It is exceptionally easy to take so much for granted; we do it as subconsciously as breathing. In every minute, in every element and layer and forgotten fold of existence, there’s something we fail to appreciate – something someone else doesn’t have and longs for every moment, acutely aware of the void left in its absence.
Most of the time, we’re distracted by what we don’t have, what isn’t working, what falls short. It’s kind of a shame that that’s what we’re more inclined to notice. But that’s human nature, so appreciation has to be a deliberate act – and maybe eventually it melts into habit.
Sometimes you have to stop what you’re doing and give credit to the unsung heroes – the silently functional, unobtrusively wonderful, behind-the-scenes exquisite elements of life that go unnoticed and never ask for praise or recognition. I honestly believe it’s like vitamins for the soul to stop and consciously reflect on all that’s good in this moment. Let’s take soul vitamins right now…
First and foremost: you’re alive. I don’t just mean, you’re not dead (though that’s also true and also great). I mean, you’re in your head, controlling your thoughts, selecting the words and actions you emit, responding to stimuli, reacting to what’s around you. If you focus, you feel your heartbeat. If you pinch your arm, it hurts; pinch harder, it hurts more; then stop, the pain abates into nothing. You can have private conversations with yourself in your head, you can draw your own conclusions, and you are endowed with the one in a million, inexorably unique perspective of seeing the world through your eyes – not one other person on this overpopulated planet can see the world exactly as you do. You are the only you and you’re alive. Often the odds are against us – when it comes to fame, sweepstakes, lotteries, and so on – but really it’s the odds of being born that are mind-blowingly miniscule. It happened though – you’re here. Out of the infiniteness of the world, the galaxy, the universe, your ancestry and all the winding paths involved unraveled in such a way that there was somehow a space carved out for you. You have a platform for existence.
Then there’s the physical element of existence. The body is an incredibly intricate machine with so many working pieces that have to be focused and committed to your well-being 24/7 365 all your life – it’s a miracle everything isn’t falling apart all the time. But we rarely take the time to relish all our various functions and capabilities. Right now take note of every prospering healthy part of your physical existence. The extraordinary sensation of being able to breathe through your nose, and therefore being able to smell and taste. Your taste buds making meals more than just survival. If you’re not suffering from headache or heartache; if you don’t have a stomach ache, a backache or a cough; if you’re not breaking out in a rash or hives or covered in mosquito bites; if your fingers are free of hangnails and paper cuts; if you have the capacity to stand up on your feet – your kickass, oft-neglected feet that get you EVERYWHERE – and move yourself to a new location. If your knees can bend and your shoulder is in its socket. If your ribs aren’t broken and you can achieve the satisfaction of a completed deep breath. If you’re cold-free, flu-free, disease-free; my fellow women, if you’re not pregnant when you don’t wish to be, or are when you do (also, the fact that your body is able to create life); if you can hear and you can speak, and more than that – if you can say something meaningful. If you’re not itchy; if now you’re thinking about not being itchy, so you are, but you can scratch! If you have all your motor skills; if you can comprehend these words. If you’re in some pain because your beloved body never ceases to keep you alert, to let you know when and what you must tend to in order to remain healthy – because your body is a warrior on your behalf. We don’t think about these things when they’re functional, but all you have to do is reflect back on a time you suffered from sickness or discomfort or injury to remember how badly you wanted your health and function back. So now while you have them, throw a goddamn party in their honor.
If you have freedom – the power in choice. It’s easy to feel trapped by certain pressures of life; you have to go to work. But at the end of the day, if you wanted to up and leave and never return, you could. There would be consequences, but they would be consequences of your choosing– and they wouldn’t be exile or death.
If your phone battery sucks but you have a phone; if the damn Wi-Fi isn’t working on the airplane but you’re flying somewhere; if your meal was mediocre but you had the money to buy it; if you’re in a fight with your friend and it’s weighing on you because that relationship matters
If your dreams still elude your grasp, and you’re not yet be all you want to be, but you have those dreams; if your circumstances allow you the mental space to stretch beyond your current situation. Hold on to that – be enriched by the vast expanse of your mind, and its ability to take you to places you’ve not yet been.
In the worst moments, who do you turn to first? To whom do you confide your secrets? Who reminds you to forgive your flaws when you feel condemned by them? Think of those people; more importantly, tell them they matter to you; most importantly, treat them that way.
If you can escape into your favorite song; if you can feel raindrops on your skin, taste them as they roll over your lips, blink them out of your eyes, and smell the dampness in the air when the storm passes; if you are nervous, angry, fearful, excited, renewed, or anxious because you are completely engaged in your life and its mishaps and new experiences and humiliations and redemptions and milestones and unexpected train wrecks and triumphs. If you are dying of thirst and have access to water, ravenous and have access to food; if you laugh and better yet if you laugh with good company; if you have warmth to escape to in the cold; if you have people that wish you happy birthday, if you have people whose birthdays you get to help celebrate; if you have ever been extended a kindness from a stranger, or if you’ve been the stranger doing so; if you cut yourself while chopping peppers for dinner and eventually the wound healed; if you fell in the street and people saw and it was embarrassing but then it stopped mattering 10 minutes later; if your plight is temporary, and time is ultimately your friend.
If you’re reading this, and you’re not in prison, or on your death bed. If you’ve never been wrongfully convicted. If you’ve lost someone you adore and it aches – but the loss means you loved, and the ache means you’re alive. If you’re in a stressful situation that will not last forever.
If, as the days and seasons and years pass, so too will your current burden. If you are alive and have the power to be happy – then be.