Readers Write on Gratitude #3

In November, we are featuring three guest writers who have submitted pieces on “Gratitude”. We will post these throughout the month. Next month’s subject is “Holidays” and everyone is welcome to submit a non-fiction piece. Send your essays to scottbierko@gmail.com by November 30, 2022.

GRATEFUL FOR GRATITUDE by Amy G.

As I sat with this piece, as I’ve learned to do, I realized I was headed down an impossible road. Writing about gratitude led me to perspective. Perspective led me to privilege. Privilege led me to empathy. Empathy led me to balance. I felt like I couldn’t write about gratitude without writing about every single thing that’s important to me. I don’t think Scott wants me to take over his blog, so you’re only getting my thoughts on gratitude, as requested. But dear reader, please know that gratitude is the hub – the rest of the wheel doesn’t roll without it.

My husband, Rob, was a recovering alcoholic who regained his sobriety with the help of AA. We were not married when he got sober, and my need to better understand addiction and its impact led me to Al-Anon. Rob and I often went together, as both of his parents had been alcoholics, and he found Al-Anon meetings at least as helpful as AA – perhaps more so. Though we eventually stopped going to meetings, a number of the 12-step principles stayed with me, particularly gratitude.

While Rob was sick with – and ultimately dying from – cancer, I had a gratitude jar. They were all the rage at the time – Oprah or Elizabeth Gilbert or some other media guru of middle-aged women was promoting them. Every night, I’d write one thing I was grateful for on a slip of paper, fold it up, and drop it in the jar. Some people emptied their jar once a year and reviewed all the things they were grateful for. Mine is in a box in my basement. Perhaps I’ll go through it one day. Perhaps not.

More regularly, I’ve kept a daily gratitude journal. In the journal, I write three things I’m grateful for. I think the jar helped when Rob was sick because there were certainly days where I didn’t feel like I could come up with more than one thing.

Whether I’m writing three a day or eking out one, some days it’s easy – three things will pop into my head immediately – and some days, it’s a challenge. I can usually come up with one thing pretty easily. Sometimes, it’s gratitude that the day is over, or that the weather was good. Sometimes, I have to focus on the basics – I have a warm house, plenty of food, a loving relationship, good people in my life. 

Some of my other regular themes are nature, pets, good food/wine, a great book, gratifying moments at work, soulful live music, and yoga – all things that are accessible, not at all impossible. It’s much too easy to take these things for granted, and when that happens, I start to feel feelings that aren’t necessarily grounded in reality but in some amorphous sense of what “should” be. The simple act of taking a few moments to focus on gratitude for what I do have, what is real, helps me regain perspective and remember just how damn lucky I am. 

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