The Chat: Today's platitude: Live in gratitude
Editor's note: This Chat originally ran in November 2013.
JEN: It's the holiday season, which has become, to me, hot cups of tea, cool blustery mornings, and in the age of Facebook, reading those daily gratitude postings. More and more people seem to be jumping on the bandwagon, sharing their daily "today I'm thankful for..." lists. What do you make of this?
DAWN: I love to see people share in the gratefulness revolution! I'm been practicing this great art for more than 15 years now.
JEN: What do you mean "practicing?"
DAWN: I have a gratefulness journal, and I write down five things I'm grateful for every night.
JEN: Every night for 15 years? That's even got to beat Oprah.
PAM: Dawn knows how to take it to the level of art form and personal discipline. I wish I could do that.
DAWN: I learned a long time ago that being grateful for what you have is the key to happiness. When you take the time to be grateful for what you have, you bring an abundance of life, love and happiness into your life: Want what you have, and the things that you want will magically appear. I write down things that may seem minuscule to some, but award me great joy — for example, my bassett hound's snores.
PAM: Dawn always seems satisfied to me — more peaceful and grounded. So this is her secret! I'm grateful for my son telling me what's on his heart. Or the smell of leaves in the shady part of the yard. The way my horse nickers at me. I should be writing it all down … but I think that even taking odd moments of your hectic, frustrating day to "get grateful" can turn around your attitude, and move you toward the positive and thankful side.
JEN: I haven't been disciplined enough to keep a gratitude journal, but I do stop, like you're saying, Pam, and take the time to notice moments in a day. For instance, sometimes I find myself just staring at my boys studying or wrestling or reading and I'll be overcome with how lucky I am — and will try to burn these memories into my brain. It's moments of realizing how fleeting this time is.
PAM: Jen, you're also talking about being in the moment. This is my lifelong personal challenge, but I started to really focus on this skill after my divorce, and it has paid off in spades.
DAWN: Yes! Being in the moment is another important factor to happiness. Jen, I know you stop every day and are grateful for everything in your life. You live and look like it to me! And Pam, since your divorce, that's all I notice in your eyes!
PAM: Thank you, Dawn! I went around giddy for months after my divorce, bouncing more than walking, grinning for no reason, pinching myself to make sure it was real. I got back in touch with who I am and what I feel. I reached a new height of gratefulness because I knew I had escaped from a really bad situation.
JEN: Dawn, what are you grateful for today?
DAWN: The ability to take a nap whenever I want. The crisp fall air this morning. The sun shining through the trees warming up my pig as she lies in the backyard. The winter farmers market. My job. My husband and our friends cleaning up the barn after last night's party — and all the wine and beer left from our guests!
JEN: Seven and counting — in about 30 seconds. You ARE well practiced! What about you, Pam?
PAM: Now that my kids are tweens, I am most aware of and most thankful for those moments when they grin, hug, cuddle, ask me questions, tell me their little daily moments, their worries.
JEN: I'm with you, Pam. I'm also grateful for living in this city, which has given me so much. And I'm grateful for the cup of chai tea sitting next to my keyboard, because it makes me feel warm and cozy and content every time I take a sip. I'm grateful for education and children and laughter and … I need a gratitude journal.
PAM: Maybe we should take The Journal Pledge — borrow some Dawn-Zen and write from the heart.
JEN: Yes, let's! You know, I already keep a notebook next to my bed. In addition to the to-do lists and random ideas that already litter it, I should use it to jot down my daily gratitude list. I want to read others' lists, too, though. It just buoys me.
DAWN: Let's get everyone in town to write out their gratefulness! They can post their gratitude lists on The Chat's Facebook page — or mail or email them to us. Then we can even put them in a future The Chat for everyone to read. Rochester could become the next city of abundance!
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Jen Koski is a Post-Bulletin columnist and associate editor at Rochester Magazine. She and her husband, Jay, live in Rochester with their 10- and 13-year-old sons.
Dawn Sanborn is a professional photographer, teacher, life coach, mom of two women ages 21 and 18. She lives with her husband, Bob, on a farm in northwest Rochester.
Pam Whitfield teaches English and equine science classes at Rochester Community and Technical College. She judges horse shows and performs her poetry and stories around the area. She has a son and daughter.