Gratitude is so hard

Last night, I was so upset that I left the house in tears.

I'd just gotten back from two intense back-to-back work trips. I had hours of client work that was overdue. I had found out that our remodel was about to go over budget. And we've been waiting on the results of a hopefully-not-scary medical test.

"I'm sick of working on Sundays, I never get ahead, I flinch everytime my phone goes off," I told Andrew. "I'm so overwhelmed I feel like I can't breathe."

He went through all his "wife-calming" remedies: a glass of water, kissing in bed, a hot shower, a snack.

He even went through a list of everything we should be grateful for: a roof over our heads, good jobs, a financial safety net, two working cars, a cuter-than-average dog (okay, that was actually the first thing he said...)

"I don't care," I told him. "I'm too cranky to be grateful."

As a last resort, I decided to go for a walk. Winnie and I set off in the dark. I live in an area that has a lot of transients and vandalism so I don't normally walk alone at night but tonight, I didn't care.

For ten blocks, I just thought about how mad I was at my life. Why did I have to work so much? Why couldn't our stupid remodel be done already? Why didn't we have more time to spend together? Why was my hair so stringy and why was everything SO BAD? I felt helpless. No matter how hard I tried to change and set boundaries and wake up earlier and prioritize, I always ended up here: overworked, overwhelmed and unhappy.

I kept walking, past couples walking hand-in-hand, two guys smoking outside of a sports bar and a homeless man rolling out a sleeping bag on the sidewalk.

I walked a few more blocks and then turned around. My hair was still wet from the shower and I was freezing. Even Winnie was shivering. It was time to go home and face my life.

When I passed the man with the sleeping bag, he was climbing inside. He had bare feet. I remembered something I read about how homeless people are constantly in need of warm socks.

I thought about offering to bring him an extra blanket or a pair of socks. Instead, I kept walking. I didn't have the energy to talk to anyone or deal with more bullshit. Besides, Winnie doesn't like men she doesn't know and Andrew would be getting worried if I was gone much longer.

I imagined Andrew back home in our condo. When I left, he was making a gorgonzola pizza and watching Stranger Things. He had promised me a back massage if I finished all my work. Just a few blocks from where I was standing, there was an apartment with heat and love and gorgonzola and Netflix. And it all belonged to me.

I turned back around. The man sat up when I approached.

"Hey," I said, "it's really cold. Do you need anything?"

He said he could use some food, so I walked three blocks to Starbucks, bought a sausage sandwich and brought it back to him.

What's the point of this? That life is hard, for everyone. Married and single. The rich and the poor. People who sleep on beds and people who sleep on sidewalks.

Gratitude is not a permanent mindset. Most of us are lucky to feel it even for one or two seconds every day. And it's hard to force yourself into it by reminding yourself how much you have.

But the feeling - true gratitude - is blissful. And last night, I was lucky to live in that bliss for the entire ten blocks it took me to get home.