Grateful for Gratitude

Sometimes you hit brain freeze. Fatigue. A total shutdown. For whatever reason. And you have to find a way to crawl out of it. It happened to me.

So what does one do? Maybe sleep it off? Which I did. Maybe watch movies you missed out on watching as life caught up with you? I did that too. Have a beer? Did that as well.

But I couldn’t find the inspiration to think ahead, or work on stuff. Even stuff that would get my juices flowing. It was a shut down. My brain refused to intake any more stuff, that I usually find cool/inspiring/funny/intriguing.

Maybe I should have gone off on a break. Turns out I couldn’t, in my current circumstances. At least, not just yet. The break will have to wait.

So what can you do? To unfreeze?

I really didn’t know. The week went by, so did the weekend. And then came Monday morning. I was better physically, not feeling drained anymore. But wasn’t sure if I had my mind on right.

While I went about my early morning chores, something struck me. “Look up a book on gratitude,” I heard a voice in my head. And yes, I do pay attention to these voices, please don’t judge me for it. Some months ago, I had heard, “Be compassionate to yourself, Suma!” And it’s probably the best thing I have heard all year. But that’s a story for another time.

So I bought the first book that I felt drawn to, after looking at a few. It was The Little Book of Gratitude by Dr Robert A Emmons.

Being the spiritual types, trying to evolve and as a follower of all that new agey stuff, I am exposed to gratitude and its benefits. And to a large extent I practice it too. But I do have that niggling feeling that I don’t really feel it at all times in my bones. However, there are also some mind-blowing moments when I can feel it in my soul. It doesn’t happen a lot, but when they happen it is magic.

So here I was, Monday morning, downloading a book on my Kindle. As the title promises, it is a little book. In fact, I didn’t even get around to finishing it. Because in the first chapter itself I found the shift I was looking for.

“Grateful living is possible when we realize that other people and agents do things for us that we cannot do for ourselves.”

There is an exercise in the book that gives you a format to express the gratitude for something someone has done for you. That was enough for me, really. I couldn’t wait to start writing.

I got to work. And wrote through the day, in between meetings and discussions and phone calls and standups. And even at home, before I slept. I ended up writing 13 pages in my notebook that day, finding 24 instances when people had looked after me, done something for me, even though they didn’t have to. But luckily for me, they did.

I don’t know what it exactly did to me. But I slipped into a nicer place, in my mind. The unfreeze had started. But the cool thing was I wasn’t doing it for the unfreezing. I was doing it for the joy of trying it. Just write. And lovely instances came to my mind. Tears. Laughter. Amazement.

I noticed patterns in my thinking, that were clearly not serving me. I remembered things I have already thanked people for in person, but I don’t think I can thank them enough for what their gestures meant to me.

By noon, I felt that I was back. Maybe not my 100% usual self, but this was definitely not that frozen person from the week past. I was unthawing.

I continued it the next day. And the day after that. And the next. And because this is December, and I was looking back at the year, it automatically became a sort of detecting the best moments for the company too. And as I would suddenly remember something we had quite forgotten, I would Slack it to one of the co-founders (the other was in sunny Goa!), so he could remember too and feel grateful. Then he started helping too: How about that person? And that instance? And so on. Very quickly, we agreed that while it had been a rough year, if we hadn’t had the support of so many people from across the world, we wouldn’t have been where we are today. How blessed we were to have met so many inspirational people through the year, who were incredibly nice to us and welcoming of our ideas. Wow. Some exercise!

Am I out of the freeze yet? Not fully, perhaps. But I am quite cool with this half-thawed person too. She is taking some time off from the world, being in silence by withdrawing from a lot of things that would earlier consume her, learning to switch off from social media, reading only the autobiography of Bruce Springsteen (that too sparingly) when it suits her. She remembers to be nicer to herself, not judge herself for all the failures and mismanagement, for any harsh words uttered.

And she can’t wait to hit her gratitude notebook.

 

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