A couple who has been together close to twenty years, who will be celebrating their anniversary this week, asked if I could pen a few words on gratitude. They call their celebration ‘an evening of Gratitude for all that we have’. I am honoured but am I in a position to say anything? What do I understand of, what are my experiences in, let alone write about this thing called gratitude?
Have you heard of the ‘Mosquito Principal’? As you get ready for bed, you notice your room infested with mosquitos. You take a fly swatter and by some miracle you are able to kill all but one lone pesky mosquito. Chances are you will still be bothered by that one mosquito. If there are 30 mosquitoes and you exterminate 29 of them, you will be on edge until you resolve the last one.
Similarly if you have 29 out of 30 things necessary to make you content, you may think you will be satisfied and grateful to have almost everything that you want, but because of the mosquito principle however, you are likely to be unhappy, because your mind will focus on the one remaining lack. This, I read in the same article, is the complete and unadulterated antithesis of gratitude.
A new graduate, against his concerns of inexperience, who was employed for two years as a stylist to a top photographer, was let go recently. During his employ, he was exposed to some of the biggest names in the fashion world, worked on sets he could only dreamed of. On his last day, he shed tears. They were, however, tears of joy, for having had the ’the most amazing experience of his life’.
“I am so grateful for these two years, a grace period for me to learn, to get to know as many people as I could,” he told me. He could have chosen, as the ‘Mosquito Principal’ dictates, to feel anything but gratitude. In this world where most feel entitled to only the best, the top, the newest, and not anything less, it is rare and a wonder he sees the two years as a ‘grace period’.
My apologies, I digress. Back to this lucky couple. Are they lucky? Or it is a mixture of luck and two people learning, growing and respecting each other more and more over time? Barbra Streisand used to sing, ‘People who need people are the luckiest people in the world’. I am envious of people who understand this at a young age. That ‘happiness shared is doubled, suffering shared is halved’.
Or should I say this happy couple. Happiness is such an elusive emotion. Are they happy all the time? Were there unhappy periods, unhappy episodes, sad moments? The answers are affirmative I am sure, although I know they are the exceptions. Someone, a bit of a sage, told me this, ‘Don’t find someone that makes you happy. Make yourself happy, then find someone.’ This is, happily, true!
I asked each of them separately. And they should not compare notes. In these almost twenty years, how many times have you argued, quarrelled? How many times have you lived apart? The longest was for how long? In this almost twenty year relationship, friendship, partnership, what are you most grateful for? What are the most most most romantic times you shared with this soulmate?
Their answers are, of course, private. But each answer warms my heart a little, strengthens my sometimes wavering faith in relationship, keeps my wistful belief in romance alive. Each answer is also an expression of gratitude they feel for this relationship and for each other. Theirs is still a ‘work in progress’. And theirs is the joy of being an integral part of someone’s daily life.
Gratitude by definition is feeling thankful for any good regardless of the quantity or quality of the goodness. If this is the foundation of a relationship, it can only grow from strength to strength. I am writing this on a Sunday afternoon. It has been raining but I am still hopeful of a beautiful sunset. ’To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides’.