Fire and the power of gratitude

5:30 am on a hot, hazy summer July morning.  I sit down on my favorite spot on the couch with a cup of coffee and look out the window.  I take a deep breath.  I love this time of day.  It always feels so peaceful…like the whole world is still asleep and I have it all to myself.  The clouds are low and I can almost see the humidity in the air.  It looks like the house in the clouds…like what you’d see if you were looking out the window on an airplane when you’re flying through the clouds.  I can see the clouds rolling over the roof of the breezeway.  I’ve never seen the clouds move like that before, move over the roof like that.  In that instant I’m thinking how beautiful it looks and at same time, how odd.  And then for some reason I get the sense that something isn’t right.  I put my coffee down on the coffee table and step outside….and I see it…and I smell it…smoke billowing out of the attic above our garage.  It wasn’t the clouds I was seeing rolling over the roof.  It was smoke.   I’m strangely calm as I step back into the house and yell to my husband, “The attic is on fire!” 

Surprisingly my reaction to the whole situation was….neutral.  Of course no one wants to wake up to see their attic in flames but I didn’t panic.  I just managed the situation and as it unfolded I realized it was just another way of life showing me all that I have to be grateful for.  I caught it early.  My husband was still home and able to contain the fire.  I have a wonderful, loving husband who I can always count on.  The tenant got out safely.  The property damage could have been much worse.  I have insurance.  I have a home to insure.  I have a job that I love to pay which enables me to pay for the home and the insurance.  I have people around me who care enough to make sure that I’m okay and ask if I need anything. 

Being grateful has not always been my initial reaction and while it still isn’t, it is becoming more my norm.  Just like with anything, the more you practice, the easier and more natural it becomes.  Gratitude really is an amazing thing.   I could be sitting here thinking about the fact that I have to pay the insurance premium, that my home was damaged, that I was inconvenienced by the situation this morning, that I now have to deal with contractors and my insurance company.  If not for gratitude, I’d be feeling anxious, overwhelmed and frustrated.  Instead I’m smiling and thinking about how lucky I am and how much I have to be grateful for.  My mood is completely different because of gratitude.  Gratitude opens the door to more relationships, improves our physical health, improves our psychological health, enhances empathy and reduces aggression, improves our self-esteem, increases our mental strength and improves the quality of our sleep….and the best part…it’s free and we can practice it anywhere, anytime.

There are many ways to practice gratitude.  In her book, “Positivity”, author Barbara Fredrickson describes the process of building a toolkit to increase gratitude and positivity in our lives.  When it comes to gratitude, she suggests that we ritualize it and make it a habit.  We can keep a gratitude journal where we not only describe the things we are grateful for but also describe why those good things happened.  Doing so, she says, “draws your eye to the precursors for good events.”  We can make a habit of taking stock of good endings-little or big and express our gratitude about what we learned, the experience we had or the gifts (tangible or intangible) we were provided.  She also suggests building a gratitude portfolio.  The portfolio can include words, images, songs, video clips, etc. that evoke feelings of gratitude.  Think of this portfolio as a gift to yourself and when you need a pick me up, you can use it for inspiration.  Right now life really seems to be pelting us with curveballs from every direction and while it can feel overwhelming, if we take a step back, we just might see all that we have to be grateful for.  In the words of Eckhart Tolle, “Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”