not. And even how lucky I was that when I did get sick, I healed so quickly. And I have a job, a roof over my head that isn’t in peril, my family is – for the most part – happy and healthy and doing fine.

    I have to ask myself what can I do to pay it forward.

  9. April 14, 2012 10:47

    LOVE, LOVE this post, Sista. Thank you for it!! Thank you.🙂

  10. Nicole Reeves permalink
    April 14, 2012 16:49

    Totally what I needed today. Thanks for posting and for being honest.

  11. April 25, 2012 10:48

    i read something once that stuck with me: “true happiness is enjoying the scenery on a detour.” that and a couple other things (blogged about in november, 2010) made me stop and think about how extraordinarily lucky i am.

    things get crazy, and i get bogged down in the stupid and the inane so i kinda needed the reminder. thank you.

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