*Warning! Adult language.
Last night, stewing in my social distancing-induced misery, I saw a post from a Facebook friend (whom I’ve never met in person), about her 14-day gratitude challenge.
I huffed in derision.
What the fuck is gratitude going to do for me now?
I’m trapped in my mom’s house in the suburbs of Milwaukee. I need nature to thrive; I was supposed to be surfing in the 80-degree, Costa Rican sun for a few more weeks. Instead, it’s 38 and raining outside, not even snow to play in, just soul-chilling drizzle.
How is this gratitude practice supposed to work? When you’re feeling down, you think of things you’re grateful for, and that’s supposed to magically transform your mood? Sounds like total bullshit to me, especially when the fabric of our social order is buckling under COVID-19.
But wait, why? Why am I reacting like this? Not just dismissing gratitude, but actively resisting it. My Spidey-sense tingled…this feels like one of those things I need to investigate. What else have I got to do? Chipping away at the subconscious is a decent way to pass the time—you know, just as much fun as plunging a toilet clogged with shit. (These days fun is relative.)
I’m stuck here in Milwaukee for the foreseeable future, so instead of focusing on how much it sucks, why not at least try to focus on something else?
Okay, let’s start, what am I grateful for?
The first thing that pops into my head is the hot bath I took last night. (In tiny Costa Rican villages, neither hot water nor baths are anywhere to be found.) My bath last night was pretty freakin’ sweet, the hot water—teasing into painful—enveloping my body. Engulfed in the warm wetness, inhaling the lavender scent of Dr. Teals Epsom Salts that my mom keeps under the sink. Closing my eyes, feeling the heat seep into knotty muscles, relaxing my neck, relaxing my shoulders. Capillaries dilate, blood flushes my skin, surges into my feet that are perpetually cold in this climate. Hmm, that’s nice.
Okay, what else am I grateful for? Real cheddar cheese (the “cheese” available in Costa Rica is not only insanely expensive, but frankly rather insulting). My family has been in the cheese business since immigrating to Wisconsin from Germany. Grandpa Casey acquired his nickname from Kase, the German word for cheese, because his father owned a cheese factory. My Uncle Bob ages his own cheese—the two-year cheddar is to die for. Warmed to room temperature, a mouthful of salty, buttery yum-yum that demands a measured, thorough savoring. Yummmm.
Then there’s Lola, my mom’s miniature Australian Sheppard, painted in chestnut and white. Lady Lola, one of the sweetest beings I have encountered in this incarnation. So adorable. OMG, so fuzzy I’m gonna die. Her little prance as she sniffs around the yard, patrolling her territory. The way she looks at me when I pet her, I can feel her love, one of those precious moments when being a highly sensitive empath is fucking amazing. I’m petting her, she’s loving it, I can feel her loving it and I lose myself in the self-perpetuating spiral and soon nothing exists in the world for either of us except loving each other.
And that reminds me of another time when it’s awesome to be an empath—sex, making love (with the right person). Mmmmm.
Fucking hell, I do feel better now. Maybe there’s something to this gratitude stuff…
It’s a kind of escapism, but it’s a healthier way to escape than alcohol, or drugs, or raging at strangers on the internet.
With our thoughts, we make the world. We can’t control the circumstances of our life, but we can influence our experience of it. A few little tricks can radically shift our mood, if we want it to shift.
If you’re cut off from your normal life and starting to lose your shit, maybe it’s time to give gratitude a chance. What have you got to lose? What else are you going to do?
Take a time out, find a quiet place, and try surrendering to gratitude. It’s not enough to simply list things you’re grateful for. Try stopping the hustle of your life for a moment and really feel those things you’re grateful for. Close your eyes, imagine—no remember—how those things make you feel, go there fully in your mind, feel the sensations, your emotional response.
Give yourself to the moment.
Let me know how it turns out for you!