"Where does our gratitude go?"
I quizzically looked at my girlfriend Hannah as she sat on her self fashioned seat, aka her suitcase. Since her flight was delayed, we decided to hole up near a good power outlet and wait it out on this late Sunday night. I started telling her that I was feeling a bit guilty that I hadn't been keeping up with my gratefulness exercise recently, the one where you come up with 5 new things you're thankful for each day. Albeit a simple exercise proposed by every self help guru out there, its hard in the application. And my guilt was only compounded by the nearing of Thanksgiving festivities. Expecting some sympathy, I was a bit taken aback by her query and raised an eyebrow.
She continued, "Well I get that we're grateful for the good things in our lives but what happens if these things don't last or change abruptly? For example, I'm so grateful to have you as my boyfriend this year but if we're not together next year, does my happiness go with you?" Now both my eyebrows are raised.
"Don't get me wrong!! I want to get married, I want to have kids. I want to be part of a community theater and achieving all these things will bring me great joy but having them is not going to make me any happier. I worry when I'm grateful only for the material things or the things that are sometimes out of our control, my contentment will then be proportional to the state of external things. In the first year after college, I was going through a really hard time, and often felt pretty depressed. But during that dark period, I learned a very important lesson. No matter how bad the day, I found that I could be happy in the small things, like meeting new people or drinking a cup of coffee or going for a jog. I carved out this habit, this invaluable tool to feel better.
So if I'm being honest, what I'm really grateful for, more than the long laundry list of things and people, is that I know how to practice gratitude for the big and small things in my life, because no matter what happens, I'll always have that."
As I leaned in to kiss her with a smile, I knew what I was grateful for.