Gratitude and Stoics . . . Again

“We paid him in gratitude and life lessons.” – Psych


There are a few Christmas mornings where you will exceed anything your children could have expected.  Sadly, Pugsley wanted an orbital space laser platform to terrorize continents and set him up as God Emperor, but only got Mario Kart®.

“All you need are these: certainty of judgment in the present moment; action for the common good in the present moment; and an attitude of gratitude in the present moment for anything that comes your way.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 9.6, via the Daily Stoic (LINK)

Where is our attitude as we walk through a day?

While I was living in Alaska, I was stopped at the local Safeway®.  The Mrs. had asked me to pick up some child wax and I had to make a left turn in order to go back home.

I was behind a minivan.  The mother turned back several times, yelling at the children.  It took her (I checked my watch) 35 seconds to finally pay attention to the road and make the left turn.  I know, because I timed her.  I was getting ready to honk my horn when I realized – why be upset?  Why honk your horn over something so small?

Imagine how grateful I was when, after following this woman for 8 miles, like a stalker on parole, that I found out she was my next-door neighbor.  Yikes!

I’m adopted.  I’m grateful that I ended up with a family that didn’t want to strangle me.  At least didn’t want to strangle me too often.  I remember learning at the wise age of five that oil was valuable.  So I took all the motor oil in the garage and put it in jars.  Perhaps to sell it.

Or when I was in fourth grade, that I drew a picture of a spaceship so well that my classmate John accused me of tracing it.  I was grateful for that final bit of artistic excellence, since it went downhill from there.

I was grateful that my 7th grade English teacher hadn’t read “The Forever War” by Joe Haldeman, since that was where that story I wrote (re-imagined, in current Hollywood terms, or plagiarized in normal speak) came from.

I’m grateful for finding The Mrs., since otherwise she would have broken some poor stick-boy.

Of course, I’m grateful for all of the kids, each in their own way.

I’m grateful for little scissors that I can use to trim my nose hair and ear hair.  I’m not especially grateful for the nose or ear hair.

I’m grateful for Maria Conchito Alonso’s role in The Running Man.  And I’m grateful she isn’t in anything else.

I’m grateful for the antibiotics that ended the pneumonia that otherwise would have ended me.

I’m grateful for my friends, who I call and burden with my lame, first world complaints.

Oh, and I’m grateful for Predator 2, even though Danny Glover is a nutcase in real life.  Oh, wait, that had Maria Conchito Alonso in it, too?  Okay, she can be in two movies.  But only two.

I’ve done an assessment of my life from time to time, and found that, of all the billions of people on the planet, I’m among the most fortunate.  And I’m grateful.

But sometimes I forget to be grateful.  And every time I do, what fills me instead?  Anger.  Envy.  Pride.  Despair.

And, let’s be real since it’s just you and me.  Sometimes you want to be good and angry at the idiot clerk at McDonalds that has none of the advantages you have.  Sometimes you want to be filled with pride because you won an internet slap-fight with an unarmed man.  And . . . sometimes you want to just give up.

The solution has been gratitude for me.  Go outside on a December night.  Take and hold a deep breath.  Enjoy the feeling of cold as it gives you goosebumps as you look up at the stars on a December morning, and realize you’re the only one seeing what you’re seeing in the frozen air.  Let your eyes adjust, and stare deeply into the stars, and understand:

You can be grateful because it’s good for you, because it makes you feel better.  Or you can be grateful because you should be.  Each of us is improbable – each moment we live on this planet a gift.  So, act like it.

And don’t forget to wax and polish your children daily!!

Author: John

Nobel-Prize Winning, MacArthur Genius Grant Near Recipient writing to you regularly about Fitness, Wealth, and Wisdom - How to be happy and how to be healthy. Oh, and rich.