About five years ago, I stumbled upon an industry of psychologists who promoted the many benefits of gratitude. Citing studies that show that grateful people are happier and healthier, they recommended keeping a “gratitude journal.” I tried but it didn’t work. I rarely had a palpable, physical experience of gratitude, just didn’t seem to be built for it. But lately, while planning a blog on diabetes and mulling over its impact on me, I have found it easier to give thanks. One gift of a chronic disease is that it yields a trove of people and incidents that can be used to prompt real gratitude, raw material for a quickening of the heart.
In the summer of 1977, when I was 23, I washed ashore to my parents’s house in Woodbridge, Connecticut after spending my first year out of college teaching in the Caribbean. I had a broken ankle, memories of a romantic affair that had gone very badly, no clue about how to earn a living and frequent visits from what Churchill, my second favorite depressive after Abraham Lincoln, famously called the “black dog.” During my first week in Woodbridge, I had some furious arguments with my stepfather. His dry cleaning business was failing, and he was as glum as I was about the universe. So he was understandably unable to welcome the sulking, semi-grown-up step-son sprawled on his living room couch. (more here)