A Habit of Gratitude

Sometimes gratitude has to be a decision before it becomes a habit, but I think it's one of the wisest choices and most beneficial habits any of us can make.
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Maybe it's the juxtaposition of the world and its all-too-often-bleak state -- or maybe it's a result of an increasing self-awareness -- but these days, I really can't get over the value of perspective.

When I start to dwell on a problem, I can step back and look pretty much anywhere in this world and find stories of unbelievable resilience and grit. People who endure so much more than I ever have and come out surviving and thriving. Circumstances that are seemingly unbearable and obstacles that look insurmountable, and yet people soldier on, refuse to relinquish the reigns of their lives, and smile in the wake of immense struggle. That simple broadening of the lens through which I view my life casts nearly every challenge in a new light, and suddenly I recognize it for what it is: a manifestation of some privilege, some joy or gift I nearly had the audacity to take for granted.

I look at this year's ACL situation as a prime example. I tore both my ACLs and had to have two surgeries. I have been kept away from basketball (the love of my life) for so long, and I miss it so bad it aches. I have crutched to work on the subway, my leg throbbing if I stand, going numb if I sit. I cried tears of frustration at how tedious and taxing the most simple and normally thoughtless tasks became. I panicked over how frequent and costly my physical therapy copays were.

All of this has been a struggle, but here are the bottom lines: I have insurance and familial support and was able to get surgery. I have a job and can ultimately afford the copays to get the physical therapy I need. I have the joy of a motivation: to miss basketball is far better than to be faced with a vague purposelessness and the lack of motivation it would surely bring with it. Perhaps most importantly: this situation is temporary. I will heal fully and return to the sport I love. I have the comfort of knowing my challenge is finite. So many people don't have that comfort; so many people's pain(s) stretch torturously into the unknown, or worse yet are assuredly endless, and yet, they continue onward. So many people find the positive, the beneficial, the diamonds among dirt, or better yet, they look at the dirt and plant seeds, and then summon patience and perseverance until the seeds of their resilience blossom.

Existence in this world is inevitably replete with challenges, not to mention tiny, nagging aggravations throughout the day. But in the scheme of things, if you can step back and see the big picture, these things are often minute against the backdrop of an indelible fact: Life is good. And if that perspective broadening doesn't work (it does), I can also look around at the people within my life exuding positivity in their own trying situations and inevitably the happiness I feel to have those people in my life outweighs any stress or frustration that may try to creep in.

At the end of the day, I am human -- we all are. We feel feelings and we exist in the context of our own lives so our own struggles matter to us and affect us, as they should. So while my moments of sadness or frustration may be valid and I allow them to run their course, if they try to overstay their welcome it's up to me to play them off the stage. So before I ever start to sink into any form of self-pity, I check myself. There's SO much to be grateful for, and to forget this for more than a fleeting moment feels like an immense grievance and the ultimate disservice to having a life that so warrants gratitude.

Sometimes gratitude has to be a decision before it becomes a habit, but I think it's one of the wisest choices and most beneficial habits any of us can make.


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