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So many ways to say thank you

I am certain that you know when to say thank you. You’re a polite person. You were raised with good manners. Someone holds the door for you? Thank you. Someone in line sees you’re in a really big rush so they step aside; they’ve got plenty of time? Thank you. Thank you, other driver, for waving me on. Thank you, other passenger, for moving your feet as I pass by to get to my seat. Saying thank you greases the skids, making social interactions far more pleasant overall. Your day goes more smoothly when you give – and receive – a genuine, even if it seems insignificant, thank you.

But you can take your thanks far beyond good manners and, in the process, make yourself a more realistic and happier person. Start with yourself. Let me explain. For me, my first thought of the day is usually, “Thank you for a good night’s sleep,” when it’s true. To be clear, I don’t always start this way because it isn’t always true. Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night and cannot fall back asleep. I have a few strategies when I sleep poorly but I typically struggle through the following day, just the same. But one of my strategies is recognizing when I do wake up rested after a good sleep. On those mornings, I say Thank you. It doesn’t happen every morning – I’m being realistic – but when it does, I appreciate it – I’m happier for that.

Here’s a next-level example. I have several loved ones in my orbit who are managing cancer diagnoses right now and all the crap that goes with it – surgeries, expensive drugs, nasty side effects, pain, disfiguration, and sorting out all the feelings and emotions that go with it for themselves and those who love them. This one’s so easy. Thank you for showing me what I’m not dealing with (realistic), thank you for the chance to be a friend, letting me love them and be a listener and offer help in any way I can (happier), thank you for reminding me that I, like everyone, am mortal (realistic, again).

With practice, this becomes a lot like metta, the lovingkindness meditation practice that is most simply expressed this way: May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease. We practice metta first on ourselves (my good night’s sleep), then on our friends and loved ones – May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease. (My loved ones who have cancer today.)  

Then you move farther out, to the community around you and then to people who are hard for you, the ones you don’t like, and then to the whole world. You may say thank you for the people you don’t even know who live in the neighborhood you live in because you like your neighborhood. You may say thank you to the people who challenge you because it gives you a chance to reflect on your own prejudices and limitations, to do better, to improve.

With awareness, you can find ways to be thankful for all the things you experience, the easy and hard, the so-called good and so-called bad, the individual and the collective. Realistic. With practice, you will begin to understand that you are both of these things. Happy.



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