My sister once said that she wished there was a special tea you could drink to feel grateful instead of pissed off. She wasn’t the only one in our family who could have benefited from such a tea. I remember being in the back seat of the car when my dad wanted to fight a guy who supposedly took his parking space. The other driver tried to explain to my dad that if you went looking for a fight, you’d eventually find one. I kept staring at an empty parking space twenty feet away, wondering why my dad didn’t just take that one.
My brother was a much better role model for gratitude than my dad. Most people don’t consider schizophrenics to be great role models for anything, but he was good at appreciating what his life included instead of being bitter about what it lacked. He once told me how grateful he was to have good eyesight and plenty of interesting books on his shelves. I had good eyesight too, but I never used to feel grateful for it. I think the only time I felt grateful as a kid was when I won an award—like the Most Valuable Player trophy at our football team’s banquet. I was deeply disappointed the following year when I played on a different team that didn’t give individual trophies. It took me a while to realize that you don’t need others to celebrate you in order to celebrate life.
The challenge for most of us now is how to appreciate a life with fewer comforts and freedoms. It is easy to bet influenced by car commercials and think that a good life has to be a comfortable and luxurious one. I have never been drawn to luxury. I am fine having a life that is more like a Honda than a BMW. My dad bought us our first Honda as a wedding present. When we were at the dealer, he apologized to me for all the years when his “demons got the best of him.” He confessed that he used to walk around feeling that life had cheated him—which was why he acted like someone who was determined to even the score. It was the first time in many years we hugged and said we loved each other.
One way not to feel cheated is to realize that the Universe’s plan for you might be slightly different than the plan you have for yourself. There is no point in getting angry at the Universe if you don’t like its plan, just as there is no point getting angry at the weather. In Michigan, there is the saying: if you don’t like the weather, just wait around for a few minutes. Waiting, trusting, and patience are all important parts of spiritual strength. I’ve had a lot of different plans for myself as a writer, but I’m grateful that the Universe’s plan has included this blog and you.