None of us is unfamiliar with Rhonda Byrne’s “The Secret”. Even those who deride the so-called ‘self help books’ or treatises on positive thinking ( I’m one of those myself), have heard about it. And it’s not as if this was the first time that the largely thankless human race was reminded to be grateful. We all have been reminded so many times to be grateful that it’s nothing but sheer perversity of will that we refuse to be so.
Ever since I can recall, being reminded of my blessings was an inalienable part of the day, most such reminders sadly being ineffectual. All seemingly moralistic tales about children who had nothing or very little (“I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet “ kind of stories and others in similar vein ) just elicited a “Here we go again” roll of the eyes. As I grew up, some of this “gratitude” stuff made sense, mostly it didn’t. Not that I was callous about other’s misfortune or towards the evils that plague the world but when it came to myself, what I always saw was what I didn’t have rather than what I did. What I did have, I assumed everyone did. Be grateful that I could get out of bed and walk around? Or that I had all the amenities modern world could imagine? That I had loving family and friends? Or that I had no major health or in fact life concerns? Nah…Everyone had these. Or so I thought. What formed the bane of my existence were things like the flawless complexion of the girl next to me in college; hourglass figure like the one next to her; an endless shopping or travelling budget. Yeah these are the kind of things that led to endless whining and complaining. My friends and family often pointed out that I was making it a habit to be ever complaining, ever unhappy….something like a perversity of Shelley’s famous narcissism- “I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!” Only that there were no thorns, or only thorns that I chose to see as such.
Today, married with a 8-year-old son and a few brushes with “real” life later am I any wiser? Only if I choose to be. Yes, there are still plenty of things that could be better, plenty where life could seem fairer, more settled, more in control. And I do grumble about it, about the hand that life has dealt me though, from an objective outsider’s perspective, there is nothing wrong with it. Moreover what I’ve realised is that life as we know it, is by its very definition fluid. For if it became rigid, controlled, one may not be able to tell the difference between the dead and the alive. So while I grumble about “things not working out” or “things being so much in flux” or a “lack of stability”, I remind myself to accept all this as it is and with gratitude.
What has brought on this treatise on gratitude one may ask? My 8-year-old son’s best friend in school was recently diagnosed with diabetes. I hardly know this child or the parents but my heart goes out to this child for in him I see my own child. This is a friend for whom my son specially carried the brownies that I baked for he loved them so. Now both my son and I consciously decided not to pack any sweets in my son’s school lunch. And I realised that I just took for granted that my family is and will be healthy and happy; that we all say byes in the morning and meet in the evening; that my life in all its unstable, fluid avatar was indeed a blessing I never really thanked Him for.
Yes, life is not fair. A lot could be better, but a lot could be worse too, the latter being a possibility we hardly ever consider. Tragedies, bad luck is something that happens to others you see. Aren’t we lucky that we can still think this way for it implies that tragedy and misfortune have left us unscathed?
Can we, just for a day, put aside our all our whining and complaining and be truly and sincerely grateful for the life that we have? Yes, none of us will have a perfect life; many of us have been through tragedies and hardships that one rather forget. Despite all this, let us be grateful, not as a means to an end, end being our “ideal” life but as an end in itself. For life, flawed though it is, is still worth being grateful for.