Something that I love about gratitude (besides everything) is that it’s unlimited. While there are repeat categories for me, where the same thing is what I’m grateful for over and over again (that first sip of coffee, for instance, the sun up there in the sky, the calm of the beach, the whole of Italy, crusty bread, al dente pasta, the best person I know–my dog, my family, my friends, a hot bath with that lavender stuff from Whole Foods, music, flowers, when I wake up feeling thin, my oldest friend, a good protest sign), there is a literal cornucopia of things, experiences, people and places to be appreciated, to give you a deep thanks-who-ever-arranged-this feeling of gratitude.
Cute shoes that are comfortable, a tweet that wipes that smug and stupid smile of the president’s face, a sweet, old picture, a story about my mom, a good, hard laugh where I think I wish I’d had some diapers on, because it was that funny, an artist, a person who perpetually does good.
There are tiny miracles happening all over the place. We just have to notice them. We just have to log them into our brain to help it understand that there is good, no spectacular, all around us. All around us. All the time.
There are lots of things going on for me right now–some fantastically great and some so emotionally exhausting and provocative, I feel like I’m in the process of falling into the pit of an erupting volcano, while a tornado of hungry wolves whirls overhead. Nothing like that fight or flight response in the middle of the night to ensure you get a good night’s sleep.
The only answer, and I think there’s only one (besides addictive or illegal drugs, that is), happens to be free and pretty darn handy, since you have access to it 24/7. That, of course, is breathing. Actually, it’s not exactly breathing, it’s turning your attention to breathing. That’s a fine point. I always find it irritating when someone says to just breathe. I’m like, “I’ve been breathing for 59 years, and it hasn’t prevented me from being forehead deep in gobs of anxiety.” It’s the attention part that’s important here. You’re always breathing (or your dead), but when you pay attention to that in and out breath, that’s when the magical calming-the-fuck-down, Hey-I-can-cope thing happens.
So, for today, in the department of gratitude, I put forth breathing. All I have to do (and you can do it too. Come on, play along) is listen to yourself breath in, then breath out. You know exactly how to do the breathing part, all you have to fine-tune is the pay attention part. Put on your focus pants, block out the rest of the world and remember you’re a self-contained one-man-band of de-distress-ifying power. I can forget this very easy way to prevent crazy, so thought you might like a gentle reminder too. You’ve got the goods. Yes, you.
Last night I watched the finale of Here & Now, an Alan Ball HBO series that’s part This is Us, part eerie what-the-hell-is-happening. I loved it.
But in the end, it didn’t deliver the “ohhhhhhhhh, I get it” moment I was looking for. I started to get that duped Lost finale feeling. But then, I watched the after the show clip, and Alan Ball said something really interesting, which was something to the effect of, there being a lot of things in life that are a mystery, that we just can’t know, and that fascinates him and what he explored in this show. Somehow all my bad feelings about not getting a tidy boxed up ending disappeared and I thought, “yeah, there is a lot of mysterious shit in the world, that can never be explained, and that is actually one of the most interesting things that exist–the mystery of it all.
Like how is it that when we’re in utero, we know to put our nose on our face and not our leg? How do ants communicate with each other to build something? Why IS the sky blue? How do plants make it through winter underground and know exactly when to pop their heads back up? What makes time feel like it’s going fast or slow? When a dog barks is he actually saying something smarter than you’re saying? How do birds fly? And Jesus, God, why can’t we get rid of cellulite?
Gratitude for all those things that are out there and unknown, just on the edge of knowledge, close to the crazy. Yes, there are things Google doesn’t know, and none of us know either, and I’m with Alan Ball, that makes me somehow excited.
Gratitude to old friends. Not that they’re old–I mean their friendship is old. Although one of them is 82, which I think might actually be considered old. Course the older I get, the younger old becomes, but I think over 80 is the start of getting old, right? Can we call it that? You are only as old as you feel….. but uh oh, I’m digressing.
In the past few weeks, I’ve had some occasions to see old friends and awe gratitude was leaking out of my pores. It’s good to remember who you used to be, where you’ve been, good to reconnect with the past and catch up on the present.
Occasion One was a reunion of people who I worked with at an ad agency 25 years ago. Yuh-huh– twenty-five years ago. It was a small agency overlooking the Boston Public Garden. It’s where I worked with an art director named Karl, who was my partner and became my friend and who helped me laugh off the epic infertility I had. It’s where I worked on accounts like Waterville Valley Ski Resort and Brigham’s Ice Cream and The Hynes Convention Center. It’s where I threw a shower for a co-worker who I had bonded with over both miscarrying, and had to leave in the middle of the party I had planned because I was so sad. It’s where I was once so cold on a day when I was writing a long copy brochure that I walked to the closest store, which happened to be the most expensive and bought a big, fat, chunky sweater for $275. It would clearly be $875 now, if that store hadn’t gone out of business. (May Louis of Boston rest in peace). It’s not like that’s what I spent on clothes back then, in fact it was more than I’d probably spent on anything before, it’s just that I could not walk one step further because I was like Elsa in Frozen. I mean, I was chilled inside my body like I’d been in the freezer at the morgue and I had a deadline to meet. The sweater worked, but when I got home and looked at it in a long mirror I realized the big, fat, chunky sweater actually made me look big, fat and chunky, too. So for the next 10 years to amortize the hefty price tag, I brought it with me to every agency I worked at, where it became known as “the sweater” and anyone who was cold wore it (looking big, fat and chunky to varying degrees).
Everyone at the reunion looked remarkably good. Even one of the partners, who was 82 looked exactly the same as he had 25 years ago, prompting me to ask him what the heck he was doing because I needed to start doing it.
Occasion Two was that one of my college besties who lives in Chicago, who I never get to see, had a funeral in Rhode Island and came and stayed with me for three days! And we dialed up the other third of us and we had ourselves a dinner at my house and maybe you heard a loud noise last Wednesday night because that would be us–we were howling like a pack of wolves. We relived the old day’s greatest hits, then moved on to the now. It was perfect. Cid and I toured a very changed Boston and even went back to our old dorm. These girls will be my friends forever. This is how it is with old friends, you can’t erase the impact of your bond and for me, these are people I would do anything for, not just because I loved them then, but because I still love them now.