Thursday 29 September 2016

Why I've returned to saying the rosary

Published 12/10/2015 | 02:30

Universal issues: But when it comes to the more universal issues, it is in fact god we are being grateful to.
Universal issues: But when it comes to the more universal issues, it is in fact god we are being grateful to.

I'm trying to stick with the gratitude thing. If you were paying attention last week you will know that gratitude is the new mindfulness. Indeed, you may have heard this elsewhere. I'm not the first person with this news. From Oprah down, everyone is gone mad on gratitude. There are obviously many books. I have chosen not to read them. I am operating off a half-read newspaper article and some hearsay. Mainly I have taken in that gratitude can apparently make you 25pc happier.

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As I was explaining last week, if you are not a naturally grateful person, which it may surprise you to find I'm not, you have to force the issue at the beginning. I am currently still at the forcing stage. Gratitude, along with many of the other more positive emotions, does not come naturally to me. I have always prided myself on being quite a negative person, fearful and distrustful of the world, so this is all new territory for me.

I am not 25pc happier. Or maybe I am but I don't realise it. I'm up and down to be honest. I don't even know what my baseline happiness level is to start with so it's hard to say that I am a quarter happier than that. Somedays I am possibly 10pc less happier, and other days I might be 10pc happier. And I wouldn't even really call it happy. Less unhappy maybe?

Like everything, gratitude is easy enough when things are going reasonably well. When you don't have a major problem, it's easy to be grateful. You can be grateful for the nice day, grateful for the fact that you have your health, grateful for the people in your life. It almost starts to flow. I am told it's like a trapdoor. You have to pull at it a bit, but once you get it, it opens up and gratitude and happiness and good things flow down on you like shit out of the attic. And some days I feel I am close to getting the door open.

On these good days, the only thing you worry about with the gratitude is that you are making everyone uncomfortable. People don't expect you to look them in the eye and say how grateful you are for things. They suspect you are either being really weird and intense and possibly having a breakdown, or else they think you are making a pass at them.

The gratitude is a bit harder when things are going wrong. And for me, if I'm feeling cranky, the slightest thing can throw me off kilter. Like a taxi driver who insists on going his own way even though you know the route and you try to tell him which way he should go. I sit there and fume, watching the meter go beyond what it should be.

The truth is, I am on a bit of a short fuse at the moment. We are entering into the final stages of home-renovation and instead of thinking that we will finally have somewhere to call home after five years on the road, it is all just driving me nuts. Too many decisions all at once, too many details. Apparently it is not uncommon at this point in things to want to blow up the 'Project' and get a divorce.

But there is much to be grateful for, obviously. We will have a roof over our heads (or at least one of us will; whoever agrees to keep the kids presumably gets the house). And we have enough to eat and gainful employment and so on. These kind of big-picture things are, I'm finding, key in the gratitude thing. Whenever you find the situation you're in intolerable, and are finding it hard to be grateful for anything immediate, you just zoom out a little bit to the bigger picture, where there is always something to be thankful for. The broadest picture is, "I am alive". Though if you get to that point, where that is all you can find to cling onto, I might suggest you need to make some changes in your life.

There's one question in all of this that's slightly niggling at me. Who exactly I am being grateful to? When it's a simple act like someone being nice to you, or doing something for you, it's easy to be grateful to them. But when it comes to the more universal issues, is it in fact god that we are being grateful to? Which is kind of enjoyable to think about. That all the spiritual, mindful, grateful crowd who think they have eschewed conventional religion are actually just going around thanking god for everything all the time. They might as well be saying the rosary. But don't tell them. They'd be appalled.

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