What Could Have Been

rose and thorns

Instead of complaining that the rose bush is full of thorns, be happy the thorn bush has roses.

—German Proverb

But what if you can’t even recall what gratitude feels like? Where should you start?

Some would advise you to start being more mindful of all the blessings you enjoy. A well-meaning friend gives you a gratitude journal and a lovely new pen. You crack it open, and you give it a try:

I’m grateful for my cat. (Even though she ignores me.)

I’m grateful for that couch. (That I’ve never really liked.)

I’m grateful for my friends. (Even though I don’t think they really care about me.)

And then you think, “Nice list, bonehead. But who doesn’t have couches or cats or friends? And guess what—everyone you know has something you don’t.” A husband, financial security, talent, beauty, kids who truly like them.

Your moment of gratitude has throttled you into a weepy mess.

Maybe instead of listing things we own, reflecting on past experiences of gratitude is a better way to practice gratefulness. Remember when, after that second mammogram, the doctor called to say there wasn’t actually anything there? Or that the neighbor had found your dog after he got loose? Or that, after months of unemployment, you were being offered a job?

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” you say, your heart open, your body flushed in relief.

Can you think of a moment that came as a complete relief? Remember the lightness in your chest, the warmth that filled you? That is what gratitude feels like.

—Excerpted from Wholehearted Living by Jennifer Grant

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