Oddly enough, I was born here in Hallmark City. Although growing up in the Kansas City area gave me a love of Bryant’s barbecue and Royals baseball – that’s a given – somehow jazz is lost on me, as is the Hallmark vibe. I’ve always felt inadequate in the face of those tough say-the-magic-thing moments.
I mean no disrespect to our friends at Hallmark, who built an enormously successful business and produced a lot of good paychecks over the years basically around cards that say something comforting and hopeful when bad news comes. There’s an art to credibly putting the best face on things. Some people are good at that, always seeing the glass as at least half full. Many of us are not.
The research backs up what your mother told you. A grateful attitude doesn’t just make you more pleasant to be around. There are physiological effects, and grateful people even live longer.
This is an act of will, but we have to take care that it not become an act of delusion. I don’t mean to just give in to each day’s Live-at-6-and-10 doom, but looking for the bright side of every last thing isn’t helpful or healthy.
A friend reminds me of the trap of right-wrong thinking, seductive though that is. Some things – many things – just are. Investing our own morality in it is just vanity. It occurs to me that obsessing on whether the glass is half empty or half full runs along the same lines and often asks the wrong question.
Now, if you say “attitude of gratitude,” I’ll run the other way because it’s gimmicky and trite, but I will meet you halfway. A good deal of gratitude, it seems, is about awareness and not taking things for granted. You have to work at it.
We can complain about aches and pains, and we inevitably do, but what about just being upright and mobile, though a step slower? We lose sleep over poor decisions by loved ones, but do we think – intentionally and consistently – about those who have come through that and now are safe, sober and happy?
I’m always struck by the number of people whose mood seems to rise and fall with the sun and clouds. It’s a beautiful day, we say a bit enthusiastically when it’s sunny and 72. But 50, gray and rainy has a beauty of its own. I don’t mean the cliche that the bad makes the good seem better. No, I mean it has a beauty of its own. Enjoy it. It won’t last. Neither will sunny and 72.
It’s Thanksgiving Day. We have blessings beyond our ability to count. We will count some of them today. We will eat, watch football, hug the kids, scold the kids, argue over politics, bemoan the state of the world. We will laugh. We will grumble. Maybe deep down we’ll curse the darkness. We’re humans. Those are human things.
If we’re smart, we’ll learn to do better at grabbing life’s fleeting moments of joy. Savor the gifts that come your way.
– Mostly Jeff Fox plans to enjoy pie today. He’s on Twitter: @FoxEJC