|On a blue, raindrop-splattered background is the image of four people standing under a red umbrella with a heart on it, and the caption: Thankful Me living life with a thankful heart
I started this blog years ago, and after some deliberation, decided upon the name "Thankful Me." I didn't think I was a stunning example of gratitude; I thought that by labeling my blog (and by extension, myself) as such, I would be more conscious of my attitude each day--a little less Complaining Me, and a little more Thankful Me. I've been blogging for over 9 years now, and I am more Thankful Me than I was at the beginning, but I also recognize that my gut reaction is not always one of gratitude. However, I've also learned that with time, I can usually work my way into a thankful state of mind. (This is the spot where I shamelessly plug the blog hop that Lizzi started, Josie Two Shoes carried on, and I currently have the pleasure of hosting with some wonderful co-hosts: the Ten Things of Thankful. The exercise of looking for things to report each week that have brought me a feeling of gratitude certainly has helped me become more Thankful Me.) The point is, thankfulness doesn't always spring to the forefront; in the race of emotions, anger is often a better sprinter than gratitude.
Let me illustrate with an example from this morning:
It all started simply enough; I had dropped my dog, Drexel, off for his monthly bath and decided to take the car through the car wash. There was one vehicle in line in front of me: a SUV with extra-wide tires and a tow hitch. The attendant was pleasant as I pulled in, and even drew a smiley-face on my driver's side window. I thought, "What a nice surprise! Maybe I'll put that on my Ten Things of Thankful list this week." After that unexpected art, the car wash proceeded as usual. The foamy soap covered my windshield. Just then, when I couldn't see a thing, the car started jerking and rocking, over and over again. Finally, the car wash stopped, and my car stopped moving. As the foam cleared a bit from my windshield, I could tell that the vehicle that had been several feet in front of me was only inches in front of me, and I realized what must have happened. The SUV had somehow stopped--perhaps his wide tires got stuck?--but the belt, pulling me through the car wash, had repeatedly rammed my car into his hitch. The car wash attendants helped get us going again, and one of them assured me that he didn't think I had hit the SUV and that there was no damage to my car. "If you do notice damage, though, come back to the office and you can fill out an incident report." The car wash started up again, the smiley-face was removed from my window (and my face) and I pulled out, parked, and got out to see the front of the car for myself. Not surprisingly, there was a round, hitch-shaped, indentation in my front bumper. When I went inside the office to report the damage and file a report, the young attendant said, "Yeah, I saw that, but I didn't know if it was there before." What?? I controlled my tongue but mentally questioned his puzzle skills. Thankful Me was nowhere to be found, but Angry Me was simmering. I took a photo of my bumper, called John and told him about my adventure, then continued on my day.
When I picked up Drexel about an hour after the accident, I was still stewing. I grumbled to the groomer. He sympathized, said he was glad no one was hurt, and told me it was a good story. I realized then that if the surveillance tape appeared on a YouTube car crash compilation video, it would probably be pretty funny to watch. (I doubt the car wash would ever post it, though.) Anyway, I got to thinking about how easy it is to be upset, when really, it wasn't a big deal. No one was hurt. The physical sensation wasn't any more violent than some of my favorite rides at Disneyland. Yes, the car sustained damage, but I am hopeful that the car wash will take full financial responsibility, as I was clearly not at fault. (I should hear from the car wash company within 3 business days.)
I get to choose how I frame the experience. Honestly, my gut-level reaction of anger probably came just from feeling surprised and out-of-control. Holding onto that anger doesn't do me any good, though--it just leaves me with a pit in my stomach that no amount of chocolate satisfies. Gratitude, on the other hand, helps me put the situation in perspective, allows me to be calm--and even laugh--and doesn't sabotage my efforts at healthy living. (In full disclosure, I did visit Costco after the car wash incident, and I did buy a Costco-sized container of hot chocolate mix, but I haven't even opened it yet, AND I got a salad for lunch, so I count that as a win.)
I thought it was interesting that my chance to practice what I preach came today. Last night, my mom shared with me a letter that my grandma wrote to a weatherization company years ago. My grandma, who was 85 years old at the time, had some trouble with water leaking into her home when she washed her sliding glass door. She was "determined to find out why" the water was entering her home. She got down on her hands and knees, figured out where water was pooling and, armed with an ice pick and a kitchen knife, "bored a few holes at the point where [she] figured the water should go out." Unfortunately, she could not manage to remove all the caulking that was preventing the water to drain, and so she was writing to ask the company, "Do you have an electric saw with a thin blade that you could use to dig the caulk out?"
While I love this letter for so many reasons, and can imagine my sweet little grandma tackling this problem with determination, my favorite paragraph is this one:
"I am sorry about this. I am not a difficult person to get along with, but this has been a very trying situation."
Everyone loved my grandma. She was not a difficult person to get along with, and she set a wonderful example to me of how to deal with a situation (like a leaky door or a car wash accident) that understandably could be met with anger, but would be better handled civilly. I don't know how the weatherization company responded, but I do know that my grandma lived a life of gratitude. Even when she was faced with Alzheimer's, she would tell me of the nice things that my mom would do for her.
When I grow up, I want to be like my grandma, who was thankful even in times when she had every right not to be. I'm still practicing, but I do want to be Thankful Me.
How have you remembered to be thankful when you didn't really feel thankful? I'd love to hear your experiences.