When all else fails, try gratitude

But bring back our MTV!

I overheard a woman today complaining that her husband was “too cheap to buy a generator” and she and her kids had been stuck in the house all week, bored out of their minds. Her husband had suggested she go up to their house in Vermont, “but load three dogs and the kids into the car and go stare at trees? I don’t think so.” She didn’t mention towing the five horses she also owns up there – perhaps her husband would have been delegated to care for them down here, but either way, this was a very unhappy woman. Too bad.

My social circle is mostly comprised of men and women who have survived personal calamity in our lives and, on the whole, we all seem to have weathered this past week pretty well. I blame gratitude. Most of us compose some sort of gratitude list before going to sleep or upon arising, and that simple act of reflection offers surprising strength in times of stress. We’ve been laid low and come back, so there’s an easy platform to build on. Just a restored desire to live is a good starting point, and building from there might include gratitude for actually being alive, maybe a roof over our heads, children, healthy or not, spouses, or no spouses, and so on. One friend of mine tells me that when she’s really stuck finding anything at all to be grateful about she reminds herself that she doesn’t have rickets, and her list can grow from there.

We’re not a bunch of Polyannas; in fact, I think we’re some of the toughest people I know, strengthened by our experiences. And we’re by no means stoics, because life can suck sometimes, and we acknowledge that, and grieve over what that can bring. Certainly we aren’t some band of special people, above the rest of humanity and guided by a spirit received only by us. Any one of the thousands of people down in the devastated boroughs of Manhattan today passing out food and clothing is expressing and acknowledging gratitude, looking past their own self to recognize the need of someone else. And those volunteers, most of them, aren’t part of my group, they’re just fellow humans, fortunate enough to have been graced with perspective.

I do think it’s easier, perhaps, to remember to be grateful when gratitude was once so hard to find. When everything goes well, when life has been one success after another, when our children all get into an Ivy and marry just the right girl or boy and produce perfect, healthy grandchildren, while our personal wealth soars to heaven (where a special place has been reserved just for us), reality may hurt harder because it comes so unexpectedly and, surely, undeservedly.

We’re all going to suffer, it’s an inescapable part of life. People will die, jobs will be lost, houses will burn down and even, God forbid, we can lose access to the Internet for a week. All of those things are easier to accept and wallowing in self-pity easier to avoid, when accompanied by a shot of gratitude.

Or that’s what I’m thinking this sunny Sunday afternoon. Hope you’re all safe and back in your (lighted and heated) homes.


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24 responses to “When all else fails, try gratitude

  1. Anthony Fountain

    St. Thomas Aquinas is applauding.

  2. Walt

    Dude –
    That was quite touching. When did you learn to write?
    It made me shed a tear as I read it, in my crusty boxer shorts and with no power and heat. With nothing to do but shiver and fondle my balls. Which are most impressive if I say so myself.
    Nice job peanut head.
    Your Pal,

  3. LAK

    Power back on since 3:00 a.m.
    It wasnt easy. Escaped to Wallingford yesterday & gassed up. No lines there!

    My thoughts are with those who are still without power. Let’s not forget about the death & destruction in the tri-state area.

    Tweeted a big thanks to all the line gang from all over. Also voiced my frustration to Duff & Himes. No doubt CL&P (the company) did not learn from the last storm.

  4. Riverside Chick

    Schools closed again tomorrow

  5. Walt

    Dude –
    This situation has now long become intolerable. You know I live in backcountry and am therefore better than you. But you have had power for days. How is that fair?

    When did retards get special privilege? And why? You get colder faster than normal people?

    Can you give me Frankie’s number? Is it still 1-800-bribeme? I need access to these politicians he carries around in his pocket like nickles and dimes. Godfather Dude!!

    I want my heat and I don’t care who Francis needs to grease.
    Just because Cos Cob can make a zeppoli they get fired up first?

    I want answers here!!
    Your Pal,

  6. Anonymous

    in these trying times, today i had the unfortunate displeasure of seeing a living greenwich cliche: a cadillac escalade-driving, oblivious nouveau-riche bottle blond & bejeweled soccer mommy who, on the verge of her most recent botox treatment wearing off, become highly frustrated at the traffic situation. god forbid she have to be late to her private pilates class while stuck on the road with us plebians. the horror! the horror!

    • Funny thing is, I know a woman who also has an Escalade, and when she and her husband got their power back yesterday and saw for first time the destruction that occurred in Queens, dove to WalMart, loaded their truck with brand new clothing and shoes and went down there to give it away. She says the scenes there are so horrific that she wishes now she hadn’t gone, but her story offers a nice illustration of how two different people can react in such opposite ways.

  7. Anonymous

    Very nicely written post, but somewhat at odds with your attitude most of the time, but difficult times call for a different response. Glad to know there is a different Chris in there as well.

  8. Out Looking In

    Here’s a doosy- the downed power line blocking the entire intersection at Lake Ave and the Merritt is STILL down even though about 20 HQ utility trucks converged there on Saturday evening at 5pm. Wife was at same spot at 5pm this evening, where absolutely nothing had been done. Reason: apparently Cablevision is responsible for pole, and has yet to show up with one and install. Having seen pole trucks traversing the area a day earlier, there may be merit to this claim. In the END, nothing has been done, and I wonder it this powerline services the grid out to Parkway and Whitby. Lineman directing traffic claimed that our guess was as good as his with respect to when repair would commence, yet alone be completed. If so, parents may want to plan on returning after Thanksgiving…..As readers may suspect, I have a house and a rental in the affected areas….double the pain, double the fun…

    A distant relative of the Marquis de Sade..

  9. Anonymous

    If i read or hear one more person complain about having their kids home all week (these are not working mothers) or about the possibility of spring break being cancelled. Talk about ungrateful.

  10. Brian S.

    I am strangely grateful to those who always find something to bitch and moan about, especially the small stuff. It makes me happy I’m not them.

  11. We got power back in northern Westchester this afternoon. Cablevision restored service yesterday by sticking a little generator on top of one of their distribution boxes on a pole down the street from us. Except for the middle school, all of the schools in our district (Hendrick Hudson) have power back and will reopen tomorrow. The gasoline shortage seems to be tapering off here now.

    Has EOS checked in recently?

  12. The Mick

    Whoever you are, we want Chris back!!!
    While what we had(have) to endure is NOTHING compared to the devastation and suffering of those in the evacuation areas, residents here pay enough every year to ensure that we shouldn’t be without utilities for a week or more.
    Give him back!

    • I think it’s just your house, alone out of every house in town, that’s being deprived of electricity. Your neighbors are playing a cruel joke on you, Mick, drawing their blinds, pretending they’re one with your suffering when in actuality behind those closed curtains there’s warmth, light and parties going on. You’re being had.

  13. Peg

    One of the best posts you’ve ever written (and that is saying something!)

    Strange but true. Sometimes, deep adversity ultimately makes you appreciate the value in simple gifts. (Thus says the voice of experience.)

  14. CatRocker

    Thanks for this post, good to see your humanity (which we all know is there) poking through the blog driven cynicism.

  15. Greenwich Gal

    Nice post Chris. One of your most thoughtful.

  16. The Mick

    Yeah, and your “social circle” is your Momma and Walt, who, anyone with a brain knows is your alter ego…goodnight and God Bless. Warm again at last.

  17. FlyAngler

    Chris – Every now and then, you do come up with something that deserves wider distribution, even an InstaLanche. Irrespective of whether Professor Reynolds notices or not, this is one of those.

    The homily at Mass yesterday touched on our priorities and carrying a sense of gratitude. Candidly, I felt a pang of guilt for having complained about stir-crazy kids a couple of times last week. That my kids were all safe, healthy and with me and their mother at Mass should have been my focus.

    The guilt may have led to my putting a few more dollars than I would have otherwise into the second collection which was Cardinal Dolan’s request for disaster relief funds.

    Thank you.

  18. Sunny

    Still without power and telephone service here in our little patch of the north west backcountry. We were definitely blocked in from much travel for several days due to fallen trees and power lines. Internet /TV was restored about an hour ago for some quirky reason. Hard working crews from Quebec Hydro appeared suddenly on Bedford Road today,greeting passing motorists with a hearty ”Bon Jour!”. A friendly neighbor brought them hot chocolate from The Round Hill Store, and another neighbor showed them around so they could locate the intersections they had been assigned to work on. The people I’ve spoken with up in our neck of the woods and throughout town have primarily expressed gratitude that we fared as well as we did during Sandy, particularly relative to many in New Jersey and New York. Yes, we have cabin fever,but we are reminded of what is important in life!

  19. riverside native

    Great writing neighbor! We toughed it out for 4 days with only gas stove hot water gas fireplace but no heat. Our sons and family came to stay because of their mandatory evacuation in Stamford. Evenings enjoyed with games of Life and Trivial Pursuit by kerosene lamp.Braising suppers on the stove top. Such fun no TV! Being in the evacuation zone I was concerned about water but it didn’t come any where near the house. Thank God. We came through with flying colors but definitely don’t want to make a habit of it.
    I hear on the radio that Rockaways might get power back in 5 to 8 weeks. Give them strength.