It’s almost Turkey Time; that special time of year we set aside to focus on everything we have to be thankful for—unless we’re turkeys.
There are the little things (baked goods, seventies rock and roll, the way bananas have handles).
There are the big things, (family, friends, the fact that all those people who say, “I don’t have a thing to wear” never go around naked).
And there are the bad things that could have been worse things, for example, I’m grateful I wasn’t going very fast the day I pulled away from the gas pump with the nozzle still in my tank. And that I didn’t get hurt when I accidentally stepped on the gas while my arm was still in my mailbox. And that in both cases, nobody was watching.
See, even in the most difficult of circumstances, there’s reason to be thankful. The pilgrims knew it. That first harvest festival that inspired Thanksgiving lasted a full three days. Those guys really knew how to party.
And they hadn’t even heard of the now well-documented social, psychological, and physical benefits of being grateful. I’ve been trying to enjoy some of those benefits myself, and not just at Thanksgiving, by keeping a gratitude journal—a daily accounting of four or five things I’m grateful for. It’s harder than you’d think. I’m tired and cranky at the end of the day and I don’t have the pumpkin pie to inspire me.
So I’ve created a checklist to prompt me when I’m having trouble coming up with things to write about. Try it yourself.
1. Have I recently said to myself, “Well, that went well?”
If the answer is yes, I have something to be thankful for. When only half a piece of paper came out of my printer, I was deeply grateful to the nice man in some faraway land who talked me through getting the other half out. Just before I hung up, I thanked him and said, “That went well,” because his method was clearly better than the next one I was going to try: a crowbar.
Sometimes it’s best to keep quiet and save it for the gratitude journal. If a highway patrolman gives me a warning when I deserve a ticket, and I say, “Well, that went well,” he might reconsider.
2. Have I said “whew” lately?
There’s something else for the gratitude journal. I feel lucky that when my frying pan caught fire, it only destroyed lunch and not my entire kitchen. And that I saw my fitness tracker lying in the leaves before I raked them all up and hauled them away. And that when I accidentally walked into a men’s restroom, no one was using it.
3. What am I taking for granted?
This question brings to mind all sorts of things I’m thankful for: pain relievers and comfortable shoes, cruise control and Monk reruns, microwaves and the little pop-up thingie in turkeys. I wish they made those for meatloaf.
4. What do I just love?
I love the sound of a baby’s laughter, the call of a red breasted nuthatch and good long nap. I love chocolate, prime rib, and supreme pizza. And I love diet cola and unsweetened iced tea, because I love balance in all things.
5. Is there a rose in that thorn bush?
It’s easy to be grateful when traffic lights turn green as I approach and parking spots open up as I enter the lot. But there are days when my world feels like a birdcage with me lining the bottom. That’s when being grateful takes a bit more effort.
For example, I wandered around my house for half an hour, cellphone in hand, looking for my reading glasses. And when I finally found them, I realized I’d laid my phone down somewhere on my journey. So, wandered all over the house again looking for it. On the bright side, I racked up 3000 steps on my Fitbit.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of several humor books, including I Used to Think I Was Not That Bad and Then I Got to Know Me Better. Contact email@example.com.)
Well, that went well! Turkey time, busy time