“…a moment when I was inexplicably delighted. Discovering a secret little garden. Reading a beautiful book. The sudden slip of a child’s hand into mine. A kiss.”
Recently, I’ve had good reason to be thankful. Thankful, humbled, amazed — that precarious balance between enjoying the moment and being fearful of losing that with which you are blessed.
It happened several times during the spring — poetically appropriate during a time of renewal — and it happened for different reasons. A couple of times because I was doing for others: volunteering at a women’s shelter; running Meals-on-Wheels to the elderly. Other times it was when I was pleasantly surprised with appreciation: a birthday party; someone’s note of gratitude.
And still other times, a moment when I was inexplicably delighted. Discovering a secret little garden. Reading a beautiful book. The sudden slip of a child’s hand into mine. A kiss.
Had I taken any of these moments for granted, perhaps I would not have been happy. I would have expected a reward at the very least, maybe more, maybe something I could never achieve or get. Over time, you try to strike a balance between entitlement and humility, but if you keep expecting wonderful things just because, you could keep wanting and never be satisfied. That expectation is endless – it could go as far as your entitlement can see.
On the other hand, a certain amount of entitlement and desire is good; it is behind the best of goals. I want that medal; I know I can do it. I want that job; I know I can do it. I want to get fit; I know I can do it. In each case, you envision the end state you deserve, and you push yourself to attain because you think it is in you, but not necessarily because it is yours simply to take. I call it my confidence threshold. We all have one — we all need to reach for the confidence threshold — without it, our legs would buckle, we would never take a leap of faith, we would curl up and go back to sleep every morning. Without confidence, it is hard to strive.
Of course, break through and beyond your confidence threshold, and you start to get dangerously close to entitlement. You run the risk of being a jerk. There have been times in life where I feel that has happened. It may have even happened recently.
But the best balance is when, over time, you reach an equilibrium: hovering near the confidence level to know what you want and enjoying what you have, but remaining rooted in humility. I see this as a lifeline that, at the beginning of time, springs up with clear confidence. But over time, it can bend carefully into an asymptotic curve, never quite breaching the confidence barrier, setting into an equilibrium that stretches tautly, carefully, alongside it.
I call this the gratitude curve. I feel that I have settled into it relatively late in life, but am so glad to have found it. I was surfing that curve when I looked out among smiling faces, wanting to thank them for taking time out of their busy day to have a drink, have a laugh, and party with me. When I looked at my parents and my brother and my cousin, who have and always will be incredibly productive and busy, but have always come when I needed them. When I looked into my husband’s face, smiling and nodding, and my girls, who ran coltishly to my side, just as much to blow out the candles on the cake as to be near me when I needed them. I tried to express my thanks.
“Life…” I think I was saying, “is asymptotic…” Laughters. Groans. I knew what I wanted to say, but I couldn’t express it. It didn’t matter. People knew what I meant; it was in my face; I could see in their eyes. Some things are beyond words.
Sometimes, it is better to smile and just surf the gratitude curve.