I am hereby granting all of you the freedom to shout your blessings far and wide, without fear of being thought arrogant for having the good fortune to possess them. Just so you won’t feel silly, I’ll go first and then you follow along.
On Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, I will be giving so many thanks for:
-At age 54 being sent by nothing less than divine providence, Match.com, and the mischievous gremlins who worked at my previous office, the best friend, truest husband, faithful love, and laughing buddy on the planet
-At age 41, after seven miscarriages, being blessed with a wonderful baby boy, generously gifted to me by a young birth mother unable to provide for him
-Having had the benefit of both parents staying alive and kicking and my best buds well into my fifties
-Having lived out every dream I ever conjured (well, there still is that NY Times bestseller list thing and the Oprah book club thing, but I digress)
-Living in America, on the beautiful Crystal Coast of North Carolina, surrounded by water everywhere
-Pooter and Booger and the still-suicidal Nico
I have a lot of time to count my blessings. Sure, we all do this on Thanksgiving, or maybe when a friend or relative is sick in the hospital and you’re suddenly confronted with how lucky you are not to be in that bed. I’ve also noticed that while I spend an inordinate amount of time being extremely pleased and happy, this doesn’t seem to be the case with many other people. Actually, excessive happiness seems to really aggravate a lot of folks. It’s as though there is an unpublished joy quota that one is allotted and if, God forbid, you exceed it, the wrath of others will come crashing down on your head.
It’s amazing how much “negative speak” there is swirling around. We moan and groan about our God awful jobs, yet I bet there was a time you celebrated the arrival of that job offer, and how lucky are those who still have jobs in this economy. A favorite target of complaints seems to be one’s spouse or significant other, yet I bet there was a time when landing that hot babe or guy was all you thought about. Venting on about your house, how much work there is to do, and things that are perpetually breaking, yet I bet there was a time, perhaps the day you closed on that house, when you were so excited to be moving in. We harp on about wacky relatives and impossible neighbors, our children, our cars, our bills…on and on we blather.
My theory is that most of us, on balance, are more content and frequently, downright joyful, than we let on. I think this complaining and moaning is nothing more than a mindless habit. I propose an experiment; the results of which will probably surprise you. Spend 15 minutes a day really, truly listening to conversations around you, and when they are slanting hard to the negative power, intervene with some really happy talk. At first your listeners will seem startled, but they quickly warm to the change in direction and will soon be relating pleasantries of their own. It’s an odd dynamic but I swear it works. It’s almost like we need to be given permission to say that things are going quite well in our lives, lest others become jealous of our good fortune.
I also wonder if we are reluctant to express our happiness for fear that it might cause our luck to change for the worse. “If I tell everyone what a wonderful man I married, perhaps I’ll find out he’s having an affair.” Or “If I extol the virtues of my kid, their grades, and their sports prowess, perhaps they’ll be in a terrible car crash.” So we err on the side of caution and speak carefully and hesitantly, lest fate smack us down. Practice mindful verbal happiness and start changing the world, one conversation at a time.
Have a grateful holiday!