Friday, June 10, 2011


As interesting as it is to think about an idea or concept is the thought process (fed by experiences and observations) that contributes to the formation of that idea. Here’s one of these thought processes:

Last week, when I dropped Emmett off at my mother-in-law’s, I noticed that something was missing around their shed. I asked my mother-in-law, and she told me that they had their big evergreen cut down because it had been compromised by the windstorm. I said to her, “Wow. I never really noticed that tree before, but I noticed right away that something was different once it was cut down.”

A couple of days later, when Joel and I were in the north end of the city, Joel pointed out where a few houses had been bulldozed. I looked over, and it definitely looked like something was different (i.e. dirt and bulldozers and nothing more), although I could not picture the houses that had been there, even after having driven by them probably hundreds of times.

Last weekend, one of my friends and I were talking about how much you ache for someone when you hear that he or she has died. For example, she explained that if a loved one goes on vacation, they are gone—as in you don’t see that person, you probably don’t talk to that person, you live your life without that person around—but while you might miss that person, you are reassured by the knowledge that he/she will return, and you will see him/her again. However, if you get a call about a loved one passing away, the finality of death—that you will not see that person again on this earth, although abundant memories linger—makes the absence much more extreme. You might not even realize how much you loved someone until they are gone.

Then, two days after that, I watched Shrek Forever After, and Shrek’s realization halfway through the movie, “I didn’t realize what I had until it was gone,” resonated in my mind.

Since then, “Big Yellow Taxi” has played in my head constantly. “You don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone…”

My thought process caused me to wonder,

When I am gone, my absence will be clear
But will you notice me when I’m still here?

The fact that we don’t realize what we have, or notice what we have, until we don’t have it, and the fact that people often take their blessings for granted, are both old topics of conversation. We’ve heard them before.

I wonder, But why? Why?

If all of these statements are true, do they mean that the wonderful qualities of appreciation and gratitude are not natural but must be learned? How many of you feel the same way?

I get that the absence of something causes us to long for its presence. But I don’t want to wait until I lose someone or something to really appreciate him/her/it. I also want to appreciate who and what I have every day—but I don’t want to appreciate everything by thinking about what life would be like if a loved one passed away  or if I lost my house. That’s kind of dark and depressing.

What do you think? What can I do? Do I just need to be more observant? Do I just need to pay more attention to the people around me?

Several years ago, Oprah started urging her audience to keep a “thankful” journal. She told us to every day, write down something you are thankful for, in order to realize how many things we can truly appreciate in life.

The thankful journal is a nice idea. Apart from the fact that it’s unfortunate that some people would have to deliberately keep a journal and make time to write stuff in it to be appreciative of what they have, I would think the purpose of this thankful journal exercise is to hopefully create a habit in people to be thankful—that a conscious act of writing in a journal would eventually become an automatic response and a way of life.

Again, why does it work this way? Why do we have to make a conscious effort to be grateful and observant of our blessings? Shouldn’t honest and sincere appreciation come naturally? Do we fail to notice the wonderful positives around us because we grow accustomed to their presence?

If that’s the case, I don’t want to get used to the great people and things in my life. I mean, I want to expect great things, but I don’t want to take them for granted.

Here’s one idea. Maybe this is because we live in a selfish society. We are bombarded with ads and entertainment that focus on “me.” Society tells us to do things for ourselves, to get recognition for our own efforts and to indulge ourselves via consumerism. This would definitely make it easy to be selfish, right?

Keeping this in mind, it doesn’t surprise me that in order to be thankful for things before they disappear—in other words, taking the focus off ourselves to think about others—we would have to consciously fight to be selfless in a selfish society.

So I guess we just have to accept the fact that many (not all, but many!) people don’t automatically and always notice what exists and what blessings abound around them. I guess to accept this allows the next step to be taken: active appreciation. I guess instead of deploring about how selfish I have been, I ought to start working at becoming selfless.

Let me start now: I am so thankful for all of you—my readers. You are wonderful to me. I am so happy that you have taken some of your time to read this. I hope that I have left something positive for you to ponder. 

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