In the wake of of tsunamis, earthquakes, radiation, war — and, closer to home, rain, wind and gloom — I'm having trouble with joy. Finding it. Holding it.
Yes, I am grateful. Grateful to be spared natural disaster. Grateful that in my world, on the central Oregon coast, the tsunami siren and reverse-911 call was, ultimately, unfounded. I am thankful to be safe, but feeling so comes with realization that too many have perished. My gratitude feels a bit like gloating.
And grateful is not thankful.
Gratitude is counting blessings and a wash of relief. Thankfulness — cousin to gratitude — is light and bright, as in thank you ma'am, and a good day to you, too.
I am wondering: Where is the light step of joy — thankfulness — in these days colorless and fraught?
Yesterday, engulfed in a list of chores and worrying over an early morning misunderstanding, I ventured out of the house and into the rain. Soaked with frustration, every face I saw — at the post office, in the market, crossing the street — was wearing my same scowl. All of us furrowed, worn, and ready to snap.
I live in a small town. You can't glare or galumph to people you will see again, and likely soon. There's only 600 of us, and if we're all sneering, life gets real miserable real quick.
Still, I couldn't help myself.
As I pulled from the post office parking lot, a woman darted in front of my car. The rain had worsened and the wind was whipping. From her dripping hood, she raised her head, leveled her eyes, and glared.
Gripping the wheel, I began to glare back — and caught myself. Inexplicably, I offered a smile. Not calculated or smarmy, but instant and without thought. To my great surprise, she smiled back.
Since then, I've been thinking about that moment — and it was less than a moment, really. How, in just a flash, my shoulders eased, my jaw loosened and my mood lightened, and in turn, hers did, too. For an instant we were nothing but grins.
I am thinking how little it takes, this tranquil shift.