How to Feel Grateful, Vol. 3

Comments 30
The old guy at McDonald’s was way tougher than this, I bet. He probably just wore a light jacket.

The bitter cold moved in throughout the evening Monday.

Even with the house thermostat set to 71 degrees, and the furnace working harder than a crack dealer in East Cleveland, I still felt the arctic air infiltrating my living room.

The house shivered and shook. The wood and metal whining as they contracted, making noises I had never heard a structure make.

Upon waking this morning, I turned on my bedroom television and replayed the final few minutes of college football’s national championship game from last night. I had fallen asleep and missed Florida State’s incredible comeback.

I sprang from bed, well-rested, oddly eager to experience the coldest day of my life.

Someone said these are the coldest recorded temperatures for this area in 100 years. It’s probably true.

I emptied my bladder as I often do before jumping in the shower first thing in the morning. I punched the handle.

No response.

I tried again.


Great. That should be lovely just sitting in there all day. (Urine only. I swear. But still.)

I tried the bathroom faucet.


I made a beeline for my basement, fearing the worst.

No flooding. Whew. Thank you!

My very bad cat who I keep quarantined in one half of my basement had plenty of water.

Thank you!

My electricity was still humming along just fine. In fact, after living in my house for eight years, I have never once experienced power loss.

Thank you!

I grabbed my phone and texted my ex-wife: “Hey. You have running water?”

“Just checked and seem to,” she said.

I haven’t checked with the city yet, but there is either a broken water main, or somewhere on my property a water pipe has frozen solid, restricting flow.

It dawned on me that I hadn’t shaved in a while. That showering for work was not going to be possible.

I looked in the mirror.


I had forgotten that my ex was staying home with our son today, so I apologized for waking her. She was very nice about all of it. She even invited me to come over and shower if I wanted to. (Not with her.)

And I know she means it. In a pinch, I could go over there if I really needed to, just a five-minute drive from home. That’s a nice thing.

Thank you!

You know, I’m so lucky that I get to have a life where, despite access to sanitary running water 99 percent of the time, I can afford to keep bottled water at home, too.

I grabbed a couple bottles. I microwaved them in large coffee mugs and dumped them into a large mixing bowl.

And, ta-da. I had warm water.

Thank you!

Then like something out of the Old West I cleaned myself as best I could using this large bowl of temporarily warm water. Shaving would have been possible, but I have an unsightly blemish on my jaw line and I thought the unkempt facial hair did a better job masking it than the tinted Oxy cream which does a lousy job hiding these things.

I forgot about brushing my teeth. I couldn’t use the I-just-cleaned-myself water.

Mouthwash, first. Then another bottle of water and my toothbrush at the kitchen sink solved that problem.

Thank you!

I punched the remote garage door opener I keep by my back door. The door on my detached garage opened without incident.

Thank you!

My 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee is the nicest, newest thing I’ve ever had before. I went out and touched the push-button to start it. It insta-started.

Thank you!

I left 10 minutes later after responding to some really nice blog comments. I always appreciate those. I don’t just say that. I hope you know how much you matter.

Inside the Jeep was a perfect 72 degrees. Outside, the temperature was -1, the digital readout said.

A few minutes later, it read -5.

As I entered the nearby town in which I work, the temperature was -11. But I was warm.

Thank you!

I pulled into McDonald’s. (Don’t judge me. Where else can you get crappy food and subpar coffee for $5 without getting out of your vehicle?)

Normally, the place is slamming with retirees congregating for subpar coffee and crappy food for $5.

But the place was a ghost town. That’s when I really knew how cold it was. When all the old men collectively said: “McGriddles and silver-dollar hotcakes? Not today, Ethel! I’m staying with you. Nothing but blow jobs and Good Morning, America for us! You’re welcome.”

I seriously only saw one customer. One old guy. Sitting alone and watching The Weather Channel. I’ll bet anything that tough sonofabitch once killed about 80 people in a war.

This nice young lady was standing at the drive-thru window getting murdered by the cold. But still she smiled. Said nice things. For $9 an hour.

Thank you!

I drove the remaining few minutes to my office.

I got a good parking spot.

The temperature: -13 degrees.

The wind didn’t blow as I walked into the building.

People seemed happy to see me after missing work yesterday.

And now, I am warm at my desk.

I am employed.

The sun is shining.

I am healthy.

Thank you!

Things are good. I started writing my first fiction story. I signed up for a health-and-fitness thing at work this morning that will require me to alter my diet and exercise habits toward the positive over the next eight weeks. (Get excited, ladies. *eyeroll*) My son is safe and warm.

If I get home and my water is running, I’m going to feel on top of the world.

And if it’s not?

I promise I’m going to find all of the things I’m grateful for anyway.

It’s the only way to live.

Even if you do look and smell just a little bit worse than usual.

30 thoughts on “How to Feel Grateful, Vol. 3”

  1. I am certainly capable of optimism (not recently, but generally), but you, sir, have just won a medal for it. Wow!

    1. I’ve written about gratitude several times because I believe strongly it is, first and foremost, the prerequisite to feeling happiness–the most coveted of emotions.

      Sometimes, I force it. And I think that’s okay. Fake it ’til you make it.

      Today, that’s not the case.

      It’s cold as shit. I don’t have running water. Who knows why.

      And I feel quite well.

      I have a naturally sunny disposition. And it’s starting to come back.

      One day at a time.

  2. Yep it is good to remind ourselves however awful our situation may seem at times it is nothing compared to the daily struggles faced by millions around the globe and that we are ‘spoiled’.

    1. Spoiled, indeed.

      So blessed, most of us. Almost anyone with the ability to read something on the internet, certainly.

      Thank you for saying hi. 🙂

        1. I had to look up the conversion. That’s like 65-ish degrees here. Which is totally nice.

          So your jealousy efforts have succeeded.

  3. Thanks for this. The cold is wearing on me (I live in the city that is famous for having been colder than Mars on December 31st.) I think I need to practice more gratitude.

    1. 🙂

      Everyone needs to practice more gratitude.

      The beautiful part is it really does make you feel better. So all the parts of you that are selfish get to benefit, too.

  4. This is great! There is always something to be thankful for, even in the bad things. Good for you, for starting a workout program too.

    It is a huge blessing that you and your ex have such a good friendship, even after everything that’s happened. My ex and I are the same. We’ve always been the greatest of friends and it’s been great for us and more importantly, for our son. Here’s an off topic question – Do you ever feel that you and her could make amends and rekindle your relationship?

    1. I talk a bit about the idea of reconciliation in this post:

      Cliff’s notes version:

      1. I’m not opposed to it, theoretically.
      2. I’m very skeptical.
      3. I won’t even consider thinking about it while I’m healing.
      4. I have trust issues now. That’s a problem.
      5. I don’t know to what extent I could maturely deal with the other relationship that took place.

      I fear I would handle that poorly. At least in my own mind.

      It seems unlikely. My only goal is to treat her well, have a positive relationship, and deal with things as they come.

  5. I’m really impressed with your attitude. I need to take lessons because I’m getting really sick if this shit.

    My dog won’t step foot out the door on her own. Can’t say I blame her, but it makes potty time great fun.

    1. Stick around long enough and it will get annoying.

      I may turn back into grumpy, dour, curmudgeony Matt.

      But not today. 🙂

      It’s going to warm up soon! I heard 45 this week. Maybe 50 where you are.

      That’s like a beach party. Woot.

  6. I had a water main break in my neighborhood a few months ago and we were under a boil order for a couple of days. Made me realize how much I take things like clean water for granted. Most of us in the US really are spoiled and very fortunate. I actually had a quick conversation with God last night. My intent was to only thank him/her for all the bounty in my life. Of course, at the end I threw in a couple of things I’d like to have happen…can’t seem to ever resist that. But I have learned from you to be grateful and to thank those responsible for the good things in my life as much as possible. So, thank you for that, Matt!

    1. 🙂

      That’s nice to read. Can’t hurt to toss in a few requests once in a while. We rarely get what we don’t ask for.

      Thank you for practicing gratitude. I really do believe it’s life changing.

  7. Love your gratitude so much. 🙂

    It actually warms my heart that you know, if need be you can get a shower at your ex wife’s house.

    Oh, and you are a wonderful writer.

    Thanks for sharing and stay warm,

    1. Thank you for making me smile.

      I appreciate you taking a minute to read and say hi.

      Hope there’s a next time.

    1. I’ve spent a lot of time being more serious this past year than I care to.

      I’ve never thought seriousness was a particularly fun way to live. I ended up being right about that.

  8. Ah, yes– a “whore bath” *splash splash* Been there, done that! A nice bit of urban camping for you 😉 I hope your water is back to running though– NEGATIVE ELEVEN DEGREES? That’s pure evil.
    This made me laugh out loud: “I’ll bet anything that tough sonofabitch once killed about 80 people in a war.”
    Stay warm!

    1. When you’re the last retiree standing at McDonald’s on a frigid winter morning? You KNOW you’re the king of badasses.

      That’s what’s this is called!? A “whore bath!?”

      Goodness. Lucky me. I’ve always wanted to take two of those on back-to-back mornings. My water is most certainly not running.

      So, I’m going to look AWESOME today. Woot.

  9. Thank You for infecting me with your optimism last night when I read this. Being grateful works. Choosing to look for the good (the love) works. 🙂 You were right, all along.

    I hope your water function returned to normal and that you don’t visit McD’s every day…. So bad… So, so bad… 😛 I’m not judging… It’s my boy’s and my favorite indulgence. But it’s so, so, so bad.

    1. 🙂

      Water is still not functioning. I DID go to McDonald’s again this morning. Doh. And I went out for dinner last night.

      It’s sort of hard to cook and clean without running water. I never realized how much I used it before now.

      I will be quite grateful for functioning indoor plumbing once it returns.

      1. Stupid arctic vortex… At least it’s warming up now!!

        Mmmm… McD’s breakfast… It’s one of my resolutions, to avoid. It was a 3-4 day a week habit for me until August. If I only had that $500 back….

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