gratitude

Fast Asleep

Sleepwalker
by Craig Minowa (Cloud Cult), from Love

We are your conscience.
We thought we'd tell you,
you've been sleepwalking
through most of your days.

Your eyes are open,
Your body's moving,
Your lips are speaking,
But you're far from awake.

Where is your passion?
Where is your wonder?
Where is your thankfulness?
You put them away.

Time's come to get up,
before you break down.
I know you're on it.

Where is your kid side?
Where is your joyfulness?
Where is your empathy?
Fast asleep.

Where went your moments?
Where went your presence?
Where went your purpose?
Fast asleep.

Time's come to get up,

before you break down.
I know you're on it.


See also: Gotta Listen

Saying Thank You

Matt, Lake Erie, Ripley, New York, August 7, 2011

Thanks
by W.S. Merwin, from Migration: New & Selected Poems

Listen
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
smiling by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

Grateful for Annoying People and Difficult Situations

Grateful for Annoying People and Difficult Situations

"Conventional gratitude is based on distinguishing what we like from what we do not, good fortune from bad fortune, success from failure, opportunities from obstacles. By practicing conventional gratitude, we may begin to better appreciate times of good fortune and opportunity. But what about all the obstacles, unpleasant people, and difficulties in our life? "

~ Acharya Judy Lief

Thanks

Thanksgiving
by Tim Nolan, from American Life in Poetry: Column 400

Thanks for the Italian chestnuts—with their
tough shells—the smooth chocolaty
skin of them—thanks for the boiling water—

itself a miracle and a mystery—
thanks for the seasoned sauce pan
and the old wooden spoon—and all

the neglected instruments in the drawer—
the garlic crusher—the bent paring knife—
the apple slicer that creates six

perfect wedges out of the crisp Haralson—
thanks for the humming radio—thanks
for the program on the radio

about the guy who was a cross-dresser—
but his wife forgave him—and he
ended up almost dying from leukemia—

(and you could tell his wife loved him
entirely—it was in her deliberate voice)—
thanks for the brined turkey—

the size of a big baby—thanks—
for the departed head of the turkey—
the present neck—the giblets

(whatever they are)—wrapped up as
small gifts inside the cavern of the ribs—
thanks—thanks—thanks—for the candles

lit on the table—the dried twigs—
the autumn leaves in the blue Chinese vase—
thanks—for the faces—our faces—in this low light.

Find Something to Push Yourself Out of Your Comfort Zone

"Three years ago, Blake Haxton's battle with necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating bacteria) was so serious that his parents were planning his funeral. Doctors at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center saved Haxton's life. He lost most of both of his legs, but survivedand is now thriving at Ohio State."

His story hits me right in the chest: partly because he's willing and able to share it so well, and partly because he was in Alex's graduating class at Upper Arlington High School. I remember when they called his name at the commencement ceremony while he was in the middle of this ordeal. On a very deep level, we collectively want all children to be healthy and happy and them to make the transition from childhood to adulthood as safely as possible.

Blake's insights resonate deeply, about balancing an awareness of our fragility with our innate capacity for resilience which can be strengthened by cultivating a mature relationship with discomfort. 

"In thinking about what got me through my painful timesand there were a lot of themI realized that as a kid and in high school I was really blessed to play a lot of sports...[like rowing, which is] really hard.

If you want to have any success at it, you've got to be able to push through your own pain barriers. Now I didn't know it until after the fact, but that equipped me to deal with pain when it became not an option, when it was absolutely inevitable. I've got to tell you, there were some days where having had those experiences kept me sane.

So what I'd like to encourage all of you to do is find something to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Believe me, I know that's not an easy thing to do or to want to do, but when the time comes that you have to rely on those things and you have no choicewhat literally might be life and deathyou can draw on those things to get you through those times."

~ Blake Haxton, from "The Advantage of Adversity, " TEDxOSU

Bless Our Crummy Little Hearts

Bless Their Hearts
by Richard Newman, from American Life in Poetry: Column 347

Home for the Holidays (1995)At Steak ‘n Shake I learned that if you add
“Bless their hearts” after their names, you can say
whatever you want about them and it’s OK.
My son, bless his heart, is an idiot,
she said. He rents storage space for his kids’
toys—they’re only one and three years old!
I said, my father, bless his heart, has turned
into a sentimental old fool. He gets
weepy when he hears my daughter’s greeting
on our voice mail. Before our Steakburgers came
someone else blessed her office mate’s heart,
then, as an afterthought, the jealous hearts
of the entire anthropology department.
We bestowed blessings on many a heart
that day. I even blessed my ex-wife’s heart.
Our waiter, bless his heart, would not be getting
much tip, for which, no doubt, he’d bless our hearts.
In a week it would be Thanksgiving,
and we would each sit with our respective
families, counting our blessings and blessing
the hearts of family members as only family
does best. Oh, bless us all, yes, bless us, please
bless us and bless our crummy little hearts.

See also: Richard Newman on the How a Poem Happens blog

Today You, Tomorrow Me

The Tire Iron and the Tamale
by Justin Horner
New York Times Sunday Magazine
March 6, 2011

flat-tire During this past year I’ve had three instances of car trouble: a blowout on a freeway, a bunch of blown fuses and an out-of-gas situation. They all happened while I was driving other people’s cars, which for some reason makes it worse on an emotional level. And on a practical level as well, what with the fact that I carry things like a jack and extra fuses in my own car, and know enough not to park on a steep incline with less than a gallon of fuel.

Each time, when these things happened, I was disgusted with the way people didn’t bother to help. I was stuck on the side of the freeway hoping my friend’s roadside service would show, just watching tow trucks cruise past me. The people at the gas stations where I asked for a gas can told me that they couldn’t lend them out “for safety reasons,” but that I could buy a really crappy one-gallon can, with no cap, for $15. It was enough to make me say stuff like “this country is going to hell in a handbasket,” which I actually said.

But you know who came to my rescue all three times? Immigrants. Mexican immigrants. None of them spoke any English.

One of those guys stopped to help me with the blowout even though he had his whole family of four in tow. I was on the side of the road for close to three hours with my friend’s big Jeep. I put signs in the windows, big signs that said, “NEED A JACK,” and offered money. Nothing. Right as I was about to give up and start hitching, a van pulled over, and the guy bounded out.

He sized up the situation and called for his daughter, who spoke English. He conveyed through her that he had a jack but that it was too small for the Jeep, so we would need to brace it. Then he got a saw from the van and cut a section out of a big log on the side of the road. We rolled it over, put his jack on top and we were in business.

I started taking the wheel off, and then, if you can believe it, I broke his tire iron. It was one of those collapsible ones, and I wasn’t careful, and I snapped the head clean off. Damn.

No worries: he ran to the van and handed it to his wife, and she was gone in a flash down the road to buy a new tire iron. She was back in 15 minutes. We finished the job with a little sweat and cussing (the log started to give), and I was a very happy man.

The two of us were filthy and sweaty. His wife produced a large water jug for us to wash our hands in. I tried to put a 20 in the man’s hand, but he wouldn’t take it, so instead I went up to the van and gave it to his wife as quietly as I could. I thanked them up one side and down the other. I asked the little girl where they lived, thinking maybe I’d send them a gift for being so awesome. She said they lived in Mexico. They were in Oregon so Mommy and Daddy could pick cherries for the next few weeks. Then they were going to pick peaches, then go back home.

After I said my goodbyes and started walking back to the Jeep, the girl called out and asked if I’d had lunch. When I told her no, she ran up and handed me a tamale.

This family, undoubtedly poorer than just about everyone else on that stretch of highway, working on a seasonal basis where time is money, took a couple of hours out of their day to help a strange guy on the side of the road while people in tow trucks were just passing him by.

tamale But we weren’t done yet. I thanked them again and walked back to my car and opened the foil on the tamale (I was starving by this point), and what did I find inside? My $20 bill! I whirled around and ran to the van and the guy rolled down his window. He saw the $20 in my hand and just started shaking his head no. All I could think to say was, “Por favor, por favor, por favor,” with my hands out. The guy just smiled and, with what looked like great concentration, said in English: “Today you, tomorrow me.”

Then he rolled up his window and drove away, with his daughter waving to me from the back. I sat in my car eating the best tamale I’ve ever had, and I just started to cry. It had been a rough year; nothing seemed to break my way. This was so out of left field I just couldn’t handle it.

In the several months since then I’ve changed a couple of tires, given a few rides to gas stations and once drove 50 miles out of my way to get a girl to an airport. I won’t accept money. But every time I’m able to help, I feel as if I’m putting something in the bank.

A New Science of Happiness

Dacher Keltner from “Forget Survival of the Fittest: It Is Kindness That Counts,” by David DiSalvo, Scientific American Mind (September 2009):

Dacher Keltner Recent research is suggesting that our capacities for virtue and cooperation and our moral sense are old in evolutionary terms, and these capacities are found in the emotions I write about.

A new science of happiness is finding that these emotions can be readily cultivated in familiar ways, bringing out the good in others and in oneself. Here are some recent empirical examples:

  • Experiences of reverence in nature or of being around those who are morally inspiring improves people’s sense of connection to one another and their sense of purpose.
  • Meditating on a compassionate approach to others shifts resting brain activation to the left hemisphere, a region associated with happiness, and boosts immune functions.
  • Talking about what we are thankful for—in classrooms, at the dinner table or in a diary—boosts happiness, social well-being and health.
  • Devoting resources to others, rather than indulging a materialist desire, brings about lasting well-being.

This kind of science gives me many hopes for the future. At the broadest level, I hope that our culture shifts from a consumption-based, materialist culture to one that privileges the social joys (play, caring, touch, mirth) that are our older (in the evolutionary sense) sources of the good life. In more specific terms, I see this new science informing practices in almost every realm of life.

More…