[noun] the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
Once, by some therapist or psychiatrist or doctor long forgotten, it was suggested to me that I keep a Happy Box. The Happy Box, which I decorated with paint, tissue paper and glitter, was a box with a slot at the top. Through the slot, I would post tiny slips of paper stating one thing that had made me happy that day, or that made me happy in general. Then, when I felt sad, I could look through that box and find peace, or happiness, or gratitude, for the things that had gone well in my life. As my energies and fight sapped away, I used the box more and more rarely, upturned its contents more and more often yet found nothing that could make me feel less sad. So I stopped using the box, stopped writing things down, started to forget that any small thing on any given day could make me happy, or even raise a smile. I forgot myself.
Years later, by someone I will never forget, it was strongly suggested that I start to keep a Gratitude List daily. On that list I should write at least five things that I was grateful for each day. Small lists, baby steps. I started with the big things. I wrote pages and pages. I filled a notebook within weeks. But I wasn’t feeling better and I couldn’t work out why. I realise now. In trying to generalise about the big things I was grateful for (and I was. I was grateful for them) I had forgotten to measure the tiny moments that make up days. I was grateful in a general, genuine way for my own life and its privileges (I was writing things like “running water”, “being alive”) but I hadn’t understood how much the small things count. I wasn’t aware that each day can be defined by the littlest fragments of positivity. So while I was grateful for everything, I was grateful for nothing in the sense that I found no solace in the better moments of each passing day.
It’s very important- crucial- to be aware of the large things that make your life a beautiful thing. As I said in F is for Freedom, I am eternally grateful that I live in a place where my rights as a human are respected, and to forget that would be wrong. Yet it’s also important to embrace the smaller things, moments of kindness, seconds of love, a smile, a hug, a seat on the bus when you’re on crutches (I should know). It’s like a jigsaw- the small things make up the inside pieces and without them you have only the frame and the corners. You’ll never have the bigger picture if you don’t have all the pieces to fill it.