In Gratitude This Thanksgiving

by Rachael on November 24, 2011

Expressing gratitude is transformative, just as transformative as expressing complaint. Imagine an experiment involving two people. One is asked to spend ten minutes each morning and evening expressing gratitude (there is always something to be grateful for), while the other is asked to spend the same amount of time practicing complaining (there is, after all, always something to complain about). One of the subjects is saying things like, “I hate my job. I can’t stand this apartment. Why can’t I make enough money? My spouse doesn’t get along with me. That dog next door never stops barking and I just can’t stand this neighborhood.” The other is saying things like, “I’m really grateful for the opportunity to work; there are so many people these days who can’t even find a job. And I’m sure grateful for my health. What a gorgeous day; I really like this fall breeze.” They do this experiment for a year. Guaranteed, at the end of that year the person practicing complaining will have deeply reaffirmed all his negative “stuff” rather than having let it go, while the one practicing gratitude will be a very grateful person. What you practice is what you are; practice and the goal of practice are identical, cause and effect are one reality. Expressing gratitude can, indeed, change our way of seeing ourselves and the world.

— John Daido Loori, Roshi, in Bringing the Sacred to Life: The Daily Practice of Zen Ritual

I'm grateful for this guy; he's grateful for FIRE TRUCKS

On more than one occasion, I heard Daido Roshi tell this story about gratitude in a talk, and since then I’ve wondered how to bring the practice of gratitude into my life in a way that does not feel strange or artificial. I cannot say that I’m a complainer (though perhaps my husband would say otherwise?), but I’m certainly a worrier, and incessant worrying orients one toward the negative just as much as incessant complaining does. I’m grateful, therefore, to Amanda of Let’s Take the Metro, who writes a weekly post expressing her gratitude for the blessings in her life, and who has challenged all of us to write a Thanksgiving post naming one hundred blessings in our lives. One hundred blessings? Why yes, and probably many more …

  1. BRIAN (whose real name I am using because he is not, as he likes to think, just a “character” when I write about him here), for never, ever, ever wanting or needing or expecting me to be anything other than myself, in all my messed-up glory
  2. Also, his making sure that I get to the temple and to writing class and to sesshin and to occasional nights out with friends and so on
  3. And I cannot forget, his doing the dishes every night — and much, much more household work than that, but it is for the dishes I am most thankful
  4. The Critter, the Critter, the Critter, oh I love him so
  5. The little one on the way
  6. My sister Jessica, for always understanding, and also for introducing me to some great music
  7. My sister Elisabeth, for always understanding, and also for telling me what to make for dinner
  8. My father, for being my impossible-to-explain father
  9. My mother, whom I miss
  10. My grandmother
  11. My stepmother Nancy; there should be a better word than “stepmother” for her
  12. My in-laws: they’re not crazy
  13. Angus, our kitty
  14. Our beautiful neighborhood
  15. My teachers Daido Roshi and Shugen Sensei
  16. Having found the dharma
  17. The Mountains and Rivers Order sangha
  18. My writing teacher
  19. My Writers Studio colleagues
  20. My Writers Studio students
  21. The readers of this blog, especially for their care and support in responding to posts like this one
  22. All of the lovely bloggers whom I follow
  23. The Natural Parents Network team
  24. The poetry of Linda Gregg
  25. The poetry of Marie Howe
  26. The poetry of Kenneth Koch (I could go on like this, but I’ll stop at the first three that popped to mind.)
  27. Sufjan Stevens, for The Age of Adz; nothing I’ve heard this year comes even close
  28. My body, for having carried and borne one child and now carrying another
  29. My body, for nourishing the Critter
  30. My body, for having finished three marathons and might just have one or two (or more?) left in it
  31. Fred Lebow, for making the New York City Marathon the awesome five-borough experience it is
  32. Joan Benoit Samuelson and Grete Waitz, for showing the world what women can do
  33. My BOB stroller, for keeping me running, sort of
  34. Being able to work from home
  35. The Critter’s lovely Montessori school
  36. My clients
  37. Christina Katz, for providing a map for developing a professional writing career
  38. Other teachers of writing whom I’ve known only from their books: especially Brenda Ueland, Anne Lamott, and Natalie Goldberg
  39. Oh, and Kim Addonizio and Dorriane Laux, also teachers of writing whom I’ve known only from their books, but they get their own special thanks as being the authors of the book that I bought when I decided to start writing poetry again
  40. My girlfriends from Simsbury; some of whom I’ve known as long as thirty years? longer?
  41. My college friends; and I don’t even like to think that as of this year we, too, have known each other for decades, egads!
  42. Sherine, for always listening; plus, recipes for PIE!
  43. Melissa, for finding me years and years after grad school was over (though maybe I found her?)
  44. Having taken part in the Simsbury High School concert choir
  45. Having taken part in the New Blue
  46. My singing voice, which perhaps I’ll use again someday
  47. Joss Whedon, for Buffy
  48. The BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, for being the very bestest long, long film to watch on a cold, snowy day
  49. Charlotte Joko Beck, for her two books that have meant so much to me
  50. Ossipee Lake in New Hampshire
  51. Mount Chocorua
  52. The Yum-Yum Shop in Wolfboro, New Hampshire, for their sugar crullers
  53. Bailey’s in Wolfboro, New Hampshire, for their hot fudge
  54. Paris, France; someday my love and I will get back there
  55. Our CSA
  56. The Greenmarket at Grand Army Plaza
  57. Prospect Park
  58. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden
  59. The first signs of spring: crocuses, daffodils, magnolia trees
  60. Lilacs, for their heady scent
  61. The bluebells of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden — like nothing else you’ve ever seen
  62. And especially day lilies, which generally appear around the time when I’m thinking that all the best flowers are gone for the year
  63. The leaves of deciduous trees, for changing color before they fall away
  64. And especially the leaves of sweetgum trees, for being shaped like stars and turning all colors of the autumn
  65. The Brooklyn Birthing Center and its kick-ass midwives
  66. Thanksgiving, for warming up the darkest weeks of the year
  67. Christmas, for lighting up the darkest weeks of the year
  68. The U.S. Naval Observatory, for providing the means for me to obsess about the minutes of sunlight per day at this time of year
  69. Charles Schulz, for A Charlie Brown Christmas
  70. Vince Guaraldi, for the music for A Charlie Brown Christmas
  71. Bill Watterson, for Calvin and Hobbes
  72. Cyndi Lauper, for showing when I most needed to see that it’s just fine to be yourself
  73. Sinéad O’Connor, for The Lion and the Cobra and I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
  74. The Beatles, for damn thing they did
  75. Bach, for every damn thing he wrote
  76. Beethoven, for his Symphony No. 7
  77. Arvo Pärt, for Tabula Rasa
  78. Coffee
  79. Hot chocolate
  80. Red wine (how I miss it …)
  81. My grandma Nevins’s coffee rolls, which my dad still makes
  82. My grandma Dalessio’s string bean casserole, which we’ll be enjoying today
  83. Elizabeth Mitchell, for You Are My Little Bird
  84. James Marshall, for George and Martha
  85. Arnold Lobel, for Frog and Toad
  86. Madeleine L’Engle
  87. Andrea O’Reilly, for Feminist Mothering
  88. Katha Pollitt
  89. Freddy’s, where I met my love — and where we saw the Red Sox win the World Series for the first time in eighty-six years
  90. The 2004 Red Sox
  91. Terry Francona, whom I’m going to miss
  92. My laptop, which has suffered much undeserved abuse
  93. My camera
  94. The piano at my father’s house, which, alas, the Critter will not let me play
  95. All Songs Considered, for introducing me to wondrous music
  96. New Sounds, for the same
  97. The Brian Lehrer Show
  98. Top Cafe Tibet
  99. The tot lot
  100. For all that I have yet to encounter, and for all that I have forgotten: gassho

Mount Chocorua

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Christy @ Adventures in Mommyhood November 24, 2011 at 7:27 PM

I love how you started this blog! I try very hard not to be a complainer but I am a worrier by nature so the complaints comes far too easy and far too often. I really enjoyed participating in this challenge. I feel so positive an uplifted. I am having tons of fun goof through and reading every post that linked up over on Amanda’s blog. Talk about inspiring!!

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Christine November 27, 2011 at 9:18 PM

I have missed you!! This is such a great post. And this:

“My singing voice, which perhaps I’ll use again someday”

I feel this. I hope that happens for you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Rachael November 28, 2011 at 9:17 PM

Thank you, Christine! The Critter won’t even let me sing along with Elizabeth Mitchell. He said it’s because the recorded music is real. Well, I’m real too, dammit.

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Melissa November 28, 2011 at 12:03 AM

This is lovely, Rachael! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with gratitude and that you’re enjoying your break and feeling well.

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Amanda November 28, 2011 at 11:09 PM

I love lilacs. Love. LOVE. Does that say it enough for you? 🙂

Your list is so beautiful, real and detailed. Thank you so much for your grateful presence in this challenge.

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Melissa November 29, 2011 at 4:13 PM

Hi Rae – Great post. You most definitely found me after far too long, for which I am both thankful and grateful (finding one another again, not the long length of time). I was thinking of #75 yesterday – I was at a rehearsal for the Bach Christmas Oratorio. And with all the notes, I thought – “EVERY note Bach wrote? Even that unfortunate G# I just missed? Even those way too fast scrubby scales that my fingers just can’t do? Even the parts my section leader says ‘just pretend to play and it will be plenty loud’ “? Ah yes, every note. I’ll try to remember that. Happy Thanksgiving.

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