This thing called gratitude
Time to change the tone, I think.
Lest you think I’m some wounded animal who started this blog to kvetch about how life has dealt him a hand of jokers, perhaps it might be incumbent upon me to clarify a thing or two, or at the very least state an intention. I launched The Random Griffith as a vehicle to get me back into the regular discipline of writing, after I’d crashed and burned and blew a couple of major assignments, thus ruining a few relationships in the process. Knowing at my core I’m not a flake, but merely a guy who’s made some mistakes, and often has to work extra hard to power out of that dark and forbidding swamp of the mind that some people call depression, I resolved to do whatever work it will take, on a daily basis, to get moving again, because writing is one of the things I know how to do reasonably well.
Action gets it going, goes the saying, and it’s the focused application of will, or energy directed toward a point, that can make things happen. And yes, I’m one of them “speer’chual” folks who will use prayer, specifically turning it over to TDW (i.e., The Divine Whatever), and meditation to get things rolling. But unless you or I can get off our asses, nothing really happens, does it? So we must do something. In this case, I must write if I ever expect to get my writing mojo back. Every day. Write something.
As for the divine part of the equation, I’ve experimented with a few spiritual practices over the years, most ardently in the past few when life went all sideways on me. That’s the beauty of the particular spiritual journey those of us in recovery stumble into: we get to try a bunch of different things out and see if any of it works. Hell, it may all be bullshit. But the only way to find out is by trying new things and endeavoring to keep somewhat of an open mind.
Sometimes I’ll read about a practice, or someone will suggest one, and I’ll consider it. For example, I have a friend, let’s call him Matt, who chatted me up on the Second Saturday art walk in September. Now, I have a tendency to go all Eeyore sometimes, and be that guy that people elbow out of the way so they can hug each other, and Matt advised me that one way to change the tone there would be by expressing gratitude as part of a formal exercise. “Make a daily gratitude list,” he said.
So, I did. For a couple of months, I would write my list in a notebook, usually beginning with “1.) I am grateful I woke up sober this morning.” I’d shoot for 25 things, everything from gratitude for what I ate for breakfast to gratitude for someone in my life who affected me positively. Sometimes the same thing, or same person, would show up on repeated days; it didn’t matter. The point was to get out of feeling hard-bitten and cynical and experiencing contraction and poverty, and get moving to a different place, where I could be open and accepting of whatever bounty life may have to offer in that moment.
Even that night, when Matt and I walked around talking about moving into gratitude, I experienced a change, an opening up, where random people were more inclined to hug me or engage with me than I normally sense. Perhaps I project some kind of closed-off energy that makes people avoid me; I don’t know. At any rate, something was different.
Different enough, at least, for me to keep doing it for a while to see what might happen. I finally let it go around Thanksgiving, and in the time that followed, I slipped back into my old cynical persona a bit. I’m about to buy another notebook, a big fat one, and get back in the habit of noting what I’m grateful for every day.
And for the record, just so nobody thinks I’m any kind of ungrateful bastard: This past year, especially, I’ve had numerous people help me out. I won’t list them by name here, but there are five or six folks who really stepped way beyond whatever bounds I think might have existed to help me out. Basically, what happened (or what I think happened) is that the wreckage from my failed marriage and the collapse of my career finally caught up with me around the end of last year or the beginning of this one, and not having any health insurance, I wasn’t able to get the kind of professional help where I might have averted exploring, well, let’s just call it a metaphorical Mariana Trench.
So, I did things the hard way — or “the Portagee way,” as we used to call it back in Stockton, where I grew up — and either a loose confederation of unconnected people, or else some folks under the prompting of A Power Greater Than Myself, stepped up to keep me from really hitting the skids. Ergo, I am eternally grateful, and once I am working again, I intend to pay back what I owe, and then pay it forward to other people who will need the same kind of help I received, through no real merit of my own.
Anyway, that’s a bit of a ramble, but the idea is just to write something each day, and this is what I came up with. And I wanted it to be something more positive that what I’ve been laying down since I started writing this. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be more focused. And, hey — maybe not.
Oh, and one more thing: I’m really grateful I heard from my lovely daughter Ellie today. —Jackson Griffith