FAIL: First Attempt In Learning Gratitude (Day 4)

I tuck my kiddos into bed, skip down the creaky blue carpeted steps, and flip the lamp switch at my bedside.  I slide my flinger across the speckled cover of my new Gratitude Challenge composition notebook and write #1 with a smile.  Soon I’ve blazed through #10.  This is going to be easy, I think as I pull the quilts up around my chin, flip the lamp switch, and close my eyes.

Enter day two.

I trudge down the blue carpeted steps and harrumph onto the edge of my bed.  Same notebook.  Can’t find my pen.  Scrounge for a pencil.  Not too sharp.  It’ll do.  I open the notebook and tap the pink eraser on the side table.  Nothing.

How can a whole day go by and you can’t find something deserving thanks?  I thought.  Way to go “gratitude gal.”  This 30-day “challenge thingy” sounds like a swell idea.  

In retrospect, those mental air quotes I used on myself weren’t very nice.  I might be a grown-up, but I still have an inner snarky teenager ready to roll her eyes at me.

I tap the pencil once more, like the graphite will tell me what to write.  A tumbleweed rolls across the carpet as I tap the end of my pencil one more time.

With no other options, I flip through the minutes of my day.  What did I have for breakfast?  What did I listen to on my commute?  What happened next . . .

Begrudgingly, three small gratitudes find their way to my notebook, like three hairs pulled from a wad of gum under my shoe.  They look sad next to day one’s notes, even the penmanship is lacking.   

But they’re there.

Having filled my three light blue lines of notebook paper, I place my over-tapped pencil down, flip the lamp switch, pull up my quilts, and close my eyes.

On day three I move down the blue carpeted steps.  I open my notebook and–thankfully–find the gratitudes easier to write again.

Was day two a failure?  Nope.  Thinking back on it, day two was important.

In hindsight I can see this.  But you could have told me that day two was some sort of victory on that night, and I would have used more than air quote snarkiness on you.  Nonetheless, gratitude win.

When we mine for thanks when we’re not feeling it, that’s the stuff.  In The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis notes that these are the best kinds of prayers, the ones prayed when we can’t feel our faith.  

St. Ignatius of Loyola writes about the experiences of consolation and desolation in his life of faith.  Sometimes he would sense the Deep Goodness easily.  Other times it was like he was muted, somehow wearing spiritual mittens.

So, if today you look at your list and think it’s not all that whoppee, or you don’t have it in you to write a list, or you forget the whole thing, don’t think you’re failing, you are not.  Remind yourself of the grace that’s yours and be kind to yourself.  Think back to 8 a.m., then 9.  A gratitude will emerge, then another.  I heard a teacher say today that FAIL simply means First Attempt In Learning.  I love that. 

The gratitude muscles grow when we get out the notebook when we’d rather just flip the switch.  They grow when we ask the questions, when we dare to believe that there was and is goodness in today.  It’s like when your mom loves you even when you’re being a brat.  You might not feel it, but it’s always there.  In very practical and beautiful and day-to-day ways it is so so worth it to mine for thanks.  Grab your notebook.  FAIL, and grab it again.  What if there is Something just waiting to be written?

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” – Melody Beattie

Click here or here to print off the 30-day challenge workbook.  To get posts delivered to your in-box, subscribe below.  Thanks!

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