I type this reflection on giving thanks with seriously blistere d left thumb and middle finger—glue gun injuries sustained while making the walnut and filbert peace wreath this morning. I’m grateful. Grateful it’s my left hand and not my right, given the amount of cooking, baking, decorating and hair fussing (what was I thinking when I told him to “make it choppy?”) still to go. I’m grateful I got the dried hydrangeas into the floral oasis before the blisters and grateful that the hydrangeas dried so well in the first place.

It’s been a complicated year. In the midst of it, my husband and I took a course from Shawn Achor at One Day University. Dr. Achor teaches Positive Psychology at Harvard, the most popular course offered at that university. The bottom line, according to him: You can raise your happiness baseline by expressing gratitude.

You have to commit to really expressing it, though, writing down three things for which you are grateful every single evening before bed. Three different things every night. Try it. It’s not hard. Every day you’re grateful for little things that you forget to note—like getting a parking space when you are in a hurry, having a friend offer to do an errand you didn’t think you could manage, or not having to do the kinds of errands that used to fill your days. This morning, for instance, I was also grateful I didn’t have a 3-year old waiting to be fed while I was looking for the burn ointment.

Lest I sound like Mary Poppins after a visit to the street corner purveyor of questionable happy medication, let me say there have been plenty of moments of complaining and dwelling in dark places this year. There have been moments of wondering if the problems would ever end or if my own role in them meant they were just part of a lifelong string of miseries.

Yet there were friends to show me the realities, to commiserate, to offer the small things that really mattered—an hour or two here or there of good conversation, walks on beaches, journeys to meet me for pizza after a day of meetings that went nowhere. They sent great emails — like the one that arrived recently from a dear friend, with whom I started in advertising back way back in the era of carving headlines on rocks, who sent a link to a jingle we wrote. It really wasn’t bad, and it surely took me back to another bad haircut time and a lot of nights listening to good music. Oh, how grateful I am for my friends.


Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, founder of a Manhattan meditation center.


I’m so grateful for the Buddhist monk who led a weekend retreat in New York City last week. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, about 75 people gathered in a room and meditated and listened to him talk. He talked so simply of such complicated issues, and ended with the reminder that everything that happens is an answer. You just need to understand the question.

I’m far from saffron-robed monasticism. Meditation is more a distant goal than a daily practice, but all the same, I am so grateful to know that there is this way of thinking and there are thinkers who send out loving kindness to the universe each day. I’m grateful for the chance I had to do the same. It felt wonderful to be connecting my mind to my heart to man- and womankind that way.

I’m grateful to whomever is reading this for getting this far in this ramble and grateful that I can take you back to the peace wreath. In my younger days I most definitely aspired to hippie-hood, though I was more gainfully employed and conventional than would ever allow me to call myself that.

Now, all these decades later, my daughter and I watch the Woodstock video, conceive a wreath in peace-sign form and resolve to have it hang when my dear cousin and her family and my oldest city friend arrive tomorrow. Old dreams and older heart connections have come round, and with blistered fingers I form a V just before I move on, to be certain I have plenty of hospitality with which to greet them. Peace to you, peace and gratitude. May you have much for which to give thanks and many moments in which you remember to do just that.

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  • M. Contrare December 1, 2009 at 9:26 am

    I’d like to see the peace sign wreath!

    Reply
  • Elizabeth Hemmerdinger November 27, 2009 at 11:24 am

    Thank you, Laura. What one woman thinks a ramble, another considers guided meditation.

    Reply