Happiness is a list: five things I’m grateful for today.

If you’re someone who struggles with anxiety, then lists can be part of your happy place. For me, one of the worst things about anxiety is feeling out of control. Control is important to me. Control is my safe space. Archimedes wanted a long lever: I find salvation in order. [i]  

Repeated studies show that having a gratitude practice improves one’s life. Report after article delineates the importance: grateful people are happier, live longer, have better relationships and improved health, and grow long and luxurious hair. That last one might not be true, but it should be. I sometimes resent that the only reward for living the good life is the good life. Shouldn’t there be bells and whistles? Shouldn’t I get a big bag of money and a pony?

I’m not naturally grateful. I’m polite, and I express thanks at appropriate moments, but I don’t walk around in a state of constant appreciation. I really should. The world and the bits and pieces I’m exposed to are miracles.

I suspect a daily gratitude practice would improve things for me as well, but I’m not the best at adopting good habits. I’ll embrace something that might harm, however, with shocking alacrity. I’ve long suspected that smart people are stupid.

I have an app called “Gratitude” that helped for a bit until the notifications started to annoy me. I told myself I’d remember to practice gratitude without the phone’s ping, but I was wrong. On the bright side, I didn’t learn from history: I never remember to do the thing the notifications reminded me to do once I turn them off.

Anyhow, new year, new phone set up: the reminders are back. One would think renewed enthusiasm would simplify the task, but that hasn’t been the case. I struggle. I feel judged. I worry that if I’m only grateful for the banal, I’ll score low when my work is graded.

Things I’m grateful for that I forget to be grateful for:

I live indoors. I have a house, and the house has a roof. There’s electricity and heat, cable and internet. I have potable water. I have a place to go and food in the cupboards when I get there. These are no small things.

I have family and friends. My family tramples on my boundaries and treats me badly quite often. Ditto my friends, though I’m working on expanding that group. I plan to use good boundaries from the get-go this time. I’m grateful for the people that are still here, problems notwithstanding. I miss the ones who left too soon.

There was help. I’ve tried to kill myself three times in a serious way. More times than that, if you count my more casual efforts. I’ve mutilated myself. I’ve lived on the edge of destruction with a decades-long eating disorder. And, through it all, there’s been support. People helped me. Professionals helped me – or tried to. Not everyone is so blessed.

There are no military police controlling my movements. I was allowed an education. I got to choose my relationships. I was allowed to wear pants. I wasn’t killed because I had a child while unmarried (a situation that remained). The government doesn’t legislate my body.

There is infrastructure. There are schools, roads, and hospitals. There is the ease that comes from not living in a war zone and not living with domestic terrorism.

I struggle, sometimes, to come up with things to be grateful for. Such is the gift of privilege. Such is my shame.

photo credit: The Health Sessions

(In case you’re frantically searching for Bloganuary nine, rest easy: I didn’t write it. I got to emails and things literary late on Sunday. I thought about carrying on regardless, but my heart wasn’t in it. Learning to say “no” is an important lesson.)


[i] Archimedes said, or was purported to have said, “give me a lever long enough and I’ll move the world.” The thoughts aren’t really connected, I just enjoyed being able to toss out the name of an old Greek scholar.


#Bloganuary 10: What are five things you’re grateful for today?

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