Recently, I was in the checkout line at the grocery store when I noticed the cover of the latest Real Simple Magazine.
What especially caught my eye was the circled blurb on the side of the cover: “feel grateful now,” it lures. “12 ways to live in the moment,” the promise continues.
I burst out laughing. Heads turned. But really, what a truly absurd marketing strategy. Who is hooked by the commercialization of gratitude? Are we Americans really so out of touch with slow practices of gratitude that we think our hollow inconsiderateness can be fixed in a few steps? Are we so consumeristic that we think we can buy our way to inner serenity at the newsstand? Are we really so out of touch with our souls?
The demand to feel grateful immediately is not a way to cultivate gratitude. Gratitude is a slow noticing, it is a practiced living into the moment, is recognition of desire for exactly what is present. GK Chesterton wrote that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. Henry Van Dyke said that gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. There are many ways to describe gratitude and its working within our beings, but none of its descriptions have a sense that it’s something you can demand, instantly. An old Seinfeld episode loops through my head, slightly altered: everyone is screaming “Gratitude now!”
Gratitude can’t fall under the category of instant gratification and can’t be bought because accumulating is fundamentally at odds with gratitude. When you are grateful, you measure your hearts desires with your life and surroundings and find that they match. There is no need to add more when you are grateful for what you have. The wish for more—whether “more” is a shiny magazine,or the promise of gratitude itself—the wish for more is what murders gratitude.
My first step to feeling grateful in this moment: recognizing that my both my bookshelf and my life are whole without a quick-fix magazine.