Gratitude is a favorite subject of mine, something I always feel I can speak about. I may have mentioned before on this blog that every day I post something I’m grateful for on Twitter and Facebook with the #DailyGratitude hashtag.
My newest ebook (which would be great for young adults, by the way) is The Long, Steep Path: Everyday Inspiration from the Author of Pay It Forward, and it’s the first book-length creative nonfiction I’ve done. And it contains a whole section on gratitude, detailing how I got into posting about it daily, and what I’ve learned.
From the book: I set out to focus on a specific type of gratitude. Not because I already knew what was most important, but because I didn’t want to seem braggy. I might think, I’m glad I own my home instead of renting, or, I’m glad I’m published as an author, but I would never use those for my #DailyGratitude. Because I didn’t want people to react by thinking, Sure, I’d be grateful too if I had that. (Not that I have a lot. Just that I have a lot compared to some. Almost everybody has a lot compared to some.) Instead I looked for the kind of gratitude that almost anyone can find. The kind that just involves shifting my focus—looking and listening in a different way.
And then, after a lot of specifics and examples: Here’s what I learned from my Daily Gratitude: the blessings I decided to focus on just coincidentally happen to be the ones that really matter. In the great scheme of life, it’s not about whether I own or rent, whether I’m published or not published. What matters is the way the birds sing at dawn, and the amazing way the clouds are painted on the sky.
But for this post, I feel I want to pick one thing that really stands out to me. And yet I still want it to be in the category of the ones that matter.
So, here goes:
The week before Christmas, I searched three animal shelters with the idea of possibly adopting a kitty. It was a huge gamble, because I’ve had my little dog, Ella, for 6 ½ years, and she’d never lived with a cat. The following day I crossed my fingers and brought home Jordan, a 5 ½ month old jet black shorthair with beautiful green eyes and a sweet disposition.
For three days he hid under the dresser in the front bedroom, his “safe room,” with the door closed. I never saw him come out, but the food and water were lower in the morning, the litter box used. Then he spent the rest of his first two weeks here with the door to his room open but blocked by a baby gate to keep the dog out. They considered each other from opposite sides of the mesh.
On New Year’s Day, I took the dog into his room on leash. Nothing happened, so I put the leash down. Still nothing went wrong (and the cat was trying to catch the end of the leash with his claws) so I took the leash off.
They’ve been together since. An occasional half-hearted swat has been countered with an occasional half-hearted chase, but it’s so obvious that they mean each other no harm that I’m mostly letting them work it out between themselves. And they are indeed working it out.
Jordan lies on his side on the rug in the sun next to Ella. Then he rolls over and looks at her upside down, with a look of utter love in his eyes. He tries to rub up against the dog, but she has no idea how he means that, so she takes one step back. She sniffs the cat’s butt and he doesn’t care in the slightest. The newest thing is that I’ll hear Jordan meowing in his tiny, plaintive voice, obviously needing some attention, but when I go check, I find he’s not talking to me. He’s talking to Ella.
So that’s my big gratitude for the New Year. My dog and my cat get along. What could be more important than a harmonious household?
I struggled with the decision to adopt, because I knew it would disrupt Ella’s life, and that she might hate the change. But I ultimately decided that my goal is to have the most fulfilling life I can have, not the easiest. And I had to apply the same logic to what I want for my dog. Who, by the way, finds it a lot more interesting to have another animal in the house. And, watching her, I have to say I think she likes the cat and is enjoying the new member of the family.
And for that I am grateful.