The Gratitude Game

"The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude."

—Friedrich Nietzsche


The Gratitude Game

It's as easy as saying thank you.

I did one of those popular Facebook analyses yesterday and discovered that my most frequently used word on that platform is "thanks". I like that. How timely.
Whether you're feeling as though you don't have enough (of anything) or are freaked out by some immediate or world situation, sit yourself down with a pen and paper and play the gratitude game.
Make a list of everything you have to be grateful for. Breakfast, potable hot and cold running water, a place to live, shoes, eyesight, hands, transportation, a friend, your animal companion, the ability to open your heart to another living creature, to give of yourself...Start with the basics. You may be able to write for pages.
That's all. It's pretty simple. A good exercise in bringing your attention right back to the present moment and the most important things.
If you're in the U.S., Happy Thanksgiving.
Read Art Buchwald's Le Grande Thanksgiving. (My perennial favorite.)
If you're here or elsewhere in the world, Happy Full Moon (tomorrow at 5:44 PM EST).

"Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for."

—Zig Ziglar

Why nostalgia is bad for you

My demo from yesterday afternoon's Watercolor Pencil class.
After Fairfield Porter's Rosa Rugosa.

"Nostalgia is a seductive liar."

—George Ball


Why nostalgia is bad for you

Nostalgia is old

It drags you out of the present moment and throws you into a quicksand of the past.
I recently suffered a severe bout of nostalgia and it was not fun. Then I discovered that I'd inadvertently deleted seven years of photos on my computer. Then I found that the painting image I intended to use for this post was lost in a hard drive crash a few years ago. What little time I had to write this post evaporated in the search for old images.

Because I received several emails and other direct communications in defense of nostalgia after writing this initial post, I feel compelled to define my terms.

Although it has now come to signify fondness for things, places, people of the past, it actually means "acute homesickness." The Greek roots of the word are nostos 'return home' + algos 'pain'.

As a child at camp, for example, I had no natural defense against nostalgia. As an adult, however, I have a choice to mitigate acute homesickness with every trick I can think of to bring me into the present moment.
Nostalgia really is a disease. Here's my favorite description:
Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?
That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.
—A. E. Houseman, A Shropshire Lad

So here's what I've decided.

I'm letting go of the past with all the love and blessings I have in me. Good timing, too. Today is the new moon! I'm setting my intentions for happy new pursuits and loving every moment.
Here's to good mental health and living life in present tense.

"Nostalgia is when you want things to stay the same. I know so many people staying in the same place."

Jeanne Moreau

Axel at Wake County SPCA

Really? No one has brought me home yet?

F-ing incredible. Have you any idea what you're missing?

No. You couldn't possibly. Click here to visit with me or to talk about adoption.

Click here for the Wake County Death Row shelter.

Bring an animal into your life. Your life will improve!!!

The Irish Sports Page

"According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two! Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy."

—Jerry Seinfeld


Who comes up with these things?

All Soul's Day. Dia de los muertos. Turning back the clocks and utter darkness in late afternoon. Too much all at once!
Still, remembering the dead and celebrating death on the edge of darkness can help us appreciate life and light with a bit more gusto and humor.
One day, long ago, my Uncle Jim took my mother and me out to the Overbrook Country Club for lunch. My mother must have mentioned seeing a friend of the family's death notice because my uncle said, "Ah, yes. The Irish Sports Page."
The what? It took me a minute and when I realized that he was talking about the obituaries, I laughed out loud. But then I thought, "My god! I read those pages all the time!" (Not so much to see who died but to learn the most interesting things about people's lives.)
I can't find the origin of the term (probably some pub over a pint) but I'm sure it's been in use for as long as there've been sports pages. And Irish people reading them.
When I lived in places with great cemeteries, I used to love walking through them. I even wrote a song about doing just that at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge. It's one of my favorites (cemeteries and songs).
Contemplating death is good. It's a reminder of impermanence and that, while death is certain, the time of death is not.
When I find myself wallowing or stuck in some wheel of thought about what is past or what may come to be (or not), if I can step outside that loop, I have a little talk with myself. Okay now, is this the state you'd choose if you were to die tomorrow? Then I pull myself together, look at something pretty, make a drawing or something and come back to the present.
Death's gonna come. May as well live now!

"At my age, I'm often asked if I'm frightened of death and my reply is always, I can't remember being frightened of birth."

—Peter Ustinov