Gratitude is one sure sign that you’re taking good care of yourself. If you wake up, go through the day, and fall asleep feeling grateful, then you’ve mastered a most important quality of being.
The good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, we will be moving to Williamsburg, Virginia during the summer of 2002. Not very many people can predict the future in such detail so far in advance, but that’s one of the gifts we’ve been given. Between now and then, Megan will commute to Williamsburg from Columbus to teach on the educational leadership faculty of the College of William & Mary School of Education.
We spent the last few days in Williamsburg, searching for and finding a wonderful, furnished, efficiency apartment that’s a 20-minute walk from Megan’s office and a 10-minute walk from Colonial Williamsburg.
Sometimes I think runners have the best of all possible lives. On Friday morning I got up early and ran about fifteen miles around Jamestown Island • site of the first permanent English settlement in America (dating back to 1607) and, alas, of the first African slaves in the original 13 colonies (dating back to 1619). The sign on the Colonial National Historical Park, which controls the island, said something about no Motorized Vehicles, Bicycles, or Pedestrians allowed before 8:30 a.m. I arrived around 6:15 a.m. and since the sign didn’t saying anything about Runners, I figured it was safe to proceed. 🙂
It turned out to be not only safe but also beautiful. The place was teeming with early-morning life, all of it seemingly poised to greet me as I ran by. If I saw one deer I saw fifty. The birds went from large families of geese and goslings to bald eagles to brown pelicans to yellow finches and red cardinals. Each time I went around the five-mile route I stopped at Black Point for a view of the James River, as the sun rose in the east.
My overwhelming response through the entire run was a feeling of gratefulness. The growing heat and kamikaze flies could not outweigh the majesty and mystery of the moment. It was perfect.
That feeling of gratefulness is, I would suggest, one of the surest signs that you’re practicing healthy self-care. The two just naturally go together. If, instead, you go through your days with a sense of cynicism, weariness, arrogance, or entitlement, then you’re either neglecting or fooling yourself.
Neglect is the most common destroyer of gratitude. We too often fail to take the time to do enjoyable things. In two weeks I’ll compete in my first triathlon, so this afternoon Megan and I went up to Alum Creek Lake, where the triathlon will be held, to enjoy the beach and to practice my swimming. It cost virtually nothing and we had a great couple of hours. On the way home, I said, “We’ve lived here for seven years and this is the first time we’ve gone to the beach.” “That’s because we’ve always been too busy,” Megan replied. And so go the excuses.
What’s your excuse? Too little time? Too little money? Too much stress? Too much effort? Making excuses is no way to go through life. Carpe diem! Seize the day! Even the smallest opportunities, like a winning hand of solitaire or a terrific and timely song, can become the cause of thanksgiving once they are acknowledged and claimed as true gifts.
Of course you can fool yourself into discounting these things or, worse yet, into taking them for granted as though you were somehow entitled to or deserved them. Too many people have wonderful opportunities but a terrible attitude about life. They become merciless misers, like Ebenezer Scrooge, instead of grateful benefactors and magnanimous hosts.
Want to know if you’ve been taking good care of yourself? Look at your attitude. Do you wake up every morning, go through the day, and fall asleep with an attitude of gratitude? Then chances are you’re on track to master an essential quality of being. If not, it may be time to stop neglecting and fooling yourself. Life is too short to be lived any other way.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC