I’ve often considered gratitude to be a unique emotion. I thought it was because it was something that we could both perceive and express in the sense that we can feel thankful and we can say thank you. I wrote a post about that very idea, in fact, about 18 months ago and I reprised it back at the beginning of May. But gratitude is not the only emotion that can be both felt and expressed. Pain is that way; after all, we can feel hurt and we can hurt others. And love is certainly that way, so gratitude’s sense of uniqueness for me cannot really be found in the give and take aspect of it. I know that I think about gratitude a lot these days because I have been blessed with so much that is good, especially in the last year, and because I have learned that approaching each day from the perspective of being thankful can truly be life-changing. But what is it that makes me want to know so much more? I decided to do some research and I discovered that gratitude is what experts call a social emotion in that it forces us out of our own heads, even if just momentarily. It almost always involves another human being who has done something wonderful for us. We feel a wave of thankfulness wash over us that can be big enough to almost knock us off our feet. Sometimes we see the wave coming. It’s our birthday and we are enveloped in celebration and we are grateful. Other times it may be something unexpected that happens, like a random act of kindness extended by a stranger, or a sweet gesture from someone who loves us enough to know it was just what we needed. Even when we are thankful for something that is non-human like a house, or a job, or a situation, we express our thanks to some agent of giving outside of ourselves, like fate or God or the universe.
The psychologists, therapists, and self-help books that take the position that gratitude is the most important emotion of all do so precisely because it directs our attention outward. As I have said before in other blog posts, we are the only living creature that spends so much time in our own heads questioning, analyzing, and orchestrating, all as part of our eternal effort to manipulate, manage, and control. We set expectations constantly and experience disappointment when they are not met. We are puzzled by the idea of loving unconditionally even though it’s not all that difficult of a concept to grasp. It’s meant to be felt, not considered, and therein lies the biggest reason why we struggle with it. Yesterday was Thanksgiving and at some point during the day I would assume that we all took a minute to reflect on everyone and everything for which we are grateful. What was that like for you? I was halfway through writing this post, so I tried to notice what I felt in that moment of saying thank you for all the ways in which the past year has blessed me. I became aware of a sense of expansiveness, as if my heart had suddenly grown bigger and was subsequently capable of holding so much more. It makes total sense though. Think about the universal gesture for when someone does something for us that creates that wave I mentioned earlier. Don’t we put one hand or both over our hearts and say, “Oh, you did this for me?” We do, right?? And so I wonder if in that moment we are glimpsing what it’s like to feel something limitless, something to which our minds can’t react fast enough to begin the analysis and containment process. It may eventually come, but in that instance of feeling our hearts swell, and allowing that wave to hit us, we may be given the chance to know unconditional love. If we can know it, then we will seek it. Time and time again. That is why, in my opinion, gratitude is the most important emotion. It’s because it opens our hearts to feeling the limitless possibilities of love.
For today’s cocktail, I am going with the same one that I wrote about in May, a drink made with equal measurements of its ingredients to symbolize the balance that comes with thankfulness and unconditional love. 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 added a sake made from yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit that is a like a fantastic combination of Mandarin orange, Meyer lemon, and Key lime. I brought in Suze as the bitter component of the drink and Mandarine Napoléon as 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. They were perfect, and I could not have done any better if I tried to create a new cocktail for today’s post. Cheers everyone. Thank you for reading me and for allowing me to share my life and the endless turnings of mind. I could not be more grateful. 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!