Gratitude Through Gritted Teeth

It’s all about perception.

Case One: Walking down by the river with my nephew, goose poop everywhere. I think, “What a frickin mess! You can hardly walk through this shit.” – literally. My nephew shouts: “It’s a maze!” and starts weaving along the path doing a goose-poop slalom. It’s all in how you see it.

Case Two:  I’ve been: a) hanging out with highly trained professionals chatting about things like the law of diminishing returns and thermodynamics and b) trying to build a writing career in a world of literaries, journalists, and media gurus. I think perhaps I am a total clueless rookie idiot completely faking it in a world I feel grossly unqualified to be in. The secret truth… I’m not special. Practically everybody feels out of place and clueless, we all have our fits of insecurity. Especially when you’re pushing the boundaries of who you are and what you know. Great science and innovation come from the people who have the courage to daily confront their own ignorance and limits of their capacity. Grass always seems greener, everybody else looks more together than we feel. But in truth it’s just a matter of how we decide to view ourselves and others.

Case Three: Climbing my way out of twenty years of chronic illness, I feel like I’ve slept through decades of my life. Like Sleeping Beauty finally awakening, only to realize her kingdom didn’t slumber beside her, but went on without her, and man, is she ever pissed. I’m just starting to build a life, it seems, and everyone around me has degrees and careers and families, and I think I’ve totally lost out on a whole life. The reality is I’ve been on a completely different journey, maybe one I don’t completely understand, and one that’s taken me places other people don’t get to go. A place where you don’t have to be eighty to figure out what’s really important (I’d tell you now, but that’s a whole other article); a place that teaches you not to argue with reality ‘cause you’re tempted with such a shitty dose of reality to argue with. Tragic lost opportunity, or bonus life most people don’t get to live, my choice.

It’s all about perception. My favorite Chinese folk tale is one of a legendary nun who had found peace and enlightenment. A man traveled great distances through great difficulties to find her dwelling in the mountains and asked her what her secret was. She smiled and said, “Thanks for everything, no complaints whatsoever,”


“Go home, and say: thanks for everything, no complaints whatsoever, that’s all.”

Grumbling, the man went home and tried it. A year later he again made the long and difficult journey into the mountains to find the nun. “Venerable one, I’ve tried as you said, but still, my heart is not at peace, what am I to do?”

“Thanks for everything, no complains whatsoever.”

Suddenly the man understood and his heart was free.

So I do that; I say thanks for everything. And when I can do it with all my heart peace fills me, there really are no problems and everything is exactly as it should be. The shit is a maze to be run through with joy. And the rest of the time I say thank you through gritted teeth: going through the motions, trying to remember there’s really nothing to complain about, except in my perception.

Still having trouble saying thanks for everything? Try reading this.

6 thoughts on “Gratitude Through Gritted Teeth

  1. I love the kids vs. adult perception. Remind me to tell you about a niece’s thong underwear comment some time. In the mean time, yes the grass is ALWAYS greener. I hate that. I wish we could all be happy with what we have all the time. I personally don’t know how. I don’t think its that we (I) want more more more, I think we (I) just want different. The wanderlust is strong in me and I thirst for new experiences and hate the humdrum. How about this: Without the bad, how would we even recognize the good? So let’s make a plan to celebrate the bad (the devil has a nice necklace of mine that I lost, know where I lost it, really wish I hadn’t been so stupid and accidentally left it where I did, but whatever, it’s small potatoes, I need to let it go…) so we can get back to enjoying the good – our families, friends, achievements, and just the little moments in our life. Thanks for being my friend Valerie.


    1. Oh come on Irene! Now millions of readers (okay maybe 30) are DYING to hear the thong underwear story…

      I love the idea of a celebration for the bad things. Strange party, rasing a glass to the shitty things that come our way. So, who’s in for a completely different kind of ‘whine’ and cheese party?


  2. Hey Val,

    Thanks for another great post–insight, humility, vulnerability, and openess. I think we all can relate to your angst regarding our lot in life. I struggle between that state of being grateful for everything and feeling sorry for myself.

    Lately though I think about another conundrum: this time between grateful for everything on the one hand, then complaining, being critical of things in the world on the other. I think about the stunts that Israel can pull in Gaza, the West Bank, and in international waters, all seemingly with impunity, which cause untold suffering, which grinds my gears, and raises my blood pressure and stomach acid. Now, is it possible to hold both seemingly opposite perspectives at the same time?

    I fear if my heart is always at peace, then I may sit on my ass and not do something-anything-to alleviate the suffering. Or, perhaps, could somehow I have a peaceful heart AND a sense of righteous indignation at the same time?


    1. It’s funny how peace is often considered synonymous with catatonia. True peace is about not resisting, it isn’t about not experiencing. You can be at peace with the fact you are mad as hell (though it usually takes some of the steam out of it).

      Accepting that suffering and bad behavior exist does not neccessarily mean you do nothing about it, but I think it does mean whatever action you take comes from a centred, loving place rather than a knee jerk reaction to what you think “shouldn’t” be. Very few conflicts are ever resolved by putting more anger into them. “Fighting for peace” is one of the most oxymoronic ideas I’ve ever encountered.

      The nun in the example above says it’s thanks for EVERYTHING. And that means everything – even other people’s shitty shitty behaviour. I was watching Blood Diamond the other day and there was a line about there being many paths to God. Maybe some of them are riddled with conflict and brutality. My path is certainly full of inner conflict, who’s to say other paths don’t need war to learn about peace.

      It ain’t easy being grateful, particularily for the challenging stuff, but the more something riles you, the more it is pushing you to find your place of peace. To feel love and compassion and gratitude for everyone and everything. Even those you don’t “think” deserve it.

      Good luck with that. I’m sure as hell still working on it.


  3. I think you’re on to something girl!

    I read somewhere Tantra says “There is only God”, but I just don’t understand! Perhaps my mind can’t get it because I haven’t pushed through to the nondual.

    Oh well, homework for the week.



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