Something’s changed in me. I don’t know what it is really. Something about the way my mind is working. It isn’t a dramatic change. (Ivy just came in, handed me a cupcake, looked to the laptop monitor and said, “Daddy, you’re doing a pretty good job of writing.” The sheer force of a father’s love is breathtaking at times) The change came while taking refuge at my mother’s house after a hectic few weeks full of pain, pleasure, and change. And today, the storm has come home.
The first thing to express is how immensely grateful I am. The level of communication and effort people, even complete strangers, have shown Ivy and I over the last month is staggering. Seriously staggering. People at DHS and Workforce in assisting me through copious amounts of red tape in my efforts to get my academic career back on course have added to a renewed sense of purpose. All just “doing their job” perhaps, but I feel most can judge when someone does an exceptional job of something, and they have so a personal shout out Lenee Hastings at DHS and Rebecca Kennedy of Workforce for going above and beyond. Shirley Martin at the U of A Treasury Office for assisting me in getting my account resent to zero so that I could enroll for the fall. She has led me through the no-nonsense process of dealing with costs of a university life, a true warrior within the system. Without these three women, none of it would have been possible. There are more to get to on campus, and I’ll get to them after some family love.
So grateful to my tireless mother. Her energy surpasses that of a marathon runner at times, and her unending devotion to family drips from every snarky comment. To my father and stepmother for dentistry beyond anything I have ever tried before and for making the family reunion unforgettable. To all of my siblings who’s patience and influence have been crucial to this summer being so amazing. What a family to come from, and I realize that not everyone has a family like this to hold in gratitude. If I ever have, I will never again take such a thing for granted. As well, I have many friends, old and new. This, often quite insane, crew have had my back, even when they maybe shouldn’t have, and almost certainly didn’t have to be. They are my project partners, an ex, former band mates, other people’s housemates’ children. Some I have known for less than two years, some I have known for over thirty. These are the people who have made me who I am today. I proudly wear the scars of this life in full knowledge of those who have provided the healing spaces so that my wounds may become scars. And speaking of those who have my back, the is one last person to mention.
Doc Madison, Karen Madison who I consider a mentor and maybe my largest academic supporter. I’ve mentioned her before, but I cannot overstate how amazing it is to have her “on campus” and always ready to face my difficulties by offering solutions. She once called me a Comp for Teachers hero. She has my permission to use the word “hero,” as she executes that very role for me. So very grateful for her and to her. Like I said about my family, this is not everyone’s story, and that makes me think.
Something I have noticed about being grateful is the cast of characters one must be surrounded by, or at least the come from, to feel so much gratitude. There is a lot of opinion out there that when someone becomes grateful as a practice they will see a change in the life that surrounds them. Potentially more career success, better relationships, deeper friendships, etc. While this is likely true, it only covers half of the story, and it is the very half that gives validity to the term “gratitude.”
I propose a more likely truth—adopting a practice of gratitude may be resultant from the quality in those by whom we are surrounded.
I realize the argument against may have much to do with stories of people who are very grateful despite being very unfortunate. This argument does nothing but miss the point. If someone is grateful now, after such a difficult life, and expressing it to those that matter most around them, they have people to express gratitude to now. Nobody decides that these people were to come into their lives, these people are part of a person’s environment. This is true even if an individual practiced gratitude while expressing it to nobody. It is also remains true if one doesn’t have a person to be grateful to and is instead expressing gratitude about their environment. They didn’t make the environment that allowed them to function in a way to be grateful for what they have. Assume someone builds a log cabin with their bare hands, they didn’t make the forest that provided them with the materials to build or the technology of tool making that allows anyone to make such things. I’ve noticed this sometimes makes people irritated that they cannot take the credit for being so grateful, but there is an upside to noticing this factor.
Every time your mind decides to be kind, you introduce a reference point for gratitude. I invite everyone to think of it this way, when you express gratitude you give someone a reason to acknowledge and emulate your behavior. Like a smile made for a stranger often elicits a smile in response, a show of gratitude may make someone else feel it as well, but they will feel it via their brains, through all of their filters and bias. The gratitude will take on a life of it own and become a part of the environment for people to use and experience. Of course this changes nothing about the behavior of being grateful.
The responsibility to express gratitude for your fortune and nature is still our’s. If you recognize something which inspires you to express these feelings, do so. The quicker the better. Express it a thousand times a day and you plant a thousand seeds for more gratitude.