Gratitude: Is How You Look At It
I wrote this article 3 years ago while I was a resident mom for a 3 week international summer dance intensive in Pittsburgh. My daughter who was 15 years old at the time was too young to stay in the dorm by herself. The only way she could go, is if we shared a dorm room for 3 weeks. My daughter agreed and said, “It’s not ideal, but we will make the most of it.” It turned out to be a wonderful experience for both of us.
I am sitting in a Starbucks in market square in Pittsburgh. I have done a lot of writing from this Starbucks in the past 3 weeks. It’s raining outside and I am glad to be inside drinking coffee and having this time to write.
While I was writing, I heard a woman at the next table say, “I hate this rain. What a crappy day.”
Really! Just because it’s raining it’s a crappy day.
Wow it’s really how you look at it.
If you live in Houston and just experienced one of the worst draughts Houston has ever had, you would say, “You are so lucky it’s raining.”
So why is one person saying the ‘rain’ ruined their day and another is saying they are grateful for it?
Here are 3 facts about gratitude.
1. It’s all about what you choose to focus on.
This is the reason some people are grateful and some are not. Some people focus on what brings them joy and the other focus on things to complain about.
Here are two different versions of my experience in the past 3 weeks.
The past 3 weeks have been amazing. I have been a resident advisor for my daughter and 7 other wonderful girls. I am grateful to meet some amazing teenagers. I love watching them dance and see them master difficult choreography. I am grateful to experience part of my daughter’s world. I’ve enjoyed exploring another city with new friends. I love running along the river. I am grateful for time to write.
Or I could say the past 3 weeks have been the longest 3 weeks of my life. I have slept on the top of a bunk bed on a real uncomfortable mattress five feet from my daughter. I can’t believe I’ve eaten dorm food breakfast, lunch and dinner. I am sick of those kids yelling and being so goofy in the cafeteria.
The facts are true in both scenarios. (Except really the past 3 weeks have flown by and I don’t mind the kids cutting up in the cafeteria.)
We make choices all the time on what we focus on. No situation is perfect. Why not focus on things that make you feel good. The more you look for things to be grateful for the more things you will find.
When you focus on things to complain about you feel ‘crappy’. The more you look for things to complain about the more things you will find.
2. You need time to reflect
There are so many things to be grateful for, but we forget about them because we rush off to the next thing. When we are so busy, we miss our life. If you don’t take time to reflect you rob yourself the pleasure of remembering the good things.
The good things are there, but if you don’t take time to reflect they are forgotten.
Have you ever heard someone say, things were going so well and then I got this phone call? The phone call becomes the thing you focus on and you forget everything good that happened earlier that day.
It’s never too late. You can always go back and reflect and remember the good things.
Reflecting captures your imagination. You remember how the weather felt and what it looked like. You remember what music was playing. You bask in the details. In the details you find gratitude.
3. Gratitude wakes up the heart and changes everything.
One of my responsibilities the past 3 weeks has been taking roll for the different dance classes. Some of the classes are large and you have to make sure you have an accurate number and all the kids are accounted for. If not, you have to find them. So this has provided ample opportunities to complain about tardy kids.
If I had fallen into this I would have missed the gift. The gift is I get to watch some fabulous dancers. Today I watched one of the higher level ballet classes. I watched them take off in groups of 4 leaping across the floor. I watched 4 male dancers take off across the floor and I thought it was good. I knew these guys and they were cutting up and they looked like teenage boys. But the dance instructor did his magic and told them they could do so much more. He called them to excellence. What I witnessed brought me to tears. In one moment I saw these young boys transform into great dancers. This time they leaped high into the air with such ease and grace and flew across the floor.
I was so grateful that I got to observe this. I would have missed it if I was complaining about the tardy kids.
Gratitude wakes you up. It opens your heart to those around you. Gratitude is paying attention to the miracles that are right in front of you.