1400–50; late ME < ML grātitūdin- (s. of grātitūdō) thankfulness, equiv. to grāt(us) pleasing
But sometimes when I am writing in my gratitude journal about being thankful for my annoying but entertaining cat, and being blessed with pretty feet (hey, I have to come up with at least five things per day, and after a few weeks, fresh ideas are running thin) it does sometimes seem a little contrived. But the other day, I stumbled across a practice which has moved me from being a bemused cynic about gratitude, to being a whole-hearted, sincere champion of the cause.
The world of annoyance
Here’s what happened. I get annoyed by a lot of things. Lots and lots of little things.
- The power cord falls out of my laptop while I am repositioning myself in my chair – I’m annoyed (this happens at least five times per day).
- My entertaining, cuddly, but annoying cat jumps on the coffee table – where he KNOWS he is not supposed to be – me = annoyed.
- The cord to the hairdryer and flattening iron get all hung up/tangled up on the drawer-pull right in the middle of my primp routine (this happens about 10 times per day) – Yep annoyed again.
- I leave my cell phone in the house and remember it as I am two blocks down the road on my way to an appointment, you guessed it – annoyed.
I think you could say that I am pretty much ‘annoyed waiting to happen.’ This has never occurred to me as a necessarily bad thing. I mean, I am a pretty cheerful and positive person overall, pleasant to be around mostly always a glass-half-full sort. This annoyance bit is just my own private way of scolding life for all the little things that it really should just do better, thank you very much. One day, not sure why, perhaps because it is the new year and I am actively working on lots of projects that will dramatically reshape the future of my career and working life for the next few years, it dawned on me that perhaps being in nearly perpetual state of annoyance was not the most effective way to go about creating my future.
Hmmmm, ok…but what to do? Annoyance had become such a mental habit, that I knew it would not go gentle into that good night. Then it came to me – what if I were to transform annoyance into gratitude? What if every time something niggly came along, instead of going down my normal “hey, life, get a clue, what the f#%$ is the matter with you” path, I could stop, and realize that for whatever is pulling my annoyance trigger, there is something for which I can be deeply, profoundly, genuinely grateful, and that I could use that very moment to create, experience and share that gratitude? What would that be like?
Hmmm…interesting idea, let’s give it a try. So, (like any good social networker in the digital age), I proclaim on my Facebook status “Going on an annoyance diet. Transforming annoyance into gratitude.” Then, for the next few days I just keep that idea at the front of my mind.
- Power cord falls out of laptop – “damn, er, I mean – Wow, I have an up-to-date, working laptop that if I just plug in again, I can use to effortlessly connect with the world.” Cool.
- Entertaining, cuddly, yet annoying but cat jumps on the coffee table – where he KNOWS he is not supposed to be – “hey, you m!@$king cat! How many times have I told you?…wait – I have a beautiful, comfortable and inviting home where I get to make the rules, even if the cat ignores them.” Huh, this is kinda fun.
- Cord to the hairdryer and flattening iron get hung up/tangled up on the drawer-pull right in the middle of my primp routine – “fer crap’s sake, woah… – Aren’t modern appliances wonderful? I’m so glad I get to fix my hair instead of going with the frizzed-out air-dried look I get when camping.” Wow – couldn’t have seen that one coming.
- Leave my cell phone in the house and remember it as I am two blocks down the road on my way to an appointment – this time I don’t even bother stopping off at annoyance, I go straight to Wow, I am so blessed, a well-running, reliable car, a cell phone and a place to go.” Then, genuinely touched by the abundance of my life, surprisingly comes “What can I do to enrich the lives of others who may be struggling?” Really couldn’t have seen that one coming.
Didn’t see that coming
For some reason, unlike many changes, I didn’t have to do a lot of work to start this new habit of thought. I have it written down in a few places and look at it in the morning. But other than that, ever since I said I was starting the annoyance diet, whenever I get annoyed, it just naturally acts as a trigger to be grateful for something right in that moment. And I don’t have to reach or think hard or try to come up with something profound to be grateful for. It is right there underneath the thing that had started out annoying me.
It would not be overstating to say this practice has profoundly changed the fabric of my daily life. At a very deep and personal level, I am beginning to move from “annoyed waiting to happen” to “grateful waiting to happen.”
And for that shift, I am very grateful indeed.