Being good at gratitude

Gratitude is one of the few spiritual/happiness practices that comes naturally to me, plus I love food and cooking, so naturally Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It feels appropriate for Thanksgiving to arrive now, because I’ve been in an almost constant state of gratitude lately. Recently I tweeted:

It seemed a little arrogant to claim to absolutely be the luckiest girl in the world (I do have a little Canadian modesty in me, albeit not much) but I do feel that way lately. Even my small sadnesses reveal my luck: I’m a little sad I can’t be in three places at once today, but so happy that I know I have three places I could be. I’m grateful for my given family (and my sister-in-law who recently joined it), my long-time sweetie, and my friend-family. Friends are the family you can choose, and I couldn’t have chosen better.

I’m also lucky to have a job, a kitty, and an apartment I love. I’m lucky to belong to a passionate community of active transportation and urbanism advocates who are also, in large part, great friends and acquaintances. I’m lucky to live in a city of responsive government (how many people can say their city’s chief signals engineer answers their emails personally?).

None of these things is perfect. The active transportation community could stand to be more inclusive (and seems to be working on it). Portland city government has its problems, both small and large (institutional paralysis, police treatment of the mentally ill). My apartment could stand to be about three feet longer and have more kitchen counter space and another closet. Having a kitty means I worry when I travel and have to arrange for catsitting (prompting another dose of gratefulness for my friends). Thanksgiving even has its own issues, from distorted history and cultural appropriation to turkey suffering.

I can’t help seeing and acknowledging the imperfections as well as the glories; my brain seems to be built for realism and problem-solving. But that itself makes my appreciation both sweeter and more poignant. I try to cultivate a true thankfulness for what I actually have, not some airbrushed version of it. And recognizing that there are problems, and that so many people don’t have what they need and want, redoubles my lifetime commitment to making the world just a little better.

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