Today I don’t feel like offering gratitude. I got yucky news at work – an effort that I poured a huge amount of myself into, for many months, failed. I feel like I have nothing to show for all of that work – which is not quite true – but I’m frustrated and disappointed and worried about my job.
The summer before I finished my PhD I was working on a math problem that wasn’t going well. I was trying to prove something that seemed simple, and I just couldn’t do it. I spent days and weeks just feeling stuck, stressed, and unhappy. At the end of that summer, I had poured so much of myself into the work, and like now, I felt like I had nothing to show for all of those hours.
But in the middle of that summer, I started to think about containing all that pressure and stress. I bought rose colored sunglasses, literally, and wore them with green halter-top sundresses. I wore those rose colored glasses everywhere I went, and I let myself see the world in rose.
I wish I could say that I stopped feeling so stressed out, or that I solved that problem. I did neither. But I did contain the pressure and stress. Every time I sat down to work, I felt the intensity of not-solving, and the fear that I just wouldn’t be able to finish my PhD.
That work did end up being the basis for the rest of my PhD, in unexpected ways. Maybe the intensity of the pressure itself turned that work into something better than it otherwise would have been. And today I’m reaching for something like that – it’s a rocky day, and maybe it will be a rocky time at work.
But maybe? Maybe the pressure and disappointment and worry under the surface are creating something new. Maybe something will emerge, the way that rose quartz emerges from the mines in Minas Gerais, in Brazil – rough and rocky and crystalline, and despite the rockiness, absurdly hopeful.
Today it’s a stretch for me to choose to be grateful for all that is being created within me – all that will emerge that I can’t even yet imagine – but surely that’s the reason for choosing to do a thousand gratitudes project at all. To build the muscles of gratitude. So that on a day like today when I would rather curl up under all of the blankets and worry, there is a way to find the rosiness, to give into thanks instead of fear.