Being Thankful: Gratitude How-To’s and Why My Sister is a Great Gratitude Example

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With pancake-size bruises starting to form on both of my thighs, my sister takes a deep sip of her gigantic michelada, and says: “Things are so wonderful.” We are sitting in, what we call, a teal cubby near the vendors selling pina coladas, cubano sandwiches, and candy. We are taking a break from these lethal waterslides. The last ride we went on at El Vergel, Tijuana’s waterpark, left us a little traumatized. After sliding seventy feet down what is essentially a white slip and slide on astroturf, we were both shot fifteen to twenty feet in the air over a swimming pool, where we both landed badly, but I landed worse. On top of that, we are fully aware that El Vergel’s slides are taken apart on the U.S. side of the border, and reassembled here: in a scathing hot, half a mile by half a mile plot of dirt twenty minutes from the border. It looks like we are at the bottom of a rock quarry you might’ve seen in The Flinstones. Kimmy’s bathing suit is an olive green with a bandeau top. Mine a Kate Spade one-piece splattered with seahorses. I am having a great day. I can still taste the tequila jello shots. The celery in my Michelada is refreshing. And the conversation my sister and I are having is light. It’s about shows we want to watch. Clothing sites. Her recent move to San Diego. “You’re extremely talented,” she begins, when our  conversation turns to one of my looming writing deadlines. My heart warms a little when she says that. Not just because it’s a compliment. But because I know she always has my back. And I remember every time she’s done just that – had my back. There have been ex-boyfriends. A handful of bad editors. A particularly bitchy sales clerk at Bloomingdale’s. But no matter how many times she’s done it before, she continues to listen like there was no last time. She continues to be there in a patient, steady way. And for that, and for her, I forget to be grateful. I take her for granted.

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Tijuana street art

Gratitude changes things. Oprah would say that being grateful, literally, brings more of what you want into your life like a magnet. Maybe she’s right. But at an inner level rather than a physical one, gratitude changes the way you see the things in your world. It makes you see the things of your life – from your teapot to your son’s beating heart – as they should be seen, which is with a certain level holiness (more holiness for the beating heart than the teapot, btw). 

I am not as good as my sister is at being grateful. Being grateful comes to her naturally and without effort, like her obsession with octopus sashimi and Hamilton. For someone like me, her kind of gratitude – an easy, put it on like you put on underwear every day kind of gratitude – takes a little work. But I want to do the work, because I think gratitude can change my life, in massive ways, for the better.

Today, I am grateful that I was able to surf. The water felt like ice water, and I wasn’t wearing a wetsuit, but I love these summer days. Today, I am grateful that my sisters moved into an apartment above mine. Today, I am grateful that I’m going to Croatia in two weeks where I will, if I have anything to do it with, jump off cliffs into crystalline water. Today, I am grateful that I have another day tomorrow to live. Today, I am grateful for a garage (a lot of people in PB don’t have those). Just making this list, I already feel better.

Below are some tips for expressing gratitude, if you have an interest. Happy weekend, everyone! Make it a grateful one (winky face).

When you’re writing down what you’re grateful for…

1. Look for what you might be taking for granted

Not everyone is healthy. Not everyone has running water. Not everyone got to go to college, not to mention, where they wanted to go. Are you feeling lucky yet?

2. Make it a mix of profound and trivial

Beyonce’s new album makes me pretty damn happy (flawless), and so does spirituality. Make your list a mix.

3. Thank something

Maybe your higher power is nature. Maybe it’s Beyonce (which would make sense). Or maybe you think any sort of “higher power” is baloney. But I find it useful to believe in something, and will continue to do so.

4. Say “thank you” for the hard times and the a*@holes

They made you better. Say “thank you” to the dude who treated you like crap, with the knowledge that: maybe you really are better off because of him.

5. Be grateful for yourself 

Be grateful for all that you are now, and all that you’re becoming.

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