Walsh's Wonderings - On gratitude

Even limited exposure to the Republican and Democratic conventions during the last two weeks has has given me a searing case of heartburn. Excerpts from the various speeches read like a litany of doom. If, as Jean Baptiste Massieu once said, “Gratitude is the memory of the heart,” the hearts of some of these politicians seem to be experiencing early signs of Alzheimer's.

This overwhelming focus on the negative comes at great cost, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the shouts of all we have to lose should the “wrong” candidate win. It’s hard to tell if it’s “morning in America” when we’ve set our watches to the Doomsday Clock. In the midst of getting caught up in this collective shirt-rending, I remember H.U. Westermayer explaining that the Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts yet still set aside a day of thanksgiving.

"Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful." - Siddharta Buddha

I often forget the simple act of being grateful for all that I have, of truly appreciating the thousands of little miracles I swim in each day. My excuse is that I’m just too busy, but that makes summoning gratitude even more important. In order to change this, I need to find better sound bites to guide my thinking.

"Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance." - Eckhart Tolle

For instance, I’m grateful for the summer breeze I’m feeling on this hot afternoon and that I’m healthy enough to enjoy it. I’m grateful for my Yellow Submarine coffee mug where the four Beatles appear in the windows after it gets hot. I’m grateful I was able to buy a copy of the November 5, 1984, issue of Sports Illustrated so I could frame the cover (where Notre Dame football coach Gerry Faust proclaims, “I’m Gonna Make It!” the year before he was pushed out the door).

"If a fellow isn't thankful for what he's got, he isn't likely to be thankful for what he's going to get." - Frank A. Clark

I need to remember to give thanks for events that seem disastrous in the moment. For example, I’m thankful my boat sank last week but stayed tethered to its mooring and didn’t hurt anyone. I’m grateful I haven’t had a working bathroom in months because it forces me to go to the gym to shower, guilting me into a quick workout. I’m grateful the Beatles broke up because each of them made even bigger contributions as solo artists. Yes, even Ringo.

"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." - William Arthur Ward

I’m grateful for an amazing (and patient) wife, a loving family, understanding friends and wonderful colleagues. I’m indebted to my mentors, some who know how much I’ve learned from them and others who’d never have guessed. I’m thankful for those who read my work and emails from strangers taking the time to compliment my writing. I’m happy to have a place to share these thoughts (especially about Ringo).

"Gratitude is a currency we can mint for ourselves and spend without fear of bankruptcy." - Fred De Witt Van Amburgh

Gratitude might well be the antidote for the venom of this presidential election cycle; by the time I finished writing about all the things for which I’m grateful, my heartburn disappeared.

You can read more at RobertFWalsh.net, contact him at rob@RobertFWalsh.net or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.