At this particular moment in my life, my heart feels overwhelmed with gratitude. When I sat down to write today’s post, I remembered one that I’d written just shy of a year ago, when I was standing right on the edge of something new and I was unaware of what the next year would bring me. Those of you who read me regularly and who know me well, are aware that things did not turn out exactly the way I thought they might. There were times when my perception and understanding of gratitude were challenged, and it was not until this past January that the universe helped me find my footing by literally knocking my feet right out from under me. And so I’ve been given a second chance to see this all differently. I’ve kept most of the original post the same, with the exception of some changes to the last paragraph that reflect my new understanding of things. I still believe in what I wrote on that day last May, and in the person who wrote it who had absolutely no idea what was about to hit her. I love the innocence in my voice. I’ve learned to be grateful for the situation I entered into back then because it brought me to the place I am today, much wiser, stronger, solid, and sure, and with such a greater capacity to appreciate everything and everyone that is part of my life, and the wonder of my deepest prayers being answered…
When you think of the idea of gratitude, do you consider it to be an emotion or an action? We can certainly feel grateful, so that definitely puts it into the emotion category for me, but we can also give thanks, making it an action too. I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude lately, especially the ways in which feeling it can so drastically improve our lives for the better. There’s been an entire gratitude movement happening for a while now. We’re told that we should write down three things that we’re grateful for each day in a journal if we want to improve our lives, our careers, our personalities, our relationships, and our health. We’ll become more optimistic, less materialistic, more spiritual, more friendly, and more relaxed. Don’t get me wrong here; I’m not scoffing at any of this. I believe in it, but I’m just curious about the process behind it.
My curiosity made me consider what it is that I feel when I’m truly grateful, when I have one of those moments when someone does something surprisingly wonderful for me. It’s a kind of a floaty, fluttery feeling in the region of my heart that makes me feel overwhelmed for a minute. And I immediately want to act on it. I want to wrap the person up in a hug and try to convey how much I appreciate what they’ve done for me. And I’ll keep thinking about that moment for the rest of the day, and people will wonder what I’m smiling about. It’s actually a little bit like love, especially in the beginning, when you can’t stop thinking about someone you’ve met, or you realize that you have a new, very important friend in your life, or you can’t wait to get home to see your puppy, or you can’t get enough of the smell of your newborn’s head. Those are the same type of floaty, fluttery moments that fill us with absolute joy. When you make this comparison, it’s not difficult at all to see why gratitude at this level would bring so many positive things into our lives.
But what about the less than spectacular gestures that people do for us that occur each and every day. They don’t feel quite as wonderful. We still express thanks, but we don’t gush, and sometimes we say it automatically without even making eye contact, without even really thinking about it. Again, it’s a lot like love, right? We’ve become comfortable with this person now, so we don’t spend every moment thinking about them. Our friends are steady, reliable, and still wonderful, but we’ve begun to regard them as constants, so the feeling of having them no longer joyfully surprises us. Our new puppy eats our shoes, shreds the mail, or wreaks some other havoc in our lives, and the newborn has turned into the toddler or teenager that tests and tries our patience on a daily basis. The love is still there, but it sits below the surface, rather than overflowing and making itself impossible not to notice. If we carry the comparison back to gratitude for smaller day-to-day gestures, we’re still thankful for them, but we’re not as mindful that we are, and so we let many moments pass without even realizing it.
I think the answer lies in the fact that life isn’t just comprised of big moments. We don’t fall love with someone new every day, nor do we meet forever friends. We certainly don’t get a new puppy, or have a baby on a daily basis. People don’t do things for us every day that hit us squarely in the chest, or make us cry and say “Wow, you did this for me?” That’s just life. But if we are mindful, and allow ourselves to exist in the present moment without the weight of the past or any expectations for the future, we will be able to continue to look with wonder on everything in our lives. There is no need to believe for a moment that they do not still have the capacity to bring us incredible excitement and joy. If we start each day by allowing the feeling of gratitude to wash over us, then we will never lose sight of how much we wished for all the blessings that the universe had brought us. It is equally true that we have to learn to be mindfully aware of even the smallest opportunities to be grateful, and to make it part of our daily practice. That will just intensify the overall feeling. How wonderful would it be to feel all fluttery and floaty every time someone hands us our coffee at the diner, or Starbucks, or Dunkin’ Donuts? Some people might think we’re crazy, but who cares about them? We’ll be walking around smiling and they won’t know why. I’m ready to give it a try. Who’s with me?
For today’s cocktail, I intensified the drink that I made last May and I turned it into an equal parts cocktail to symbolize the balance that I allowed to slip away from me this past year. I started off with the ever-citrusy Bluecoat gin that I’d infused for a few days with jasmine tea and parsley leaves, both of which represent gratitude and appreciation. I kept the sake and yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit that is a like a fantastic combination of Mandarin orange, Meyer lemon, and Key lime. I added Suze for the bitter component of the drink and Mandarine Napoléon for the sweet, both spirits that continue to surprise me with the way in which they can bring just the right flavor at just the right moment. These four ingredients came together in such a wonderful way, intensifying one another and creating just enough contrast, yet finding balance and harmony more than anything else. Cheers everyone. I’m always grateful to all of you for reading me and for allowing me to share my life. Happy Friday!
With Deeper Thanks
Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously until very, very cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon and a lime peel. Enjoy!