On Gratitude


{Tree of Life, 2009}

Somewhere in my life, around the time I was about 34, I began to understand the power of gratitude. Some of you know this about me already, but I am a person who was for many years decidedly unhappy. Someone (I don’t even remember who) suggested that when I felt sorry for myself (which was often, at the time) I should think about stuff that I was thankful for and stuff that I did like about myself & my life. I was dubious and cynical, and this sounded trivial and completely ridiculous at the time. But I was desperate (and severely depressed), so I decided to try. Even in my darkest moments, I would try to shift my focus. Sometimes I would write long lists of stuff that I was grateful for. At one point I even taped all of my lists to the wall of my kitchen, so I could not ignore them.

And, wouldn’t you know it, after awhile, this practice began to change me. (I was worried I was becoming a hippy, but it was working so never mind!)

I don’t watch Oprah and I don’t keep a gratitude journal (at least anymore). I’ve never even read a book on gratitude. But I can say that slowly, over time, focusing on what I am thankful for has made me feel more agency in my life. Slowly I began to feel more confident and more grounded. I am still a person who doubts herself and worries and frets. Sometimes I think this is in my DNA (my dad is just the same). But focusing on what is good has become a soothing (and sometimes sobering) antidote for all of that. Simple worries no longer become paralyzing afflictions. Practicing gratitude is like saying to yourself: “Everything is going to be okay, because everything IS okay.”

Today I am grateful for my amazing and loving and kind partner Clay (who I will marry in June). I am grateful that the efforts of many brave people mean our marriage might one day be recognized as equal under the law. I am grateful for my friends (near and far), many of whom have rallied by me recently after my surgery and have shown me so much love. I am grateful for my parents and my brother and sister and my nieces and nephew, who are all incredible, loving, kind human beings. I am grateful for an enormously supportive love-filled extended family of aunts and uncles and cousins and their significant others (and I am even grateful to Facebook for keeping us connected). I am grateful that Obama is president for another four years. I am grateful to get up every day and make art for a living (because it is FUN), and for all the wonderful opportunities I’ve had over the past few years. I am grateful for my animals, especially for my dog Wilfredo, who brings me so much comfort and joy everyday. I am grateful for my shelter, and food and health. I am grateful that I am no longer sad and miserable everyday (I thank the universe for this daily). I am grateful to live in a city where I can be exactly who I am without feeling ashamed (I love you, San Francisco). I am grateful for all of you, for supporting my work in the many ways that you do. Happy Thanksgiving!