Archive for the ‘gratitude’ Category

It’s evening.

I like it.

It’s grown dark, but my family is safely at home, and we seize the opportunity to dip to the very bottom of the jar of satisfaction.

If one of us were missing how terrible that would be, but we are not missing, and because of that we are not traumatized.

I am in my warm house; the heater is on; my family is hugging me.

I like the safe, warm, tingle in these cheek-to-cheek encounters, so very different from not being touched, so different from no warm skin-on-skin contact, so different from unsafe and cold and lonely.

We eat chicken stir fry. We have enough, and it fills us up, and it is so not like being hungry, not like the weak, tired, empty, gnawing pain of want and deprivation.

We are deep in the jar. We sigh a satisfaction. We lick our fingers.

I lie on the couch and watch TV; my cat comes and sleeps on me; she purrs. This is so different from nothing to entertain us, from lying on the ground, from having no lights to turn on, from having no pets to snuggle with.

We dip, we lick our lips, we feast on the familiar. These provisions, by which discomfort and dissatisfaction are warded off, surround us now.

There is no medical test tomorrow, no scheduled surgery, no cancer treatment, no soul racking, sobbing loss to wake up to.

We luxuriate within the jar. Satisfaction deepens through the awareness of its opposite.

It won’t always be like this.

I know that, it makes it even sweeter, and so I savor it now.

I savor the deep, rich, delicious, astonishing, provisioned, universal-particular present tense. I dive into it; I suck on it; I down it.

I call to mind the desperate, terrible, dehumanizing opposite of all my mundane and astonishing satisfactions and in doing so turn my jar upside down and pour it down my throat!

Lately I’ve taken special note of  my appreciatives, my approbatories, my applaudables, and also those small salvific islands of gratitude lurking along the waterways of my supra-conciousness.

I make a grocery list of them. 1. I like being male.  2.I like being married. 3. I like being comedic.

These idiosynratic commendatories are my cognitive Jacanas, the colorful water birds living on my cerebral Lake Nicaragua, and I watch for them as I round the corners of my mental islands,  putting along in my smoking, psychic motor boat, and I flush them out when I can — my favorables. I exult when they run on the tops of the lily pads on my everyday perspectives.

Dr. Christine Carter, excecutive director at the Greater Good Science Center at University of California Berkeley says her research shows that the more we practice gratitude the happier we will actually be. She suggests keeping a gratitude journal.

I respect Dr. Christine, and I appoint her my mentor, and in my mind, I mind her counsel and keep a mental journal of my gratefulness. I prop it up on the back shelf of  my short-term memory and work it over. I  listify my thankfuls, lining them up, one, two and three.  1. I am thankful for my black  glossy cats with their ulta-soft, outrageously fluffy furification. 2. I am thankful for my wife, particularly her drop-dead gorgeous cerebral cortex and the droll and wry desultory three-storied thoughts housed therein 3.  And I like my hazelnut coffee with milk every 6 am.

I love these and all of my other precious gratitudes. They are my safety nets, hanging above the lower levels of my extreme dissatisfactions.  They are my psychological floaties; they keep me from drowning in my own deep waters;  they are my sport’s brain seat belts, clamping me in my as I accelerate hard out of all my life’s sharp corners.

I  trot them out often, my idosyncratic applaudables.  1. I like my house, the big windows and the odd angles of the high ceilings. 2. I like my two daughters, particularly the way the call me “daddy” and sit close to watch TV or just talk  3.  I adore my job, the taylor-made, custom-designed, hyper-precise fit of it. 4. I love God and the way he loves me back and  how he is so outrageously gentle, patient and gracious with me. 5. I like my pain, and how it eloquently informs me about being human.

By laying out my admirables like this, I anchor what I are grateful for in my brain. These positives, these pluses, these commemoratives — they moor me. When I don’t like something about my job, I  coounter that with something I do like about my job. My thankfuls act like my very own team of counter-insurrgents against negativity. I don’t like my work stress, but I do love my work challenges, and so I embrace them, and I go on this way, cloaked with strength.

What will happen tomorrow? I think that more good will happen tomorrow, and if it does not, then I will roof over my losses with a thick thatch of approvables , and this is how I will survive, and shelter my happiness.

I will be thankful.

“You did a great job during the rough transitional years of this organization,” I said. “Your relaxed, calming personality helped settle other people down.”

The ten other people at the board room table nodded in affirmation. It was good, praising him, for what he had done,  especially considering the fact that he would be leaving our leadership team at the end of the year. Affirmations and goodbyes, like peanut butter and jelly, go well together.  He smiled. He looked pleased. I  was glad I said it. Every authentic compliment is a facelift. The art of giving and receiving compliments — it’s a fundamental and powerful social skill. The well-phrased compliment, like the water lily, graces the whole pond.

“I love you,” I told my wife this morning, “I love your brain.” I’ve told her this before. “You are such a good thinker,” I continued. “It is an honor to live with someone as  insightful as you. You  get it right so much of the time.” I said this because she had just gotten it right, in our discussion of one of our daughters, and I said it because it was true, and because I’ve learned to always compliment the people who feed me —  better food!

Compliments are good, fun, needed, but they can also be complicated.

Someone complimented a talk I gave recently. I think they meant to say, “I want you to like me.” I do like them, but they may not know it. Perhaps I need to tell them more.

Ingratiation is a term coined by social psychologist Edward E. Jones, and it refers to a social behavior in which one person attempts to become more likeable to someone else. Ingratiation is accomplished by complimenting the targeted person, by adopting their values and mannerisms or by promoting oneself to gain the favor of the targeted one. We have probably all complimented someone to their face, or we have complimented ourselves in someone’s presences, in order to win their approval. It’s normal, but that kind of praise is partly a lie, just dressed up in a suit and tie.

To avoid the dangers of phoniness, we might ask before we affirm, “Why do I want to compliment this person?  Is there a real accomplishment to acknowledge, or am I just trying to ingratiated myself to them?”

Winning each others’ favor is good, but the means of doing that involve getting to know each other authentically, over the long haul, not candy coating our relationships with manipulative praises. Those  people who we grow to like gradually — those whose delicious personalities we come to savor like slow-cooked soup  —  they become our true friends.

All this to say,  it is wise to run our words through a meshed sieve of honesty before we release them. If we don’t, a weirdness may enter some of our relationships, and this may bite us, over time.

The smoothest, most ingratiating person I ever knew turned out to be the most dangerous to me. Resentments were cloaked in social niceties. But I  learned, we all do,  from the way it’s not supposed to go. And as we go through the process of learning how to put our affirmations in proper form, we will do well to avoid becoming cynical. The good resident in the authentic praise of others is not sullied by the occasional experiences of social cloaks that hide verbal daggers.

Most compliments are good! Deserved compliments are wonderful; authentic compliments are life-giving. Valid compliments are the entrée of the soul. An affirmed person —  who can hold them back! I know that for myself, I write, in part, because of the praise I have received for it.

Applaud, appreciate, praise, endorse and commend  — more! Please, I beg you, tell the people who have done well that they have done well.

I heard somebody tell a friend who was going through a mess, ” I believe in you. You’re the real deal!” The person who was complimented had made a serious mistake, but that affirmation helped carry them on through it. They made the wrong, right and moved on. They were the real deal. The compliment was solid and true.

It is needed that we compliment our friends and family and coworkers. It is likely that their mothers or fathers failed to tell them that they were good enough, and we must make up for that, so that these loved ones can relax a bit, and calm down, and not go socially wacky,  and so that they can stop over-achieving, and in just the right time become all that they can be and more.

One day, in high school, at lunch, I put a coin in the gum machine in a drugstore.  I turned the crank, the gum fell, but not the coin, so I wiggled the crank and the gum just kept coming out. “Humm,” I thought, “I just won the gum lottery.” 

I was feeling grateful then, so I just emptied the machine. It seemed meant to be. Then I went back to the school. But pretty soon I got bored with my gum wealth and gave some gum balls away. I think this created a spirit of mass generosity in the student body and soon  my friends and I were throwing gum balls, from an upstairs window, onto the heads of students below.

Think of it as a kind of Marxist revolution, a proletarian redistribution of the wealth, and it was going really well until I heard a voice behind me,  yell, “Hey!” It was the principal. Oddly enough, he seemed upset. I think, perhaps, he felt left out.

So, anyway, he panicked and he kicked us all out of school. It seemed a bit rash to me on his part, but I learned a lesson from that. If you throw gum at school, invite the principal to join you. And never, ever be afraid to share your gum.

It has been said that the divine smooches the cheerful giver.  I like that; it makes me want to change, to get smooched, to smooch others, to be  happy, by giving. This is it, the thing, the essence, the really gone girl, the madly free bad boy, to let it rain down, from our hands, the gum, the moolah, time, love, generosity  — from each hand, cheerfully. And also, at the core,  to never let anyone stop us from giving – not grumpy, stingy principals, not our own shriveled hearts, not anything.  I want it; I want to relax into unselfishness and throw good stuff in the air and treat someone else and be happy in giving it away.  

For Christmas a few years ago, my wife and I bought my mom and dad, tickets to a local theatre. It was dinner and a Christmas play at the beautiful, classy Hotel Del Coronado. We were excited to surprise them; we could hardly wait to take them there and deposit them in the lobby with the huge, gorgeous Christmas tree and tell them,  “You are here, for dinner and a play.”  When they came back, they enthused, “Oh the five course dinner, the prime rib, the chocolate covered strawberries, and the play — we had a wonderful evening.” Then we regretted not using the tickets ourselves.

No, not, not even close. Even though we had gotten none of this for ourselves, we were so happy for them, and it was so fun to treat them that we couldn’t have been more pleased in the giving.  Anne Lamot says life comes down to a simple law of the jungle, “Stay calm and share your bananas.”

Sharing your bananas, I’ve noticed, is cool because it tends to give back to you, inside, a fullness, a happiness, as sense of having lived well, a calm and even a banana back.

Think children. It takes a lot of bananas to raise one, but if you keep feeding them they yield a return. “Really?” you might say: “I’ve invested in children and all I got back was a lot of bills and some back talk.”  I’ll give you this, the return on children is not obvious at first.  The U.S. Agriculture Department says the cost to raise a child to age 18 is $291,570? That’s astonishing. It’s more money than you can make in a lifetime. And this figure does not include college, which is another $291,000.

But you do get something back, something good, along the way and eventually —  in most cases, with children. My daughter, who is in college, called me this week. We talked on the phone about a date we had gone on recently, to dinner and a play, and just before she hung up the phone she said, “I love you daddy.”

Raising  her,  $291,000. “I love you daddy,” priceless!  And someday, she will pay me back, when I’m old and gum-less and she will give me a much needed hug and pat my head and say again, “I love you daddy.”

It’s good, living this way, staying calm, being happy, living by the truth: Sow small, reap  small; sow crazy big, reap wildly huge and happy.