I have this friend, Dan. I met him when he started doing some work for this website I also work for. We have very similar senses of humor (though his tends to be more genuinely funny and less biting), he's the best storyteller I've ever met -- including myself -- he can make me laugh and cry at the same time and I adore him.
Dan is a psychologist. I have gone through phases in my life where I collected people from certain walks of life. At one point, no shit, it was priests, or wannabes. (I was chatting up this REALLY cute guy at a picnic and he said something about the road to Emmaus. I looked at him and went, "Wait. Don't tell me. Seminarian?" He said, "YEAH! How'd you know?!" Sigh. But really, for awhile there, that's all I met.)
And for awhile there, all I met was psychologists. I have another one I count among my very good friends, but that's a story for another time.
Dan contracted me to do some work on a book he was writing, and through that we got even closer, and yadda yadda.
In the last year and a bit, he's formally been studying positive psychology through a program at the University of Pennsylvania. Penn is where Martin Seligman, widely considered the founder of the field, teaches. In the midst of my reading and editing all his papers, etc, Dan spent for-frigging-ever trying to get me to do daily gratitude lists. The premise (which I tweaked) is that you sit down every morning when you wake up and write down what you're grateful for, and it'll color the rest of your day. I do mine at the end of the day instead, so I have something potentially positive to say, because I am NOT a morning person. ;-)
I resisted and resisted and thought it was a stupid idea. Then, for whatever reason, one day I did one. Dan's response was "THIS IS EXCELLENT! I can't wait to read tomorrow's ...."
I asked him why he thought there would be a Day 2, but there was.
Today, I believe, was Day 55.
Dan is well beyond tickled pink and I am, if not entirely converted, comprehending the value of doing this. As a journalist, I pride myself on noting details nobody else does. Most of the stuff that goes on my daily gratitude list isn't huge. It's just the little details of a day in the life, and when you get a bunch of them together, you see how they add up.
Here's one from a few days ago, for a sample:
Today I am grateful for:
-- Someone who took a gigantic chunk out of her last two workdays to bail my sorry ass out so I could get gas, a little food, and the one med I was about to run out of covered while I wait for the insurance company (which admitted it screwed up) to sort things out. It took me a long time to warm up to this chick, because I adored my previous therapist and really haven't ever gotten over him, but man -- this is devotion, and compassion, and a lot of work on my behalf. It's hard not to appreciate it.
-- Knowing someone with a decent vacuum cleaner. Damn black cat hair all over the carpet. ;-) She's good company, though, so she gets away with pretty much everything. :-)
-- Ice cream. Especially ice cream that is portion-controlled because it's on a stick ;-). I could do a gallon in a sitting without thinking too hard about it, especially if it's mint chocolate chip.
-- Homegrown strawberries. Nuff said.
-- Ray Bradbury. I read "Something Wicked This Way Comes" when I was in 7th grade and never got over it. Dude could write. 91's a good, long run, but it still sucks.
-- People who let me be me without feeling the need to browbeat me for it. It took me a LONG time to learn to stand up for myself. Don't like it? Totes not my problem. Could I be gentler? Sometimes, maybe. Am I going to swallow what I have to say in order to keep from pissing you off? That would be ..... no. I don't need the ulcer.
The funny thing (at least it amused me) at my disability hearing was that the psychologist serving as the medical expert told the judge she determined my social functioning to be "markedly impaired." It took everything I had not to laugh. I was like, really, lady? You could tell that from a 6-inch stack of paper without ever having met me or even having spoken to me? Huh. I think that makes my case. :-p
-- And yet somehow I have friends, including the one who told me today that he wouldn't take me out back and shoot me even if his aim *didn't* suck, because he likes having me around. Not sure how many other people feel that way, but at least I have one.
See what I mean? None of it's huge, but altogether, in the course of stuff that makes up a day, you find the day maybe wasn't really so bad.
Today I *jokingly* said someone should buy me an Eeyore phone case I saw online and a friend immediately went and bought it. Blew me away. Also put a gigantic smile on my face for the first time this week. That was the first thing on today's list. :-) I am definitely Eeyore, and ever will be, and Dan, god love him, will always be Tigger. But Tigger and Eeyore were good buddies. I hope the human versions stay that way too.
In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. -- Albert Schweitzer