Skip to content

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and you will receive our stories in your inbox.

An Exercise in Gratitude

Posted in Life & Love

Abandoned truckEvery year, I take a stab at it, at being a better person. The subject tends to come up around my birthday, an occasion I am prone to celebrate with much fanfare, as if my immediate world should give a damn about the momentous occasion of my birth. But friends and family all humor me and, at least, pretend rather well (under penalty of loss of friendship, maybe).

On my last day of vacation, I got up earlier than usual. I stole out of the house just after 6, the dogs amazed at their good luck on not having to feign sleep for another couple of hours. The sun was just about taking its place in the big vault, and the river was at low tide – an impressive amount of birds was drinking, perched on the mud. At our approach, they fled and I enjoyed, maybe for the last time in a while, the delicious sound of wings fluttering and skimming the water – a papery, perfectly calibrated sound I wish I could hear more often.

There was a chill in the air and the dogs willed me to walk farther than it had become our habit – there were more cows whose acquaintances they wanted to make. As I trotted along, my birthday only a few days away, I asked myself what I wished for this year. My last birthday, the 50th, was marked by the decision to leave my job, to trod the unchartered territory of reinventing myself. In a way, it was as life-changing as moving countries, or getting married, with the tumult being only inward. It took a while to accept both the sudden freedom to report only to myself and the possibilities that were not as limitless as twenty years ago.

GeeseThis year, though, I couldn’t come up with anything better than just wishing for a better version of the year that was just concluding. Staring in the eyes of a cow, who seemed annoyed at our mucking about, I felt slightly disappointed. Really? Is this the best you can do?

Sofagirl and I had agreed to riff on the subject of  generosity this week, so generosity and, its cousin, gratitude, had been on my mind. Tricky lady, gratitude. We typically acknowledge it when the occasion calls for but I certainly don’t go through life feeling grateful every single moment for my circumstances, my  health, not having to worry about putting food on the table and all the other blessings, big and small, that accompany our ordinary lives. But when, along the banks of a Oregon river, I was mildly surprised at my overall contentment, I also realized that gratitude probably plays a large part. Sure, my life could be ameliorated by a number of things – like having a steady income from the fruits of my fun labour – but none of them are a deal breaker and, certainly, none are worth me flapping and flailing and worrying and wishing my time away hoping for circumstances to be different.

Ottie and PortiaMaybe what I want this year for my birthday is to properly acknowledge that feeling of gratitude a bit more often, just because. Buddhists call it being mindful. In my case, also being a bit more patient with certain situations or people might not go amiss either. But the strife for perfection is finally over and, for that, am I grateful! Generosity starts with oneself. Acknowledging one’s darker sides and least flattering parts, and accepting them, is an exercise in kindness that often leads us to be more tolerant of others. I always thought of becoming perfect the moment I would be able to wipe out the annoying traits of my personality. Instead, learning to tame them somewhat, being present, for myself and others, turned out to be just good enough.

With the cow protecting her baby and now positively annoyed at Ottie and Portia’s entreaties, a bull came to the rescue. I don’t know if bulls really favour the color red but, sporting a bright red sweatshirt, I thought it was time to be generous to the cow and go be grateful somewhere else. I tugged at the leashes, turned around towards the blue house and trotted along towards my 51st birthday.

All images C&S’s archives

Share on Facebook

17 Comments

  1. As my 44th birthday approaches in a few days, I feel much like you do in many respects. I’m always trying to be a more compassionate individual and more mindful of how blessed I am. It is a bit scary giving up a paying job to pursue a craft, an art, a passion. I am glad–even relieved–that one year later, you are happy with your decision. I know for me the past three years, teaching part-time and writing my novel, have been the best of my life. I know we are both grateful, and that’s why I like you so much Camparigirl. Happy birthday.
    Greekgirl 🙂

    July 10, 2013
    |Reply
    • Thank you! Had lunch with some former co-workers today and, while they were talking about the office and other people I know, I realized how I haven’t missed the place, not even once. And it was a great job. Things change.

      July 10, 2013
      |Reply
    • Thank you! Had lunch with some former co-workers today and, while they were talking about work, I realized I haven’t missed the place, not even once. And it was a great job. Things change!

      July 10, 2013
      |Reply
  2. Thanks for reminding me about gratitude practioe.

    July 9, 2013
    |Reply
  3. Sofagirl
    Sofagirl

    Happy birthday you perfect old bat. Wouldn’t change a thing about you.

    July 8, 2013
    |Reply
    • Kimberly
      Kimberly

      Love that: “Perfect old bat” 🙂

      July 10, 2013
      |Reply
  4. Happy Birthday! I think that all the changes you put yourself through with enthusiasm (as this blog) and the confidence you show in the future (albeit tainted with doubts, that’s just human) deserve a moment of gratitude for yourself. Brava camparigirl, you made all of this real and I am sure the rest will follow. Have a wonderful New Year!
    PS I have my own mythology of my birthday so I totally relate to what you write 🙂

    July 8, 2013
    |Reply
    • Thank you very much. I ignore every other holiday but my birthday.Egocentric maybe?

      July 9, 2013
      |Reply
  5. Loved and empathised with this post – reinventing oneself is both scary and liberating. Hope you enjoyed your birthday and that this next year is truly fulfilling.

    July 7, 2013
    |Reply
    • Thank you. Am trying to make it a year of adventure and curiosity.

      July 8, 2013
      |Reply
  6. Moving country… it’s an entirely different ballgame after your 20s. I often find myself smiling at the typical expat blogs of young TEFL teachers, for whom their ‘abroad experience’ is a kind of ‘foreplay’ before their REAL, serious lives begin 😉
    Anyway, a very happy birthday to you

    July 7, 2013
    |Reply

Got some thoughts? We would love to hear what you think

%d bloggers like this: