Friday, December 28, 2007


I recently heard a wonderful piece on Morning Edition . My local station runs a program called Morning Stories featuring personal stories of maybe 3-4 minutes, sometimes wonderful, sometimes maudlin. This story was called Thanksgiving and Getting, told by a woman who is casually informed that she never says "thank you." She grew up privileged and maybe just never had the opportunity to really consider how grateful she was for the things in her life so she never developed the habit of not just taking things for granted. She tries to say thank you regularly and finds it to be strained, so she begins to keep a gratitude journal that changes her life.

I've been thinking a lot about gratitude lately and wanting to write an entry about it. Beyond the fact that it's seasonal, it's something worth taking under consideration and thinking about. This has been a hard entry to write, not because I don't have a lot to be grateful for, but because examining it is surprisingly difficult. I keep drifting into the maudlin or the self-congratulatory and that's really not what I want this to be about.

As I was approaching my 40th birthday this past October I did what most people do. I thought about my life. I figured that since I'm now at about the half way point, it's worth examining. I have done a few of the things I wanted do, done many things I never expected to, and haven't done some things I thought I would have easily accomplished by now. None of this is an earth shattering surprise. But when I thought about the things I have or haven't accomplished, I wasn't filled with a sense of contentment or pride or regret, nor was I moved to suddenly act or apologize or get depressed. Mostly I just felt grateful that I have been given the opportunities I have had, that I have people in my life whom I have loved and that have loved me, that I have managed to do some things that might have made a small difference in the world.

Rereading this, I suspect it's a pretty common set of reactions.

After looking at my life on the brink of 40, I decided to try to make this year about gratitude, to appreciate what I have and see how this changes things moving forward. I am trying, with more or less success, to be aware of the gifts in my life, to note them, to thank the universe for them. I don't think I'm likely to become one of those people who is always praising everything. I'm not that open-hearted. But I do think the world is a big place, that we can see more of it, and be happier in it, if we move through it noticing the details and grateful for the gifts, as often as we are able. The poet Mary Oliver writes beautifully about this.

All of that being said, I know I will not succeed in this goal. It's one that is doomed to failure from the start if I am to remain in this world. Our modern world, with all of its conveniences and noise, isn't accommodating to a life of deep observation and gratitude. Those who move too slowly or express too much gratitude are not looked upon with patience but as bordering on mad. I am a child of my time and find extended deep observance wearing - I need that dose of tv or some other kind of consumer culture to numb me from time to time. But I can still try to slow down, to look, to be grateful and express that gratitude. I will not be the worse for trying. I'm not afraid of bring thought a little mad (that happens often enough anyway) and I think perhaps I might appreciate the chance to be a divine fool, mad with gratitude for the gifts of the world around me.

I'll let you know what happens.

(c) 2007 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. Too much deep thinking. Must watch TV. ;-)
    Seriously, though. That was a lovely entry.

  2. I joined the swapbot on "100 things I'm grateful for" last night. I decided to challenge myself and write the list of 100 things in one sitting. It was interesting the things that came out, I am thinking of saving the list! And now, the first blog I read on the blogswap opens with an entry on gratitude, love those synchronicities!


True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at
Related Posts with Thumbnails