projects and writings of T.A. Burkholder
As a kid, my prayers all started with this: “Dear God, thankyouthankyouthankyou for…” I was pretty sure that the more times I said thank you, the more sincere my prayer was. On nights I was tired, I only eked out a couple thanks. Other times, I dug in and let it roll wanting to make sure that God knew I was good.
I still feel that thankyouthankyouthankyou in me. Now that I’m not using it to impress god, it actually feels real. Last summer my friend and I were driving through the Columbia Gorge which I do just infrequently enough that it bowls me over every time I see it. “Look at this place,” I kept saying and shaking my hand at some curve of light-dazzled river or craggy, forested slope. “Gratitude is sexy,” my friend said. I thought this was funny, but also kind of true. Certainly being swept away with a true and deep appreciation is sexier than offering a series of nagging complaints.
Sometimes, it’s not that grand, just a momentary swell of appreciation. Maybe a client has gotten off my massage table free of the headache she came in with and I’m thankful that I could help. Maybe it’s gratitude for a plate of handmade pizza being served to me while I crash on the couch at the end of a long day.
Other times, gratitude builds in me swiftly and silently. I don’t even know it’s there until it rushes through my blood with such a sudden force that I can only describe it as ecstasy. I know. That probably sounds overblown, but it’s not. At least for me, all of my “peak experiences” have felt as though they started from an internal place and spread outward to wherever I am or whoever I’m with: a stretch of ocean, a foggy forest, a band, a loved-one. And while living in a permanent state of ecstasy doesn’t sound all that appealing, it makes me believe that many more moments of our lives could be ecstatic if we lived with more gratitude.
Gratitude challenges are all over the internet. They provide lists of things to contemplate and be thankful for. There are books to read and programs to join. That’s not my style. I’m just going to consciously angle myself in that direction this month, try to cut back on the complaining and go for the gratitude instead. The only formal challenge I’ll make for myself this month is a photo-a-day of something I’m grateful for posted on Instagram. Follow me there if you’d like: https://instagram.com/tracyb.pdx/
Thank you, sincerely thank you, for reading.