Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash
Last week, I was at my friend Marie’s house (I changed her name, so I don’t fully embarrass her) and on her shelf was a mason jar with a handwritten label “Gratitude Jar.”
Marie told me that during the last covidian peak, one of her pod people had asked everyone to write what they were thankful for on small pieces of paper and put them in the jar. Their plan was, when this is all over, they would read the notes and relive their #gratefulness.
Marie’s pod (like all of us) thought “this” would all be “over” in a matter of weeks. Isn’t the concept of time quaint? It’s like hoopskirts or top hats or land lines.
I hadn’t thought of asking my pod people, also known as Mr. Hockey and the hockey pucks, to write down what they were grateful for because we are bitter, snarky and cynical. Our gratitude jar would be more a foulmouthed airing of peeves: “What’s the pucking Netflix password?”
“Where are all the pucking laundry baskets?”
“The dishwasher is not a carwash. It doesn’t have brushes. Rinse off the food! I cannot pucking look at another pucking crusty spoon.”
Okay, I admit, these hyper-specific entries would all be mine. I’m the one who is bitter, snarky and cynical.
It’s clear I need to learn how to be grateful.
It’s also clear that carwash brushes in dishwashers is a brilliant idea.
To educate myself on gratitude, I went to the place we all go to learn, the place for which we’re all grateful. The internet. It was a fruitful search; there were blogs, definitions, research studies, how-to videos, and listicles (an article and list, combined) – all about gratefulness.
My search for carwash brushes in dishwashers, however, was less productive, making me think more and more that I should bring this idea to the folks at KitchenAid.
As I perused the World Wide Web, I learned there were a lot of benefits to gratefulness, including better health, increased happiness and positivity, better sleep and less cellular inflammation. One study found that gratitude journaling helped divorced people forgive their exes.
I’m not divorced (yet). If I had a gratitude journal, perhaps I could forgive Mr. Hockey for not rinsing his lunch dish. Or Maytag could come out with a carwash brush dishwasher. There are numerous ways to save a marriage.
What does it mean to practice gratitude? The internet led me to the most obvious teacher, Oprah.
In a video from 2012, Oprah described how she practices gratitude. She takes a few minutes each day to write down five things she’s grateful for. Oprah says that if we do this, we will become more “alive and receptive to the good things that come into your life.”
Simple. Spend the day noticing things you’re grateful for. Then that night or the next morning, write five things down. How do I start?
I could buy a journal made exclusively for this task. My Google search turned up dozens, costing between $24 and $32. Some meant to last one year. Some meant to last five years. Religious, non-religious, velvet, leather, spiral notebooks and hard bound. Many had quotes about gratitude on the covers. Etsy has them too, but less expensive.
If there’s one thing Mr. Hockey is grateful for, it’s that I’m cheap. I dug a small spiral notebook I got at a fundraiser out of my desk drawer. I don’t feel the need to buy into the Gratitude Industrial Complex (GIC).
But if I wanted to, Etsy is the GIC’s mothership. It has page after page of items: t-shirts, mugs, polished stones, plaques, coins and memo pads. There’s jewelry, soap, jars, boxes, distressed wooden signs and to-go wine cups.
In the Etsy world, people will use a calligraphy font to apply gratitude-adjacent words (mindful, believe, inspire) onto anything. I, too, am grateful for wine, but I don’t need my 24 ounce to-go cup to shout it from the roof tops.
Marie didn’t buy any gratitude swag either. Her jar was simple with a handwritten label. My little spiral notebook is too flimsy for any other purpose than to sit on my desk so I can make my entries as I have my morning coffee. Cheap and cheerful.
As of this writing, I’m three days into gratitude journaling. That makes me grateful for fifteen things.
I included Oprah, of course. She’s on everyone’s list.
I added Marie, who years ago told me there is a Jewish prayer to thank God after you have a bowel movement. Another thing to be grateful for!
I listed funnels. A tool that, when you need it, you’re really happy you’ve got it. Like dumpsters or fire extinguishers or land lines.
As for the benefits from journaling, it’s early days. Would I notice if my cellular inflammation decreased? I can’t tell, but last night I slept great. I only got up to pee once – a real feat for my pregnancy-tattered bladder. Coincidence or correlation? Only time will tell.
Today is Thanksgiving, when we all think about what we’re grateful for. With my little notebook, I’m going to try to do that every day, and will keep my mind open and receptive to the good things that can come into my life.
If that good thing is a dishwasher with carwash brushes, then so be it.
Published in The East Hampton Press on November 26, 2020.