Back when I was faking my life, I had a gratitude jar on my night stand. I kept cute little patterned slips of paper beside it and at the end of every day I would write on one of those cute little patterned slips one thing that I was grateful for in my life that day, trying not to repeat the same things every day, like food and shelter and clothing. I used it as a way to help me to consciously think about why I shouldn’t be unhappy and unsettled with the life I was living. In fact, it was only the last in a series of things that I had been using to try to quell the feeling that my life wasn’t right. I was never able to fill that jar. Through a whole year, I never managed to fill it up with those cute little patterned slips of paper that sat beside it.
On those days when I would stand at my office window at my high-powered job where my name brand car was parked below me in the basement, look out towards my house on the hill and wonder what it was all for, I would also wrestled with the feeling that I was being ungrateful. Except for the children I was struggling to have, I knew that I had it all. This feeling of my life being all wrong unsettled me and made me feel afraid. But I couldn’t do anything to change things because, well, I already had it all. What more was there for a responsible person to want or to do?
So I started watching Oprah’s show, SuperSoul Sunday. I’d get home from church, where I had just secretly cried my broken and confused heart out during praise and worship, and I’d watch this show in which she features, “renowned thought leaders to awaken viewers to their best selves.” One Sunday she featured an author and psychologist who researches the area of gratitude and happiness. Everything she said about her own journey seemed to mirror where I was and I thought I had found my answer. I bought her book and dove in.
After reading it, I felt even more like she could help me to be content with my life so I signed up for her online course through Oprah’s network. Every week I – and other women who I guess were also struggling to be happy with their lives – would read a chapter of her book, do the weekly gratitude assignment and attend a live online hour-long class. I can’t even remember now what the assignments were about but I do remember some very crafty ones where I was cutting stuff from magazines and painting things. I spent weeks at it and went through the entire course. At the end of it, I was still unhappy. I don’t blame the author; she tried her best.
The problem was that I was living the wrong life and deep down in my soul I must have known that and could never be truly happy with it. Where I was seeking answers for my discontented soul from Oprah, I should have been praying to God for the courage to do His will, whatever that was. If He had not been gracious enough to let it all fall apart, I would have had to keep a gratitude jar for the rest of my life because I would never have been truly happy, not in a lasting way. Because, you see, I now understand that I only need a gratitude jar when I’m living the wrong life.
My life now is nothing compared to the life I used to live, materially speaking. There’s no fancy house or car and I own nothing but a few clothes, some books and a few household items. I don’t even provide the roof that’s over my head and haven’t done in almost four years. There’s definitely no high-powered job and I don’t rub shoulders with the who’s who of anything. But I’ve never been so effortlessly grateful in my life.
As I was writing this post, I tried to think of things that I miss from my former life and the only thing I could come up with is a super-comfy bed with high-quality bedding. My bed here is a futon and the sheets are adequate but not great. Yes, I could go out and buy high quality linen but why would I put them on a bed that doesn’t deserve such luxury? But other than a great bed, there’s absolutely nothing from my old life that I miss. I sleep in peace, comfort and gratitude every night on my not super comfy futon with the cheap sheets knowing that my super comfy bed with the high quality bedding is coming in the future.
Meanwhile, someone said to me the other day that they like Christmas because it’s a month of miracles. I smiled and she asked if I agreed. I said no because I believe in miracles year round, not just for one month. And this is the crux of why my life now overflows with gratitude. My life is a miracle. Not just the fact of my existence but the fact of this existence. That I’m here, where I am, doing what I’m doing and experiencing what I’m experiencing.
No, I don’t need a gratitude jar anymore because I don’t need to try to not be unhappy. I’m happy because I’m where I should be doing what I should be doing. Who wouldn’t be grateful for that?