I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it in this blog anywhere, but I’m currently writing two books. One of them is about marketing new ideas, and one is a memoir dealing with the deaths of my father and my husband.
Writing two books at once might seem crazy, but it feels kind of natural, actually. They cover such different ground that I can write in almost any headspace and be making progress on one or the other. I’ve been joking with friends that I’ve discovered “productive procrastination,” but it’s true, actually: writing a book at all is a tremendously disciplined exercise, so having a second book to fall back on as an escape from the other helps keep the wheels moving and the writing muscle strong.
Anyway, I say all this to say it’s hard. I don’t mean that in a whiny way, but in a “wow, I’m so glad I’m forcing myself to do this” kind of way. I’m grateful for the intellectual and emotional challenge that each of these books is making me rise up to. I hope it gets easier, but I’m still grateful.
And actually, that’s a topic I’ve been exploring in my work on the memoir lately, which is timely, what with it being Thanksgiving week. But I’ve had to deal with the nature of gratitude and of hope, and it’s been really enlightening for me.
I’ve been digging into how the day Karsten died, my friend Ashley led me and a group of my first-responder friends through a deep breathing exercise, and she suggested we each think of a word and focus on it. On that day, of all days, without conscious correction, the word I focused on as we breathed in was “gratitude.” And it turned out that was the word my friend Jen chose, too.
I think at first glance, gratitude and hope might seem to be at odds with one another. Because if you are truly grateful for what you have, you should have no need to hope for better, right? But I don’t think that’s how gratitude really works in practice. Because gratitude isn’t about pretending that awful things don’t happen. Gratitude does not mean denial. Shitty things happen, and people are sometimes shortsighted or petty or downright cruel, and sometimes you are going to be lonely or sad or angry or scared. And yet you can still be grateful. And you can still have hope.
Because I think what a mindset of gratitude is about is not letting yourself get stuck there. Gratitude means recognizing reality with all its flaws and saying OK, that’s how things are. You might have to get pretty creative about what you’re grateful for. You might have to get pretty creative about what you’re hopeful about. Whether you have to look to the past or the future, whether you have to confront people’s flaws or embrace their virtues in spite of them, whatever you have to do, you find a way to move things forward. Because every day you’re alive you can still hope for better, and that in itself is something to be grateful for.
Here’s wishing gratitude and hope for each of us.