Right now, I am sitting on my porch in Austin; a glass of icy white wine beside me, a fluffy dog poking his head through the bars of the porch. Things are quiet outside for the most part, the sky is slowly turning a summery pink.
The air is about 91 degrees with just enough humidity to hold me, but not so much that I don’t want to sit here on my piano bench, watching the breeze through a very old tree that is nestled against my balcony.
Right now, I feel happy. Some people are playing horse shoes across the field at the bar. Bob Dylan is singing through my speakers about desolation row, and there is some type of bird coo-cooing. Dinner is waiting to be made.
But usually, or at least, a lot recently, my mood has been very easily soured.
Maybe it’s the fact that my job doesn’t pay me all that much, or that my dog is not as easy to take out in public as I’d like. Maybe it’s that I forgot to get eggs at the grocery store, or that I misplaced my phone. Whatever it is, the littlest things sometimes set my mood on a slick downward spiral.
But when I step back and look at my situation, or someone else points it out to me, I realize that I am wrapped in ridiculous amounts of luxury. I am living in an amazing city, making enough money to cover my portion of the bills, with a job that I can do in any location. I have food each day, a wonderful partner, and my health.
And yet, I get grouchy far too often.
I remember one day, me and a great friend were hitch hiking from New Orleans to Massachusetts. We were somewhere in Pennsylvania, I think. Either way, we were waiting for a ride. I wanted a burger. We had been through some rather stressful things with one icky truck driver, and were quite ready for a nice ride.
I didn’t have a bank account, I didn’t have a wallet full of money, Hell, I didn’t even have my dog with me. It was just me and my friend and her dog, and we were standing on the on ramp, trying to make our way somewhere. The world felt big and wall-less.
I wanted a burger, and I mentioned it.
I told her that I was going to go to the bathroom at the truck stop. On my way there, a man began walking up to me with a paper bag. I looked at my friend, who was standing pretty far away at that point, sitting on her pack, waiting for me to return. Her eyes were on me; she was watching every little thing that happened in case she needed to intervene. I could feel the fierceness in her eyes from even that far, which made me feel safe and protected.
The man came up to me with a bag and said,
“Hey, saw you standing over there, thought you and your friend might want some burgers.”
And there it was, a bag of two burgers.
I looked over at my friend, who was cocking her head, and smiled. She knew then that whatever transaction had happened was a good one and not a get-your-knife one, and I brought the burgers to her. We ate.
That little experience poured a cap full of fuel injector cleaner into my Belief-in-God engine.
For some reason, with nothing, no money, no shelter, only a destination and a friend, I was able to feel the simplest and most profound sense of gratitude.
The sky being un-rainy was a reason to rejoice. A person smiling at me was a reason to rejoice. And random burgers when I wanted burgers was like a wonderful and mysterious Universe answering my little wish, simply because I was living closer to it.
Now, this leaves me with some confusion.
If we were sitting on that on ramp, and someone plucked me up from the sky and dropped me into this apartment, with a fridge that contains a bag of cherries and some cucumber gin I’ve been infusing, I would be ecstatic. I would be beyond “Thanks, God, for the burger” and right into “Holy Wow I have a perfect life!” because I would be seeing it in that convenient out-of-context way.
Why would a random person giving me a burger when I wanted one evoke that feeling of I-believe-in-the-universe while making a lovely dinner with my boyfriend leads to a simple I-love-my-life feeling? Why is it so easy to take things for granted?
One article which is linked in the previous paragraph says that we take things for granted when they are commonplace. There is the answer.
When something is around us every day, like our choice of whether or not to walk a few blocks to the store and get a burger, we take it for granted. It is common; why would we continue to be ecstatic about it?
My problem is that I want to be ecstatic about the small things again. I want to cultivate that sense of awe and appreciation, mostly because I have seen so much proof in my life that there is something there to be appreciated. If I fall to far away from it, into a state of taking everything for granted, I know that I will wake up one morning and realize that so much of what I love is gone and was hardly appreciated enough while it was around.
I know from experience that mindfulness meditation brings me into this state. And still, it does not quite help me to feel as stunned with awesomeness as I did when that man came up with the burger I had just been talking about.
Therefore, I will make a choice right now. To thank the Universe for the little miracles, and to do this consciously. More importantly, I will seek out the things that are not as commonplace for me. A new cafe. A new friend. A different way of talking. A scary thing, like playing guitar in front of someone. I will seek out the things that are different, because I know from experience that those are the things that will lead to a feeling of “wow”. They will help me wake up. It’s hard to be grouchy over the little things when you are feeling all of the big ones.
When something isn’t commonplace anymore, it is impossible to take it for granted. You have to notice it, you have to wake up. Maybe we can do this more often if we simply intend to, rather than letting our miraculously awesome lives slip by due to sheer negligence of our own awareness.