The Grateful Flow

“The Grateful Flow is not the things you’re thankful for. The Grateful Flow is the process of creating these things.”

Stutz, in Jonah Hill’s new documentary film

This photo is my favorite Christmas pic. It’s a picture of joy. Nine years ago, both Charli and Ralph are smiling, in the flow of gratefulness. I was sitting by our tree recently, looking at the white twinkle lights, noticing how the light shines through some ornaments. They sparkle. I feel the same way about students sometimes, seeing the light shine through them in moments when they dare to be themselves. I, myself, feel a dash of that Charli-on-the-sping-horse joy sitting by twinkle lights sparkling in this darkest time of the year.

Unpopular opinion, I like winter. I like the coziness, the time to watch movies, the blankets. I used to always want to be around people, but the older I get, the more I love the quiet.

In some of my movie-watching time, I just saw Jonah Hill’s new documentary, Stutz. In it, Hill’s therapist asks him to close his eyes and prompts his thinking into gratitude, “Now, say two or three, or at most four things you’re grateful for,” he said. “And the smaller the thing the better, because it forces you to concentrate Gratefulness. You want to do it nice and slow. You want to feel The Gratefulness. Good. The next thing you do is that you feel that you’re going to create another grateful thought, but you don’t–You block it. So all you feel is the force that would create a grateful thought. And as it feels stronger and stronger, you feel taken over by It.”

When he had Jonah stop before the next gratitude, it kind of blew my mind. I have felt that, but never named it, and certainly never thought about naming it as a force we can concentrate, something somehow “between the things,” on our gratitude list. What if it’s all not so much about the list of things we’re grateful for, as it is our attitude toward them, not just love or positivity, but our sense that this life, this this, might just be a gift.

Sometimes that’s hard for me to realize when my mind shifts into dis-liking winter. When I concentrate the coldness, or concentrate the lack of green, or get stuck in the negative ruts that I’ve been mining for so long.

Again and again, life dazzles me, sometimes even in spite of my keen ability to be a total curmudgeon.

And for that, I am thankful. Listening for gratitude does come to something. I’ve never sat down and named it, but there’s an energy to it. So cheers to that energy, and good ole moments of spring-horse joy. May we mine for them when they feel hard to find, and experience grateful flow–seeing twinkle lights and tomorrow shining through.

This and That

  • Worth a listen: Trans Siberian Orchestra. This might be pure nostalgia, but my sister and I used to jam out to their electric guitar Christmas instrumentals in high school. I still love it.
  • Worth a watch: Stutz. I wrote about a section of this documentary above, but it is worth watching the whole film. The friendship between these two, their banter, and their willingness to “go there,” left me with such a feeling of completeness that I sat in the quiet for a few minutes after the credits rolled.
  • Worth a watch: Wednesday. This Netflix series is quirky perfection. Tim Burton’s macabre style along with Jenna Ortega’s unblinking and intense performance had us clicking on to the next episode and the next. The writing, design, and acting come together just right. Enjoyed.
  • Something that’s inspiring me:  Twinkle lights! I don’t know if they inspire me as much as they delight me. In the book Joyful: The surprising power of ordinary things to create extraordinary happiness Ingrid Fetell Lee shares the research behind small bursts of color bringing happiness–be they confetti, or twinkle lights. It’s not silly; it’s science. And maybe-just-maybe, a light in the dark.

May right now be a time to slow down, a time to notice, and say thanks.

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