Courage to Be Grateful

Life sucks sometimes, and that’s that.

Oh, there are all sorts of coaches and cheerleaders and counselors and bloggers out there telling us that our attitude is a choice, that we can rise above our circumstances if we can just convince ourselves to be happy–or barring that, pretending to be happy until we start feeling that way.

That seems to work for lots of people. Plenty of folks manage to go through life with smiles on their faces, at least, no matter what is going on around them.

For the record, I’m not one of them.

My attitude generally goes in cycles. I’ll be up, really positive, for four to six weeks at a time. Then something will happen that shakes my confidence, and I’ll start to slip. I’ll fake it for a couple of weeks, at least at work, well enough that my good friends are the only ones who can tell I’m not at my best. Then the second trigger hits, and I’m walking dead for another two weeks or so–hiding in my office, attending meetings but not setting any more than I have to, and generally not getting all that much done. I’ll drag myself up gradually, or my wife will make a comment about me seeming down and am I OK, and I’m back to faking it for a couple of weeks before the cycle begins again.

It’s during those down periods that I forget gratitude. Interestingly enough, it’s usually gratitude that helps me get past them. Remembering all the good things in my life, remembering to be grateful for my kids, my wife, my house, my job, my health, even a tree or a beautiful sunset–these are the things that bring me back up to the top of the cycle.

So what does that have to do with courage? Just this: when I’m down, it’s so, so easy to focus on everything that’s not right in my life. I’m not rich, I can’t give my family everything they want, I don’t have the freedom to travel to New York or Australia or Europe without planning and saving for months in advance. I come home from an exhausting day at work to a family that, surprise, needs my attention when I’d rather sit in my chair and ignore the world. I’m overweight, over forty, and losing my hair. If I let myself, I could just crack a beer and fall asleep in my chair thinking about all the things that are wrong with my life.

But I don’t. Not most nights, anyway. I make the effort, give my time, think about things to be grateful for. That’s where courage comes in. It’s harder to make the effort than not. And anything that’s harder than the alternative requires courage.

I've been a soldier, a dreamer, a working stiff, a leader. A husband, father, example (good and otherwise), and now a survivor. I write about courage, because courage is what enables us to accomplish the impossible. If you draw breath, I love you. If you love in whatever way seems best to you and want others to love in whatever way seems best to them, I am your ally. If you believe someone is less than you because they do not love the way you do, I oppose you. If you see someone as a threat to be abused or destroyed merely because they do not look like you, or love like you, or worship like you, I am your enemy. I am a joyful and courageous man. And I stand with you who love.