For a period of time, the boys at my Junior High School called me Banjo. It was my orthodontist’s fault.
In an evil attempt to ruin my 14-year-old life, he doomed me to wearing rubber bands on my braces. It was a complicated system where elastics were fastened from molars to canines, and vice versa, criss-crossing in every direction until they formed a web of plastic inside my mouth. Sometimes when I spoke, I could hear the rubber bands twang. Apparently the boys could too.
Fixing my crooked teeth required not only two rounds of braces, but surgeries, teeth pullings and the installation of a medieval metal contraption on the roof of my mouth that had to be cranked with a key. For this reason (and because of that whole “Banjo” thing), the day I got my braces was one of the best of my life.
I remember coming home from the orthodontist, for the last time ever, and marveling at how slippery my teeth were and how white they suddenly seemed. In my naive, adorable prayer that night, I promised God I would never go another day without thanking him that I didn’t have to wear braces anymore.
It was well-intentioned. And I think I kept it up for a little bit. But as you may have guessed, today’s morning prayer did not include a “thanks” for never having to wear braces again.
I am always forgetting to be grateful. It’s November 19th, and I only just now remembered that I was supposed to be grateful this month.
In years past, I’ve tried to do this ritual where I write down as many things I am grateful for as the calendar date, i.e. on November 1st, I write one thing, on the 2nd I write two, so on and so forth. By the end of the month, I will ostensibly have 465 documented things I am grateful for–evidence of a good life whenever I need a reminder in the coming year.
But this year, the month of November has been full of turmoil — within my soul, my country, and throughout the globe, and In the midst of it all I have forgotten to be grateful.
Isn’t that always the way it goes though?
Gratitude is a funny thing. It’s so simple that we often forget to practice it. We spend our time and energy trying to figure out what’s wrong, fighting against the chaos, wishing for the day we will stumble upon happy, turmoil-free lives. (Spoiler alert: those don’t exist)
And on days that are just bad, on days we feel hopeless, on days we struggle to feel like we’re moving in the right direction or anywhere at all, we sometimes suffer from bouts of “what’s-the-point-itis.” I do, at least.
But finding consistent happiness — not the distant, seemingly unachievable, “one day” kind — stems from a simple act: be grateful. We have to be grateful. It’s just the only way to be happy.
And the best part is, it’s up to us. Because being grateful is a choice.
I don’t know what choosing gratitude looks like for you. Maybe it’s praying or doing service or saying “thank you” more. Maybe it’s donating millions of dollars anonymously to various charities, or maybe it’s doing the dishes for your mom without being asked. Each of us has to work out how we will exercise the practice of gratitude.
But for me, in November, practicing gratitude means writing down what I have. Those things that make my life happier – no matter how small.
So I have decided to claim “better late than never” and start today.
Today, I don’t have braces! I don’t have rubber bands twanging when I speak or wires cutting up my mouth. Today, no one called me Banjo.
I’m gonna go think of 18 more things.
Happy November, everyone! In case (like me) you forgot.