Gratitude Later in Life, Much Later

Let’s begin at today.

It’s been a rough few years, and people my age are simultaneously patting themselves on the back for having survived thus far and tightening up their seatbelts for the bumpy road ahead. The significant change our country has gone through doesn’t mean it’ll be all sweetness and light going forward. But we can do it.

Gratitude helps, it always has.

I’ve talked a lot here about the power of gratitude and how by exercising its capabilities, it can heal what ails us. Gratitude is your wing man; it is the cost- and calorie-free friend that buoys you when everything feels lost or scary or uncomfortably new.

We’ve talked about the myriad ways gratitude shows up, how we can honor it, and how we can strengthen our gratitude practice to improve our lives and help others to improve theirs. Gratitude is one of my favorite tools to cope, to bust myself wide open when all I want to do is shrink from the world. Gratitude has helped me be kinder, gentler, and more able to appreciate the abundance in life.

Now I’m old.

I’m glad gratitude doesn’t dissipate, but instead grows exponentially the more we express it. It’s one of the few things in life that doesn’t lessen as we age. In fact, for me, gratitude has blossomed since I’ve retired and have fewer distractions.

It’s been reassuring during the last year when we’ve had to stay away from some of our cherished friends and family and also away from some of our most beloved activities. Gratitude has helped me survive this time. Instead of loneliness and despair, I’ve felt contented, knowing a re-opening is coming soon. We’ve all worked hard to stay safe. Gratitude has helped me acknowledge, in spite of everything, all the goodness around me.

Gratitude Going Forward

Personally, my “What I’m Grateful for Today” list gets repetitive and, while that’s not a bad thing, it feels boring sometimes. You’d agree that gratitude is a valuable tool to help us survive and flourish, right? Then, let’s create a project that can add to our current gratitude practice and last the rest of our days, whether that’s in seclusion or free-and-easy, out and about. Hear me out.

Most adults experience some of their earliest memories beginning around 6 – 7 years of age. An exceptional few recall many memories earlier, much earlier. I’m not one of those people. With the exception of one, not so great, memory, I remember most about my life from about 10 years old. I am working on going back and mining earlier memories, both sweet and not sweet.

Lately I’ve been going through old photos to pass on to my sister’s kids to keep for their family histories. While doing this, these photos have brought forth a whole new wave of gratitude. For instance, when looking at a photograph of my sister and me on Christmas morning in 1953, with presents galore surrounding us, I can recall that morning with gratitude. With that picture in hand, I make a note of all the gratitude I experienced that day. Even though I wasn’t awash in gratitude at the time, it helps me to acknowledge with gratitude all aspects of not only that exact morning but other events that I recall around that time.

The project, therefore, would be to take the next year or several years to review events throughout your life (pictures help to jog your memory for events) and write down any aspects of gratitude around that event or during that time. I recall another picture of me in a fancy blue formal with my “date” (I was only 14). It was easy to express gratitude for the opportunity to attend that event and to have the resources to have that beautiful taffeta party dress.

Expressing gratitude in this manner not only expands a sense of gratitude throughout our days, but it also honors past times when gratitude might not have been in the forefront, like it is these days. Have fun with this project and let me know how it goes.