Thursday, February 1, 2007

The Beginning

It was January 30. I had my second cold of the year. I had bursitis and tendonitis in my shoulder, and it caused pain with just about every motion, despite the cortisone shot and the physical therapy. My son was about to turn thirteen. The prior week, I'd had a flat tire at 5:30 in the morning while I was trying to get out of town for a business meeting. I'd spent all day the previous Saturday in a class, surviving by drinking copious amounts of hot tea and sucking on sugar-free lemon drops. I hadn't slept well the night before, and I had a night class coming up that evening - the class that had the potential to be really great, but that was being taught in a very disappointing way - so I knew I wasn't going to get a lot of sleep that night, either. I had managers breathing down my neck from every direction - asking for data, asking questions about their data, asking where the data came from - in preparation for the management review in two days. And time after time after time, my computer crashed. Finally it crashed and wouldn't come back up.

I said a bad word.

Actually, I said several.

I went home to my network engineer husband. We swapped out the hard drive, but the computer still crashed. It needed the last rites. He kicked off a data recovery tool on the old hard drive, which was now unrecognizable, so that I wouldn't lose my work from the last week or so, since my last backup to the network. This would take hours. In the meantime, the managers were still calling me with questions, and I didn't have the data at my fingertips any more to answer them.

So I went into another room, a quiet room, and I sat in my chair. My cat Midnight nuzzled my leg, and I absently scritched her head and neck. And I remembered something a friend had told me a long time ago, when I'd sunk into my first major depressive episode:

Gratitude is the antidote to despair.

Then I remembered my first spiritual director, whom I'd met just a few weeks after my friend said this to me. And the exercise she gave me was to start a journal. And every day, at the same time each day, I was to take out my journal and start the page with "Today I'm thankful for..." or "Gee, I'm glad about..." or "I'm so happy we have..." or something like that. Just expressing gratitude and gladness about something. She said, even if it was the smallest little thing, or even if I was so upset that the entry was completely sarcastic, I needed to keep the journal every day. It took only a few days to realize that there is so much out there to be grateful for. And that we don't necessarily have to be grateful to God, or even grateful to anybody in particular, to feel gratitude. And that gratitude is, indeed, the antidote to despair.

So on January 30, sick, in pain, tired, frustrated, and angry, I decided to be grateful. And that night, after my class that is so disappointing, while I lay in bed settling my thoughts so that I could sleep, I decided to share my gratitude. For one thing, blogging will help keep me honest. Even if nobody ever reads this, I know that somebody might, sometime. So I want to try to journal every day - at least Monday through Friday - about some small thing that I'm grateful for, that makes me happy, or that makes me really, really sarcastic.

Today, I am grateful for google and blogger. Thanks to them, I don't have to write longhand, and I can journal about gratitude from any place that has a computer.