Jul 11, 2008

Gratitude List

What a difference a mood makes. And a blog comment with a simple suggestion: write a Gratitude List. (thank you, Jennifer!) When I was going through my dark night of the soul, my sponsor made me write one every day: list every item in my life I was (or needed to be) grateful for. Sometimes there wasn’t much on the list. “Right number of arms and legs. No viruses. My cat. My dinky studio apartment over a garage that gets light on all four sides.”

But having to write one every day, I became more aware of how many good things I did have in my life. Like a survival job, great friends, creative energy, and the cat. And the apartment that did, after all, get light on all four sides. It was still true that the majority of my friends were married, and/or had their dream jobs, and/or owned houses that got light on all four sides. But writing the gratitude list made me feel better, if not euphoric. You can call it the power of positive thinking, or spend lots of money on “The Secret” seminars, or you can read the old proverbs: ‘as a man thinks is his heart, so is he.’ It does work.

But oh, how easily one forgets those soul-saving disciplines after one’s soul feels saved or at least out of danger. How quickly I stop praying for help, or believing I needed it. And so I put the gratitude list away and coasted. So no surprise when life took a seeming downturn I found myself braying like Eyeore the ass.

So upon Jennifer’s suggestion, I wrote a gratitude list. Well the first night I thought about it. And the next morning I wrote one.

  • Larry.
  • Friends.
  • Great house with great views. Despite the horrifying sound of gunfire last night. And the night before (we live near Glassell Park, home of the Avenue Gang).
  • My cat "Honey."
  • My current temp assignment that hasn’t been so bad after all.
  • Larry’s new groovy hair cut.
  • My mom is still alive despite her stroke-fragmented speech.
  • My brothers and sister.
  • My sister’s wonderful children whom I love being auntie to.
  • Dark 84% chocolate.
  • PG Tips Tea. And Barry’s Tea
  • Going to the gym. Or as they say, ‘having gone to the gym.’
  • Climbing the long flight of stairs up to our house to see Larry sitting there waiting, with the cat in his lap.
  • The smell of Coppertone that makes me think of summer.
  • The feeling of sleep before it overwhelms you.
  • The kindness that falls like a blanket when I finally sit down and let God in. I can feel the stress unwind and my heart split open like a ripe watermelon and I rarely don’t cry.
  • The palm trees in the neighbor’s yard that look like they’ve got birds of paradise sticking out of them. I’d never noticed them before. But there they are, poking out of the fronds like some bizarre skin graft.
  • The view from our back deck. (not in the direction of the Avenue Gang)
  • Getting to live the rest of my life with the cutest, biggest hearted, person on the planet. Larry again. Did I mention he got his hair cut. Yea, hooray.
  • Riding our bikes on Fourth of July and stopping on the Colorado Blvd bridge to watch Rose Bowl fireworks. The rest of the ride home downhill, riding down streets on a summer night that made me feel like I was eight years old again.
  • Blogging. All the wonderful people I’ve met by blogging: people who read my blogs and comment, who I then get to read their blogs; and the network of cyberfriends whose lives I feel privileged to peek into and they into mine. I suspect that heaven will be the place where we all live on the same street and can actually witness each other day to day. As long as we keep blogging.
  • Live music: Mim and I heard Bill Malonee do a house concert at my friend Adam’s house. You forget how stunning live music is if you only listen to iTunes.
  • 30 Rock. I haven’t watched TV in yonks, except for renting Extras or The BBC Office through netflix. I didn’t realize I had a 30 Rock at the top of my netflix queue, but whwen it arrived I was totally entertained. Larry had to come into the living room to find out what was making me laugh out loud.
  • Jane Eyre, the recent BBC production with smokin hot Toby Stevens.
  • Walking through Larry’s room and seeing him typing on his computer. He’s writing a terrific screenplay and I’m so proud of him.
  • John Cusak’s Vanity Fair Proust Questionnaire: which included the following:
    Q: Who are your heroes in real life? A: Let’s go with Jesus. Not the gay-hating, war-making political tool of the right, but the outcast, subversive, supreme adept who preferred the freaks and lepers and despised and doomed to the rich and powerful. The man Garry Wills describes “with the future in his eyes … paradoxically calming and provoking,” and whom Flannery O’Connor saw as “the ragged figure who moves from tree to tree in the back of [one’s] mind.”
    This made me love John Cusack, and strive to write as well as Flannery O'Connor.
  • My brother Jim’s girlfriend. He finally fell in love with the RIGHT WOMAN. Yea. And she’s coming over for dinner tonight. Which is pretty cool since she lives in Zurich.

  • Our wonderful sometime-house mates The Rooneys, who got even more wonderful when they added Abe to their posse.

And that's my list as of Friday at 3:30. In a couple hours I'll add "quitting time." Tomorrow I hope to add new ones. But Larry will always be on the list. As well as that blanket of grace and my cat.

If you've got an item on your own Gratitude List that you'd like to share, please post!


Michael Meulstee said...

My gratitude list...

one item is coffee... now not for the obvious reasons but rather how many times I've gotten to sit down over a cup of coffee at a coffeehouse and just spend hours talking with friends, learning from them and being given the opportunity to teach them. I can think of so many times awesome bond building things have happened in various coffeehouses. I am a huge fan of the smell, atmosphere and overall happenings of a coffee house. Damn

Oh yeah... and the IV of straight up coffee they have there for me is nice

Susan Isaacs said...

Yes, Michael. Amen to COFFEE. My friend Lori heard that the smell of coffee can wake people up as much as the drink. I thought, well, but drinking helps a lot more.

Ted and Lori said...

This post has brought tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat. I love so much about your list, especially the part about the bike ride...and narcissistically, the part about me :)

debcurlydog said...

Wow, I had a bad day yesterday, I'm an artist who got a gig at my daughter's peditrician's new office. They wanted an ocean on one wall, so I did this beautiful watercolor ocean with waves.
Found out yesterday they didn't like it and will paint a big flat blue stripe over it. If they wanted a big blue stripe they should have hired a painter NOT an artist. Bumed me out totally since I had done cartoon charactors for them before and they loved them. Your post will help me pull out of it. I'm going to write a gratitude list today.
Thanks with tears in my eyes.

Karen said...

Have you thought about adding "publishing a book" on your list? That would be on mine:)!

By the way, I'm really disappointed to hear that getting a book published doesn't solve all of your problems. Darn!
I think we need to see a photo of Larry's groovy haircut.

Kathy Finch said...

Susan I love reading your BLOG. it lets me get to know you better. I think that you are a sweet girl and I love that my cousin Larry has a great person like you in his life.

I love the idea of a gratitude list. I had never thought about that I was always told the "Count your blessings" but to see them in writing really puts them out there and you really have to think about it. I plan to do this often.

Love cousin Kathy

jennifer said...

hahhahhahaha now a new one on my gratitude list was a "You Turn Me On" music video on youtube featuring...Toby Stevens in "Jane Eyre!" What a funny life I am in the middle of, that a book that bewitched me as a teenager (loooong before the internet) I now can see as a music video that I found through reading a blog, written by a stranger. What will make me laugh twenty years from now, that I cannot even imagine?

OK - more gratitude: that my sister-in-law became my plain sister when she and my brother divorced. That my part-coyote dog has started chewing books (yes, this makes me laugh, and I am always grateful for things that make me laugh. Why books? Why now? And was the hymnal tastier than the Harry Potter, as I suspect?) That we are not losing our home (we actually don't own one, but I'm grateful we aren't losing one nonetheless.) That I have a daily miracle to witness in the lives of my children who are - knock wood - fairly functional despite all the statistics. That cacti exist in all their infinite detail. And yes, that John Cusack quote - I am absurdly happy whenever Jesus is portrayed nationally in a way I recognize.

And microwave popcorn.

Leo said...

Today I spent the afternoon with my girlfriends 8-year old daughter. We got to feed some sheep and baby goats at Old Macdonalds Farm and then we went swimming at my friends pool. We Had such a great time seeing who could hold their breath the longest and splashing each other. I love that she is warming up to me as me and her mom are thinking about our future together.

karen said...

"The smell of Coppertone that makes me think of summer."

This made me smile. So many Mississippi summers by the city pool with my sisters.

Meredith Rachel Munro said...

wow i totally dig john cusack's answer as well! thanks for sharing that.

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