The Day I Was Grateful for Absolutely Everything
Gratitude—in its purest, truest, most profound form—is priceless.
Priceless not only in its impact, but also in its obscurity. It’s the type of gratitude that isn’t felt in one moment, then dismissed the next. The type that doesn’t need conjuring up because it lives inside your bones -- bubbling beneath your chest like a corked up bottle of champagne.
One specific time I experienced that type of gratitude was in April 2011. I had woken that morning naturally, with the sun. It cast a golden haze that peered through the blinds and burst into every crevice of my bedroom. I felt the brightness from under my eyelids and it beckoned me to open them. At first I squinted and turned my face toward the dark comfort of my pillow. It took a few minutes for the fogginess of my brain to clear, but when it did, I suddenly registered where I was.
I propped myself up on my elbows and stared at the miracle that was my new bedroom in Long Beach, California.
A few weeks prior, I had arrived from the East Coast with little more than the clothes on my back and a suitcase that was pushing the fifty-pound weight limit the airlines imposed. It contained all of my favorite items of clothing, my laptop, camera, Bible, pillow, and towel. Other than the few boxes of kitchen supplies, books, and decorative pillows that were being shipped from New York City, that suitcase was all I owned anymore. I had sold or given up everything else.
When I came crawling back to Long Beach after my failed experiment of living in Manhattan, I was faced with the reality that I had sold my car before moving to New York. I had spent all the money I earned from said car on monthly living expenses while I was unemployed in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
In choosing to move back, I knew I couldn’t afford to take all of that furniture across the country a second time. I sold another chunk of it for about a third of what I had originally paid, and gave away all the rest. That was how I ended up in California with virtually nothing.
Here I was on this warm April morning in a bedroom that contained all I could ever need. There was the brand new bed I was sleeping in that my angelic parents decided to buy me as a thirtieth birthday present. There was the writing desk that my friend Claire -- the previous occupant of this bedroom -- elected to leave for me without even knowing that I needed one.
Claire had texted a few days earlier.
“My old desk isn’t going to fit in my new apartment,” she wrote. “I can leave it for you if you want?”
Having just sold my desk to a guy on Craigslist in New York, I picked up my phone and responded to her text with an emphatic “Yes!!!”
On that bright morning in April, it was impossible not to feel grateful for both the desk and the bed I was lying in. My eyes drifted over to the massive closet that was built into my new bedroom, and it reminded me of all the closetless boxes I had toured while searching for an apartment in Manhattan.
My roommate, for example, didn’t have a closet in her bedroom and ended up constructing one herself. She spent hours drafting it out and then buying rods, shelves, and hardware at Home Depot, which she then carried home on the subway, walked down several city blocks, and finally hauled up two flights of stairs. After hours of hammering and measuring my badass roommate finally had her makeshift closet. It was small, yet functional.
I couldn’t help but think of her as I noted the closet in my Long Beach bedroom with its perfectly mirrored and rolling doors—the one I had done absolutely nothing for.
I propped myself up on my wrists and stared out the enormous window that was behind my bed. My gratitude for this, especially, was difficult to contain.
The seven months I spent in New York had been in a windowless bedroom void of any natural light. I grew accustomed to the darkness after a while, but never actually enjoyed it. I missed those little glimpses of people and trees and the outside world moving along at its usual pace. The large window in my new apartment afforded me all of these luxuries. And once again, I gave thanks.
My final dose of gratitude that morning was for something I couldn’t see from where I was sitting, but that I was aware of, nonetheless. It was the car my friend and her husband were letting me borrow for the next ten months because her husband was in the military and would be stationed in Afghanistan that whole time. I would get to use his car while saving up to buy my own, which gave me a much needed financial buffer zone. The timing of this opportunity and the way it all came together so flawlessly was nothing short of miraculous. How could I not be thankful for it?
Each bit of gratitude piled on top of the one before, multiplying my happiness in blissful, all-encompassing doses. I wanted to take that moment and fold it neatly. To carry it around in my back pocket. I wanted to frame it and display it on my wall so that I might never forget.
The danger of forgetting both humbles and saddens me, as time inevitably passes and all that used to be extraordinary—my window, my bed, my closet—starts to feel commonplace.
That’s why this year, on Thanksgiving, I am warring against that most natural of impulses and I am choosing to remember. I am choosing to bring myself back to that moment when I experienced the beauty and simplicity of feeling grateful for absolutely everything.