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Special Guest for August – Katherine Center

August 1, 2010

Katherine Center is the author of three wonderful novels: The Bright Side of Disaster, Everyone is Beautiful and the most recent Get Lucky. I have read them all and think that they are truly wonderful. You can read more about her on her site and you can find more about her at her blog. We are truly delighted to have her here as our guest for August.

For a long time, I used to think I had to dwell on the things in my life that were wrong.  

I think maybe I didn’t want them to sneak up on me. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I worried that people might look at my life and say, “She has all these problems and she doesn’t even know it!”

I kept journals for years, and in them I tried to zero in on the problems. I made lists of worries, lists of struggles, lists of areas for improvement.  I was like a surgeon looking for tumors to take out.  Constantly vigilant. Looking for trouble.

And then I met my husband.  And he was not looking for trouble–unless it was the fun kind.  He was looking for adventure, and for good books to read, and for people who made him laugh.  And he could not for the life of him imagine why a person would ever make a list entitled, “10 Reasons Why I Am Not As Happy As I Could Be.”  Because he was plenty happy. He had happiness to spare.

I figured he was just lucky.  Just born with a cheery disposition.  Just resilient and perky with a knack for silver linings.

But you know how the people you spend time with start to influence you after a while?  After 15 years with this same tail-waggingly cheerful guy, almost without my noticing, my tail started to wag, too.

Partly, it was osmosis.  Partly, it came from a conversation we had once when I asked him how he stayed so cheerful and he told me that he “just looked for the good things.”  And partly it was raising kids–and noticing that for almost everything we talked about, I had a choice about how to frame it for them.  I could say, “It’s raining. And that means we’re stuck in the house all afternoon.”  Or I could say, “It’s raining. And so the plants are getting a good, refreshing drink of water.”

My friend Brené says studies confirm this: Joy does not lead to gratitude.  Gratitude leads to joy.  

I know that’s true. And I don’t need a study to tell me.

Last fall, I made a collage for our dinner table with the word “GRATEFUL.” I had been meaning to get a dinnertime routine going of talking about the things we were grateful for each day–but I kept forgetting.  So I made the sign to remind us, and it helped.

Now, about half the time, we go around the table at dinner and list the things we were grateful for that day.  But half the time turns out to be plenty.  For me, it has not just changed our evening meal: it has changed how I experience the whole day leading up to it.  Now it’s like I’m making lists of things to feel grateful for.  And it turns out, there so many that I don’t even remember them all by dinner time.  

But that’s okay.  Because the more you notice them, the more you notice them. And you can’t live in a world full of countless blessings without living a life full of joy.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2010 7:48 am

    Wonderful ritual! And such a timely message for me! Thanks.

  2. Xanthe Berkeley permalink
    August 2, 2010 11:55 am

    love this post! and the dinner time gratitude routine is a fabulous idea, thank you x.

  3. August 7, 2010 2:21 pm

    ah Katherine, this is perfect. so nice to read today!

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