Recently my husband and I were guests at a small dinner party at a friend’s house. We were meeting the other six people for the first time. One of the women is a documentary filmmaker, one of the guys is a retired CEO of a major company. One woman has written a book I had just finished reading and totally loved, and one of the husbands teaches at the medical school at Harvard. The conversation all night was lively and fascinating. We talked about the riots in Turkey, medical marijuana, our grandchildren. There was much delicious laughter and joy but also the kind of sobering, thought-provoking debate that at times I felt as if I were in the best philosophy, geography, history class ever offered.
At one point I blurted out something I would have said on the way home in the car to my husband. I said how did we get here? A few folks kind of tried to reassure us that we were just as important and compelling as the next fellow. Even though I was pretty thrilled to be in the company of such powerful and beautiful people, I hadn’t meant that we didn’t measure up, that our resumes were somehow lacking in glitter. What I meant was how did we end up here? How does it happen that I am not the waitress at this meal instead of being the guest. How come I’m not a beggar sitting on a curb somewhere in Calcutta? Why aren’t I starving and homeless in Haiti?
These are rhetorical questions my husband and I ask all the time. What in the world . . . how in tarnation . . . who in the Sam Hill gave us this gift of such an easy life? Reincarnation and karma could help explain how we landed in this land of Oz, but my husband is a scientist and doesn’t buy past lives and karmic debt. And I don’t actually need an actual answer.
What I need is to remember to wake up each day and say thank you, to have the conscious gratitude of one who has been given much.
And sometimes I do. But there are too many days when I don’t. Every new year’s resolution is the same. I will say thank you every morning to God, to Kwan Yin, to Moses, to Krishna, to my children, to my long dead parents, to my husband, to everyone who should be thanked. Which is everyone.
On the way home in the car I silently vow that this time I will stick to my last New Year’s resolution and wake up with bowls of gratefulness. And I do it for five days in a row.
Then I am about to do it again, but on that sixth morning I wake up with a backache so I have to get on the floor and do some yoga stretches. And then the cat comes over crying for food and then I realize it was cold in the house and I have to throw a few logs in the wood stove. And then I look over on the table and see my pile of bills I paid three days ago and I remember they need stamps, which I have to go buy. And then I think I have to make an appointment with the genius at Apple because my new air book is still sending a bizarre message that I can’t decipher.
And then I have to and then I have to and then I have to . . . There are so many then-I-have-to’s that I think, okay I’ll just live gratitude. It doesn’t have to be a verbal, out-loud thank you.
So I get away with skipping the discipline that morning but then somehow I slide into the next day’s mundane distractions and once again I don’t start the day with thanking anyone.
They say it takes 21 days to make a habit. I’ve made it up to five. I always hear complaints from people about not having discipline. Recently I found out the root word of discipline is disciple. So I decided I wanted to be the disciple of my own soul.
And it turns out my soul wants to say thank you. So 21 days, here I come.
Thank you. There’s one.
Nancy Slonim Aronie is the author of Writing from the Heart (Hyperion/Little Brown), a commentator for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and founder of the Chilmark Writing Workshop.