On Gratitude

Nisqually Delta, WA

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was “thank you,” that would suffice.
Meister Eckhart

I awoke this week to a number of small explosions and a subsequent loss in electrical power. No big storm and no obvious reason for the disruption. It would most likely be a quick fix, but I was surprised how quickly a level of disquiet crept over me. I began to feel quite vulnerable as I mentally ticked off all my “electrical needs”: hot water, hair dryer, phone charger…ok, let’s be more realistic: heat, light, food preservation and cooking, communication (computer and phone charger). Sure, I could easily survive a few hours, but I had grown lax in my emergency preparedness, comfortable in my many modern conveniences/needs.

My mind clicked into problem-solving (problem-generating?) mode: Where is the flashlight? We haven’t had the chimney cleaned to safely use the fireplace. What if the power is out for a long time and we don’t have heat? Where would we go if the outage was widespread or enduring? In addition to hubby and myself, we have an old basset and young exchange student in our care.

My thoughts flew – as they so often do now – to the fires raging in California and the emerging humanitarian crisis so close to home. Lives forever changed in an instant, with people who survived staggering loss now enduring inconceivable struggles to fulfill their most basic needs. As I forced myself to focus on making it to my morning meeting, my anxiety began to subside with small actions. Check the power company website: OK, the outage is limited to 699 customers and the estimated time to restore power is 10:30 am. I saw several orange trucks converge on our street. Our house was between two poles that needed to be fixed.

Quickly growing alongside the unease was a level of awareness and gratitude that had lain dormant. Omigosh, I can’t believe how much I take for granted. How often do I acknowledge all of the interrelated, interwoven existences that fulfill my most basic needs of food, water, shelter, and security? We have an underlying trust in the order that we rely on for our daily lives, but rarely think about it until it is no longer there.

I realized that if I were to list every single thing that I was grateful for, every small-but-large thing that I failed to acknowledge every day, my fingers would cramp before I could list them all. I would be reveling in gratitude every moment of every day – and that’s just for the essentials: I have food! I have clean water! I have clean water in my house and I can get it heated when I want! I am sheltered and warm both day and night! Much of humanity doesn’t consistently have these basics. For many, they are a true blessing. Why would I regard them as anything less simply because I have them every day?

Being out of power turned out to be an annoyance, an inconvenience. The outage would be just a few hours. I would get ready by flashlight in the bathroom, heat water on the gas stove for breakfast, and successfully dress myself in the dark. I would thank the utility workers on my way out of the neighborhood and make it to my meeting on time. The electricity would return by the time I did. The only residual from the hassle would be re-heating the house several degrees. And a newfound awareness, acknowledgement, and appreciation for everything that supports and sustains me.

What are you grateful for today? Whisper a silent thank you to the universe and that will suffice.