Gratitude

September 23, 2009

I’ve been musing lately on gratitude. I need to consider it more often because it feels good and it’s apparently, like, super important to mental health, but I can’t decide how to go about being more intentional about it.

I had a couple of friends a few years ago who started to write gratitude lists on their live journal blogs. It would be like, “Thankful Thursday! 1.) my dog 2.) my cat 3.) friends 4.) awesome pecan pie 5.) and . . . the weekend!”

Then, there are other people whose gratitude is usually expressed in terms of worse case scenarios: “Well, at least I didn’t run off the road when my tire blew!” or “My boss is incompetent and messy, but at least I have a job.”

And what’s the difference between gratitude and appreciation, or satisfaction? A quick perusal of Wikipedia offers a helpful description of different measures positive psychologists have developed to measure gratitude, like the Appreciation Scale that measures “appreciation of people, possessions, the present moment, rituals, feeling of awe, social comparisons, existential concerns, and behavior which expresses gratitude”.

I’m on the subject because I struggle to manage my negative thinking on a daily basis. My mind has a million and one processes designed to detect flaws and inadequacies in a never-ending search for problems to solve. While this makes for a great work ethic in a difficult profession, it’s not altogether good for my long term prospects as a social worker. Not to mention I am woman about to jump on the flexible spending account, under-insured, frozen sperm boat. I’ve found that sometimes bloggers writing about the process of trying to conceive strike the same notes over and over — anxiety, injustice, defeat, longing, repeat: anxiety, injustice, defeat, longing, repeat:

One time a co-worker mentioned some study that found that people who journal are more depressed. It was one of those drive-by comments that will stay with me for a long time. I kept a paper and pen journal for almost ten years as a teenager and young adult. The themes were: I’m fat, I hate my dad, I like this boy. Then, later, when I got older, the themes were: I’m fat, I’m broke,  I like this boy and oh . . . there’s this girl.

Then, in keeping a wedding blog for friends, family and the world at large, complete with my face and name, I had to stay positive. I couldnt dwell on the intricacies of this slight or that injustice because it wouldve hurt the PR campaign I was so cunningly crafting for friends and family. Not to mention, it is almost entirely against the conventions of the wedding blogging medium to do anything other than squee and coo.

The thing is, I kind of liked the forced smile. It keep me magnanimous  and kind, downright chipper. But, with this blog, being anonymous and focusing on our infertility, I am tempted to do the opposite, to revel in every complaint, criticism and gripe — but to what effect? I mean, just look at the tag cloud and you’ll see that this is actually a mother-in-law blog. And that’s, um, less than cool.

So, do I start the trite gratitude lists? Do I just focus on the positive and let those moments of satisfaction come as they may? Currently, I’m really good at “the present moment” and “rituals”. There’s nothing like savoring coffee or opening my ears as I coast down two-lane highways and the fall leaves rush against the windshield. And clearly, post – wedding, I’m way blissed out in the ceremony, the ritual, the milestone of that accomplishment. For a while, Wifetastic and I had a nightly ritual where we would share our favorite part of the day, the thing about the other we most appreciated and the gift we gave to the other  — whether it was a chore, a gesture, or some other small thing. It was the best pillow talk ever.

I need to institute something, I think, so let’s give this gratitude list a try, shall we.

Um, in this moment, I am grateful for: the self control that managed to get me to the gym this morning, my passion for this new blog, my father-in-law’s calming presence on my mother-in-law, my flexible work schedule and . . . the weekend!

In other news, I bought my first ovulation predictor sticks yesterday. I’m really just loving these little teensy milestones.

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One Response to “Gratitude”

  1. Robbie said

    I find it difficult trying to strike a balance between my usual sarcastic judgmental nature and wanting to be “nicer” and more carefree. Generally I find myself swinging from one extreme to the other. Who needs a happy medium when you can zip down the whole spectrum and back again? 🙂

    You should check out http://www.early-pregnancy-tests.com if you’re POAS happy like we are. You can get great bundle deals like 15OPK’s & 5HPT’s for $17. I heart saving money while simultaneously giving in to my need for informational instant gratification.

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