In some corners of positive psychology, it seems, all you have to do is keep a gratitude journal to make yourself happy. As usual, I beg to differ: If you want to be happy(ier), lower your expectations.
That occurred to me yesterday, as I was hugging a friend of about my age. Hug completed, he moved away. Unfortunately, the left side of his reading glasses, which hung from a chain, had engaged in an intimate relationship with my right nostril. I made some terribly articulate noise like “AAAAGGGHHH!” and he stopped and we disengaged. Instant gratitude. Just a few more inches and I would have been explaining my sad plight to an emergency-room technician about how I had been tragically de-nosed by a friend’s reading glasses; I frankly doubt that this incident would have done for reading glasses what Isadora Duncan’s demise did for long scarves, but you can always hope. (On a broader level, I know full well I’m going to die at some point. But I’m always hopeful it won’t happen in a particularly inglorious way — like Scarlett O’Hara’s first husband’s dying of the measles in the Civil War. A little more dignity would be nice.)
But, anyway. Once you start figuring out that you can play the gratitude game as well as anybody, it gets easier.
So, over this Thanksgiving weekend, I’m grateful I still have both nostrils.
I’m grateful, too, that only one of our two adult children has recently been cited for public urination.
Also, that nobody in the extended family at Thanksgiving dinner got into a fistfight about politics. (Republicans have such a sad, whipped look about themselves these days. Given the current state of the world and this particular presidency, it becomes them.)
Finally, at this age, I’m grateful for what may either be a faulty memory or a growing capacity to deceive myself. I realize that my husband and I watched some sporting event on TV Friday afternoon that may have involved some team called Texas A&M. But — poor sports and fair-weather fans that we are — we went to a movie before the end of the game. I can tell you all about the new movie about Bob Dylan, if you’d like. But football? I can’t quite recall that score, although I don’t think it was by a nose.
(Copyright 2007 by Ruth Pennebaker)