So, I kinda screwed up (minorly) on these posts — last week’s post should’ve gone up two weeks ago, last week I supposed to “express gratitude to 3 people in real life” and this week I should be reflecting on that activity.
But — for two weeks now — I didn’t take this too seriously. Because I say thank you all the time.
I like to think I’m pretty good at being gracious — saying thanks when someone holds a door for me, waving at other drivers when they let me merge on the freeway, tipping well at restaurants (being a stingy tipper a sure way to get on my bad side, btw), and always making a point to thank my husband — the person I interact with “face to face” the most — when he does something as simple as bring me my pint glass from the kitchen or leave the parking spot open for me when I’m coming home late. Put it this way, I learned “please and thank you are the magic words” really well in pre-school.
But are these perfunctory, automatic responses, or are they genuine expressions of gratitude?
When I stop to think about it, even the smallest action someone performs that shows they saw me/thought of me and did something that made my life the tiniest bit easier (like standing in the doorway five extra seconds to hold it open) is totally awesome. Even when they respond with “no problem,” in some way, they just inconvenienced themselves — if only microscopically. It wasn’t a necessary action; they weren’t compelled to do it.
(Aside — did anyone watch the special on “The Manners of Downton” that aired after the season premiere? A couple of the actresses mentioned that it felt jarring at first not to say thank you to the servants when they poured tea or served dinner or brought in a letter or whatever — and even not in keeping with a society so obsessed with manners and politeness. But eventually, they realized, if Lady Mary had to say thank you to every servant, every time one of them did something for her, those two words would literally take up half her speech. Still, I’m glad we’ve progressed to a place where most people feel comfortable thanking cashiers and servers and flight attendants and service workers.)
But often I just mutter “thanks,” making only the briefest eye contact (if any at all), and immediately move on with my life. I’m not saying I need to stop and make a big production every time I say thank you to anyone (that would probably be awkward and uncomfortable for all involved), but I could be a little more conscious of what I’m saying. I read recently that Jonathan Fields, even though he has a standard, automatic email signatures, he signs most emails with “with gratitude” — and he always types those words by hand, slowly, actually feeling gratitude for the email recipient. He says it becomes like a “mini-meditation.” Interesting. Like that article that went around recently about the guy who used passwords to accomplish a slew of goals, like “stop smoking” and “call mom” and “find love” — every time he had to type st0Psmok!ng or whatever, he internalized it and was able to quit fairly easily and quickly.
I love this. So this is my new challenge — whenever I express gratitude, to anything or anyone, to do so consciously, presently, in the moment-ly.
This is a cool idea too.