The month of November is a great time to develop a gratitude practice. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, the spirit of the season seems to set the tone for gratitude. There are so many ways to be grateful every day. #30DaysofGratitude hopes to share bits of gratitude and create an awareness of how gratitude can change our mindset. Every day this month, I, along with other writers, teachers and friends, will post about all things gratitude. I hope you read and begin your own gratitude practice. Come along for the ride and let me know what you are most grateful for every day – I know we can inspire one another.
Written by: Brett Baker
On my 39th birthday earlier this year I decided to make it a great year. I had a long list of things that I wanted to accomplish, and a whole year in which to accomplish them. With so much time ahead of me, I had no doubt I’d be able to do everything that I wanted to do.
I’m a little over five months in at the time that I’ve written this, and things haven’t turned out how I’ve wanted thus far. I’ve still got time to turn it around, and maybe this little reflection will help me do that.
At the top of my list of disappointments is how I’ve treated my body thus far. On my birthday I planned to get back to running, to avoid sweets, to do a better job of watching what I eat overall, and relish the physical changes to follow.
Until the past few weeks I hadn’t run at all. My peanut M&M addiction is out of control. I drink almost half a gallon of Diet Coke everyday, and I’m close to ten pounds heavier than I was when I began the last year of my thirties.
After a spring and summer of sloth-like gluttony, I hope I’m beginning to swing the pendulum back the other way with the onset of autumn. I’ve decreased by sweets intake (slightly) and have started to run once again (although not as regularly as I should).
This morning I decided to go for a run. I put on my headphones, went outside, and said, “Oh yes!” to no one in particular as I reveled in the low-60s temperature and sunny skies. It’s not possible to create a more beautiful morning.
About a quarter mile into my run I saw an elderly woman on the opposite side of the street making her way down the driveway. She wore that quintessential early-morning outfit, the muumuu. She walked with a cane, and at the bottom of her driveway she stopped, grabbed hold of her mailbox while also holding on to her cane, and then leaned over and around to the front of the box, opened the door, and grabbed the mail. Her muumuu had a pocket on the side and she put the mail in there and started back up the driveway.
Seeing that lady struggle to walk down her driveway, and the care she had to employ to do a simple thing like check the mail made me angry with myself.
I’m a (relatively) healthy, able-bodied human being, and I’m often guilty of wasting that health and able-bodiedness. I haven’t been getting up to run before work because I’m too tired, or it’s too dark, or it’s too hot, or whatever other excuse I make. I shovel another handful of M&M’s into my mouth because they’re good, and a few won’t hurt, and I’ll just refrain from sweets tomorrow.
But for the rest of my run I couldn’t help but wonder how much that lady probably wished that she could go outside and check her mail without having to worry about whether she could walk that far, or whether she might fall in the driveway, or lose her balance when she bent over to open the mailbox.
And it occurred to me that not only have I taken my health and able-bodiedness for granted, but I’ve wasted it. I haven’t just not appreciated it, I’ve damaged it. Made it worse.
When I go for a run I have fun. I listen to a podcast, I get my heart racing, I enjoy the weather, I get the runner’s high. And I’m always glad that I did it.
Yet I make excuses for not doing it. And as I ran this morning, I couldn’t help but think of eighty-year-old Brett, and the regret that I’ll feel forty-one years from now, when I can’t run. When I can’t get my heart racing like that. When I’ll never again feel that runner’s high.
And it makes me sad.
It makes me sad not just for Future Brett, and what he will have lost at that point, but it makes me sad for Present Brett, the me who’s writing these words. The me who takes his body for granted, mistreats it, because even if he doesn’t realize it, by doing so, he’s assuming that this body will always be able. That he’ll always be healthy.
And he won’t. I won’t.
So next time I don’t want to get up to run, or I want to shovel some crap into my face just because I’m addicted to sugar, I won’t think of myself. Because that hasn’t been working.
Instead, I’ll think of Future Brett. And I’ll hope that when his body doesn’t work as well, that he can look back and say—with gratitude—I made the most of it while I had it.
Brett Baker writes the ChicagoNow blog called Dry it in the Water. He’s also published three novels, with more in the works. His website is brettbakerwrites.com. He lives in northwest Indiana with his four children.
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Related Post: Trying to be Grateful for My Body