Sometimes the smallest thing just gets stuck in your head, for years and years. One of mine, strangely enough, is a tiny piece of an Oprah show.
The topic was gratitude journalling, all the rage at the time. One woman got up, almost in tears, voice shaking, and said “what if I can’t think of anything to be grateful for? I tried to keep a gratitude journal, but some days I get up and the only positive thing about my life is the fact that I don’t have a headache.”
As ridiculous as it sounds, my annoyance with this woman has never quite subsided. Lady, out of all the amazing things floating around you, every minute of every day, you choose to only see the fact that you don’t have a headache? What an awful choice she was making to live an awful life.
True, perhaps she had some ridiculously terrible experiences. Perhaps she lost many loved ones, was abused and neglected. Perhaps her health was failing, was a chronic insomniac, or she had some injury that left her with daily physical pain. Or perhaps none of these things. I don’t know.
But I do know this: The woman could stand, was alive and breathing. What an amazing thing is it, to exist on a planet where the conditions are exactly right for us not to be crushed by gravity, as well as not fly off into the atmosphere. That the air we breathe is exactly right for us, and the liquid we need to sustain us falls straight out of the friggin’ sky. Of course, if the conditions weren’t exactly right for us, we wouldn’t exist. But still, it just blows my mind.
Not to mention the fact that considering the Earth is billions of years old, the odds of you and I being on this planet at the exact same time are pretty extraordinary. Almost impossible, even. I think we should be walking around high-fiving each other. “You’re here too! How cool, nice to meet you. Did you see how the stuff we need to drink falls out of the sky?”
I also know that this woman could see (I’m fairly confident she was not blind), and could therefore read books, observe nature, and witness the sunset every night. For me, the sunset holds a promise that everything is going to be OK, it’s a new day tomorrow, and a new start. It says “rest now, I’ve got this”. The sunset is an artwork in itself, always slightly different. Sometimes smudgings of pinks and purples, sometimes the deepest orange and fiery red. It’s a huge canvas that is painted every night, and this lady can only think about ‘not having a headache’? What?
I have a gratitude journal of sorts (I actually call it an appreciation journal, because the word gratitude now makes me a little queasy, due to its overuse). It contains things like “my house!” “my bed!” “that song!” (I really like exclamation marks!). It can also contain the positive aspects of negative things, like how a relationship breakup can provide an opportunity to get your own life’s framework exactly how you want it, rather than moulding it around another person.
I’m as far from perfect as we all are, and often get lost in crappy thoughts. As for the woman on the Oprah show, maybe I should appreciate her reminding me how not to be.