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Gratitude: Ten Things I’m Grateful for Today

Posted by Rick · November 20th, 2005 · 2 Comments

I haven’t had time to “fix” my blog after being forced to find a new hosting company. But I don’t want to ignore it, either!

This morning, I got an email from Rabbi Kalman Packouz. It contained the following story from Rabbi Pliskin’s book Thank You! (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at judaicaenterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242):

I met a fellow whom I hadn’t seen in over five years. The last time I had seen him he was pessimistic, negative, miserable and depressed. When we bumped into each other now he was smiling and his entire being radiated a sense of joy.

“How did you do it?” I asked him. “You look like an entirely different person. How did you develop the joy I see on you now?”

“When we spoke a number of years ago, you tried to influence me to become a more positive person. You suggested that I make a daily list of at least ten good things that happened to me that day,” he said. “I argued that this wouldn’t help me. It wasn’t my fault that I was so unhappy. The root cause was that my parents were to blame. Nobody gave me what I needed to be a happy person. Others were to blame and I was angry at everyone I knew.”

“About a year ago, I gave my entire spiel to a tough personal coach. He told me that I was choosing to be unhappy and miserable. I screamed at him, and told him that the way he was talking to me was just making me feel worse. I thought he would back down, like most people I intimidated with my anger. But to my surprise and shock, he spoke to me like no one had spoken to me before.

” ‘You can go around blaming everyone else,’ he said to me. ‘But it’s your own responsibility to make yourself happy in life. The more you blame others, the less you will do anything to change your pattern of thinking. It’s your own pattern of thinking that’s destroying your life. Stop it! Stop ruining your life! There’s a lot of good in your life that you can be grateful for. Notice it and you will live a joyful life. Continue to willfully blind yourself, and you will be a miserable human being. It’s up to you. I can try to help you develop a pattern of gratitude. But only you can do it for yourself. If you keep avoiding seeing what you can be grateful for, that’s your decision, and that is what you will keep seeing: Nothing to be grateful for. But if right this moment you fully commit yourself to being a master at noticing what you can be grateful for, you will find things each and every day. Stop acting like an imbecile and start thinking like an intelligent human being.’ This was said with such intensity that I was left speechless.

“I was furious at that person. I was looking for sympathy and I didn’t get it. I felt awful. Then the next day I said to myself, I have to admit that he is right. I do notice what I focus on: negativity. Let’s see what happens when I am utterly resolved to see what there is to be grateful for.

“The next day I noticed a number of things I could be grateful for. And the next day I noticed even more things. And then I noticed even more things. Somehow it was almost like I was living on an entirely different planet.”

And that got me thinking. So I created my own list for today.

  1. My wife. She is, indeed, the love of my life and — although I’m not going to jump up and down on any couches right now — I can’t imagine what I’d do without her. Certainly, it’s a miracle, or a freak accident, that I have this opportunity to spend my life with her!
  2. My friends. I don’t have as many friends as some people, perhaps, but that’s fine by me. Because I really like the ones I have and the way I view it, not having a bazillion friends means I get more time to focus on the ones I do have.
  3. My teachers at the law school. I like to learn. I’ve always liked to learn. People who teach, obviously, provide me new ways to learn.
  4. My fellow students. My fellow students aren’t always so fond of me, from what I hear And sometimes, I admit, I’m not so wild about them. But most of the time I’m grateful that they exist. I’m the kind of person who can learn from books and I enjoy that. But there’s nothing like the feeling when you’re sitting in a class listening to someone else’s point of view. And I particularly enjoy it when I’m involved in “debating” with one or more of them. There’s nothing to help broaden one’s perspective better.
  5. People who don’t like me. Yep. That’s right. I’m grateful for people who don’t like me. It’s kind of like the learning thing. People who don’t like me help me to get a different perspective on myself. As one of my friends, Mark King, occasionally says, “I’ve got to give you a hard time occasionally, Ric — no one else will!” My wife, family, or friends will occasionally point out some character flaw, or thought process gone awry, and encourage me to “work on it.” But the perspective of people who don’t like me holds up a mirror that shows me my greatest weaknesses. These are the things I really need to work on. Frankly, if my friends did this too often, life wouldn’t be much fun. So it’s nice to have some people who don’t like me to occasionally force me to examine some of the things I do that my friends have learned to overlook. Ironically, in the end, this (I hope) helps me to reduce the numbers of those who don’t like me! Not to worry, though, partly because of who I am and partly because of who they are, there will always be plenty of people who don’t like me to keep me learning, growing and, as I said, grateful.
  6. Books. It will come as no surprise to most people who know me that I’m grateful for books. Anyone who knows me more than a few hours will start to figure that out. People who know me longer might realize that I have a bit of a fetish for books. I particularly like hardback books. I wish they weren’t so doggoned expensive. I like books not just for the knowledge that’s in them; there’s some kind of visceral attraction that I have to books. I confess that I sometimes carry books around just to have one near me — even if I know that where I’m going (e.g., the movies, or someone’s house) I’m not really going to be reading the book. Generally speaking, books are written by people smarter than me. And so this kind of ties in with numbers 1 through 6 above. Books are just another way of being involved, albeit asynchronously and from a distance, with people. When I was a kid, books not only taught me, they provided a kind of “continuity of relationships” as my family — my dad was in the Navy — moved around the country all too frequently.
  7. My office. Yep. How many times do you hear someone say that! But I have a great office and I’m sitting in it right now enjoying the view of the federal courthouse out one window and the county courthouse out the other. I may miss the warmth right now, but the trees look great this time of year.
  8. My 2005 Victory Touring Cruiser. I cannot believe how much I like my new motorcycle. If I’d known it was going to be so much fun, I’d have bought one a long time ago. Sure, I’ve been riding scooters for the last few years — and, as a young man (I was one once, you know!), I owned a few small motorcycles in the 500 cc range — but nothing compares with the 1500 cc Victory I’m riding right now. After a long day of work, I jump on that thing and head home and, by the time I get there, I’m already feeling better. I’ve actually caught myself smiling as I go down the road before and suddenly realized the reason I was smiling was the feeling I get from being on the bike. One of these days, I’m hoping to take a ride (with some friends, if I’m lucky!) around the country, or at least some huge chunk of it.
  9. Writing. I’ve always enjoyed writing. When I was a kid, I used to write stories about Snoopy & the Red Baron. I wrote poetry. When I was in college, I started journaling. I have quite a large collection of notebooks with everything from my thoughts about a particular meal I was eating at the moment I wrote a particular entry, to thoughts about people, to thoughts about more esoteric things like “What makes a person?” and other cognitive scientific, anthropologic, political or social issues. I used to sit at Carl’s Jr. literally hours each day, writing. I’m particularly happy with the few (too few!) things I’ve had published. And nowadays when I do so much legal writing (writs, appeals, motions, etc.), my only regret is that I don’t get enough time for fun writing, for my blog — the latest version of “journaling.” That kind of writing — blogging, journaling — helps me understand myself better. Sometimes, you think you know something; but until you sit down and try to write things out, you don’t really. Socrates is said to have said that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Writing is my way of examining my thinking, my thoughts and my life.
  10. Photography & Photoshop. I have had the misfortune that I have a strong creative desire, without much creative skill. I’ve found, however, that if I’m persistent enough, I can occasionally get myself a good picture or two. And with Photoshop, I can actually take some of my not-so-good pictures and make them better. Plus, on rare occasions, I can create things that don’t exist — some readers of my blog may remember Santoclus of Borg, for example. This gives me some opportunity to express my creative self. I’ll never be famous. I’ll never be rich. But at least I have that outlet.

Well, that’s my list for now. And like the guy in the story above, I think I might just have to adopt this habit of trying to find 10 things I’m grateful for each day. You might find this a fun exercise, as well.

And if you don’t? Well, the first thing you can be grateful for today is the ability to close this window!

Categories: Personal Life


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