Late last week, I asked myself to be extra-extra-vigilant for seventy-two hours and notice all that I am happy about and grateful for. I feel certain that I learned one of the most important lessons of my lifetime in those three days. It really was remarkable.
I started out by making lists. Lots of lists. I wrote things like: I’m grateful for my laptop, my eyesight, my un-junky closet, my DVR, my Episcopal church family, my cat’s purr, my pillow, that I no longer say yes when I mean no, that I can go to the doctor every year for a physical…
For more than an hour on that first day, I sat and added to my list. It was so easy. All the things I thought of, big and small and in between made the list. I was having fun. Or at least I was having fun until something funny happened. I started to get a little worried. I didn’t see how I was going to be able to keep this up for 72 hours. Thoughts were rattling around in my head like, “I’m definitely going to need more paper, maybe an entire ream, probably another pen or two as well, and I’m sure I am going to miss something that I’m truly grateful for and not put it on the list.” And oh, “I can’t just sit here and make this list I have too much to do!”
Yes it really happened like that. I was worried about getting grateful “right” and putting enormous pressure on myself. Hmmm.
Thank goodness it was time for a bathroom break, so I got up and broke the spell of my pressure-packed energy. While up, I began to ponder what I’d be cooking for dinner, so I made a quick trip into the pantry. There I stood, in my full pantry and I noticed a sort of “ho-hum” feeling of disappointment wash over me. I must have looked like one of those lovable teenagers who stand in front of the full refrigerator with the doors flung wide open saying “There’s never anything good to eat around here!” I caught myself and had to laugh out loud. It’s funny. You see that, right?
Just a little more than an hour into my happy-gratitude vigil and I’ve already gotten in my own way in a big way.
But the good news is that I notice that I have now two more entries to add to my list; I’m grateful that I have so much to be grateful for that it’s hard to get it all on paper and I’m grateful for my full pantry.
What I’ve just described that happened in those first few hours really is a representative slice of what happened for the remainder of my 72 hour experiment. I noticed throughout the weekend that when I was consciously thinking about what I was thinking about, I stayed in a happy-grateful and I’ll add peaceful state. Said another way, when I took responsibility for what I focused my attention on, I could stay in whatever state I wanted. But the moment I gave away my thoughts and they got caught up in the prevailing winds of whatever was going on around me, I could be swept into a place I’d never consciously choose to be. Remarkable.
Why would anyone agree to go to a place where they would never consciously choose to be? That’s just crazy, right? But we do it, don’t we? We do it when we aren’t vigilant about what we choose to focus our attention and thoughts on.
Truth is, we don’t go to places we don’t want to go, we go to places we choose to go even when we don’t realize we are making a choice at all. We go where our thoughts take us and nobody has any control over our thoughts but us. Really remarkable.
Oh and here’s another biggie from my experiment…
Whatever we choose to focus our attention and thoughts on fills us up. Because I was extra-extra vigilant for these past 72 hours on gratitude, I was filling myself up with gratitude.
And whatever we’re full of spills out of us and is what we offer to the world around us. Because I was full of gratitude, gratitude was spilling out of me and I noticed that I actually have even more to be grateful for than I thought…
And so I get it. I’ve really got to get back to my list.