How to Feel Grateful

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Pi lost everything. Everything except hope. And he learned how to feel gratitude, even love, for his greatest obstacle.
Pi lost everything. Everything except hope. And he learned how to feel gratitude, even love, for what he feared the most.

I just watched Life of Pi.

Reading the book was on my to-do list. But I just never got around to it. I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone interested in it, so if you haven’t read the book or watched the movie, you should go read this really fantastic blog about homeless people instead.

In Life of Pi, the protagonist loses everything.

His country. His home. His girlfriend. His family. Human companionship.

Then, he loses basic needs. Shelter. Food and water. Safety.

My favorite line in the film was: “Hunger can change everything you thought you knew about yourself.”

I don’t think we spend enough time thinking about stuff like this.

We wake up and go to work and eat food and do random activities we may or may not actually enjoy, then go to bed. Then we do it all over again the next day.

We complain about our bills. I’m still whining about those stupid couches in the living room.

We fret over the loss of our creature comforts. This actually happened: When someone asked me why I still have the iPhone 4S and never upgraded to the iPhone 5, I talked about how much I enjoy having a bunch of phone-charger cords, and how I put off upgrading to avoid “only” having one or two phone-charger cords rather than the five or six I have now. I have issues.

We whine because our good stuff isn’t good enough. I had a conversation last night with two other guys over beers about how our high-definition widescreen televisions weren’t nice enough. How we needed bigger and better ones.

People are sick. Dying. Addicted. Starving. Abused. Raped. Murdered. Wrongly accused. Impoverished. Abandoned. Homeless.

Sometimes people are several of those horrible things at the same time.

And I was drinking a $6 beer and bitching about a 53-inch HDTV I wish was nicer.

We can all use a little perspective once in a while.

Me, more than most.

We must choose to be grateful. Actively. To feel it.

We need to remind ourselves due to our natural tendency to take things and people for granted. It is one of the pitfalls of the human experience.

Ten Miracles

My favorite writer is a guy named James Altucher.

I don’t know that I think he’s the best writer. Probably not. But he’s my favorite. Because he’s the guy who taught me to be honest when I write. So honest that I’m sometimes afraid to hit “Publish.”

He claims to write down at least 10 miracles every day. The miracles aren’t necessarily Holy-Jesus-Did-You-Just-See-That!? miracles.

A few of his examples:

“At 5 a.m. this morning, I walked outside and watched the river, gray and beautiful under a rising sun. Then I saw a skunk looking at me. It was strikingly beautiful as well. Then I ran.”

“My two daughters are too young to fight in any war in Syria. They can’t even operate drones. I hope they always stay that young.”

“While I was driving and not killing anyone, a satellite from outer space beamed the song “Heart of Glass” directly into my car. This made me very happy. Finally outer space is useful.”

I don’t know if I have the time, discipline or inclination to write down 10 miracles every day like Mr. Altucher. But as an exercise in strengthening my gratitude muscle? It seems like a worthwhile endeavor.

It’s about 5 p.m. I haven’t even left my house yet today. (Bad decision!) But here are 10 miracles at work today.

  1. My heart is beating. I didn’t do anything. I didn’t plug it in. Or use a battery. But there it is. Delivering life to the rest of me. Providing the opportunity to breathe the fresh, cool air and admire the perfect blue sky and think and eat and watch a movie.
  2. I don’t feel lonely.
  3. I was invited to a party tonight.
  4. I thought about a girl today who isn’t my ex-wife. Someone I’d like to go out with.
  5. I get to feel excited about little stuff like watching football again.
  6. A bunch of little things that make writing this possible. Electricity. My computer. Wireless Internet access. The use of my hands and fingers.
  7. I don’t feel angry about my marriage failing.
  8. Life of Pi entertained AND enlightened me.
  9. I can survive several weeks on the food in my house. I won’t go hungry. And when the supply dwindles, I can afford to go to a grocery store and buy more food. What a blessing.
  10. I have you. I don’t know how many of you there are. Doesn’t matter. I have a reader. I am unbelievably grateful for you. You have no idea. It’s a miracle. You’re a miracle.

Find a reason to tell someone who matters that you’re grateful for them today.

You’ll feel good.

They’ll feel good.

And you both deserve it.

15 thoughts on “How to Feel Grateful”

  1. The night after the ‘phone call’ I made dinner and we cuddled up on the sofa and watched life of pi. I was in total denial, we held hands as we watched it. By the end of the film I was in tears, I cried for pi, for his mum, for the mind of a child trying to protect its self. I cried for myself, for what was slipping through my fingers. I cried because I looked back over the stories my mind had created to cover what I saw coming – the late nights home, the texts, the calls.
    Dipstick turned to me as the credits rolled and said ‘I don’t get it’.
    I looked at him and wondered if he would ever ‘get it’?.
    I’m getting a kitten next month. He’s already been christened Richard P. 🙂 thanks for this post. I’m glad things are going well.

    1. I know that’s sad for you. But that’s a good story.

      The most-inspiring people are the ones who exude optimism and gratitude in their darkest moments.

      Let nothing stop you.

      I appreciate this story, your comment and your continued efforts to heal and grow and tell your stories.

  2. I’m the opposite of you. I read the book, have not seen the movie. I think you would really like the book.
    Have you ever seen the Louis CK skit where he says everything is so amazing and nobody’s happy?
    I agree with you – it is good practice to keep an eye out for the miraculous, and the more you do it, the easier it becomes. This was a very nice reminder. =)
    p.s. If you want to watch a film that will make you appreciate life, The Diving Bell and Butterfly is pretty amazing. Some people don’t like the subtitles and the well, French-ness lol, but …

    1. I appreciate the movie suggestion.

      If I heard the Louis CK bit, I’m not remembering. I should look it up…

      Thank you for continuing to read and participate in the conversation. Appreciate it very much.

    1. Thank you for the nice note. Super grateful for it.

      You do a fine job yourself. Hope the boys in SoCal are treating you well!

        1. I don’t know how valuable my opinions are, but it will be my pleasure to provide them.

          As for being “green,” you’re writing very well about a super-popular topic. And you have a funny blog name. You’re doing a great job.

          I’ve only been at this for three months. I have no idea what I’m doing. I still smile huge every time my phone makes a noise because someone liked or commented on a post.

          Just keep being you, please.

  3. We have watched Life of Pi. I really would like to read the book as well.

    The way I see it, when is anything good enough. Your pont about the iPhone . I have the 4s for just over a year, and yes I would like the 5c or it the new one the 5s. Why? When I have the iPhone 4 I had to have the 4s. It actually has not made me more attractive, wiser, taller ( I am short legged as well), richer, and it certainly did not make me acceptable by others.

    Now guys usually love electronic stuff, nothing wrong with that. However how many TV can you have, and yes it’s nice to have an HDTV, but our want is more than we desire and need.
    We have a couple of TV’s in the house. Do we need them all, No.

    What is more important is balance, and to respect money. Money is just a means to an end and sometimes we do battle to have the basic needs.

    If you had asked me a couple of years what I was greatful for I would have said some crap about material possessions. Today I am greatful, and I remind myself every day that my partner of 11 years is sober. That’s what counts today, I also have a great job, a home, and a family that loves and accepts me.

    I honestly admire you,for being so positive, and for changing how you see the world. Lots of people who have experienced similar events like you become bitter, angry and resentful.
    I love this saying, Be kind to one another! Ivan

    1. I still spend WAY too much of my time trying to acquire “things.”

      Things that, to this day, after 34 and a half years, have NEVER brought me anything more than super-temporary pleasure.

      Time and time again, life proves that it’s the stuff you can buy that really beings you contentment. Joy. Peace. Love. All the stuff that is absent in the lives of miserable wealthy people.

      Everyone can have the stuff that matters most. We just have to start asking the right questions.

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Ivan.

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Matt Fray

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