January 2018 Gratitude Log

Near the end of 2017, I read a New York Times article that said the best way to cultivate self-control was gratitude. To give you an idea of how long this has been an area where I have needed work, I still remember the humiliating moment when my fourth grade teacher made me go up to her desk in front of my entire class and check the “needs improvement” box next to the “self-control” metric on my quarterly report card. Plus, what better way to work toward my goals than to work on my ability to work toward goals? As one of my resolutions for 2018, I committed to keeping a daily gratitude log.

Every day, I take a couple of minutes to reflect on my day and record at least five things I feel grateful for. Some days, this is easy; other days, it takes real mental gymnastics to come up with anything at all. It’s on those days that I’m especially grateful for this exercise, which, regardless of what it ends up doing for my self-control, I hope will make me a kinder person.

Each month, I plan to share an excerpt from my gratitude log here, one item per day. Here’s January:

01: Soft, warm covers and a nightgown that makes me feel like a princess.

02: If we were going to forget about a dozen hard-boiled eggs and leave them sitting out all day, at least they were unpeeled and it was a cold enough day that they were unlikely to spoil.

03: The return of The Amazing Race.

04: The bomb cyclone was not a cyclone of literal bombs set off by Trump and North Korea.

05: Rebecca reached out in response to my blog post and recommended a book about highly sensitive people that seems like it might be really helpful for me.

06: Well-written and well-imagined fanfiction for escapism.

07: The really long and excellent back rub Lawrence gave me today.

08: Well-timed traffic lights that let me get from home to the museum via the library in under 40 minutes.

09: Afternoon light.

10: A fridge full of delicious food from Chinatown.

11: Oranges.

12: The new parka I ordered for Lawrence fits him.

13: Hawaii was not in fact attacked by a ballistic missile, despite the false alarm.

14: My guild hall has a very functional snow ramp system now.

15: Cuddling on the bed with Lawrence and our stuffed elephants for family movie night.

16: We managed to buy Hamilton tickets for September.

17: Having sushi for the first time in four months.

18: My ability to deal with the disappointment of the package room closing early more calmly than the man I found there screaming furiously at the door and any passerby who would listen.

19: Two-factor authentication.

20: We survived one full year of President Trump.

21: Apart from some delays, our monthly walk went well: the route was interesting enough, the weather was pleasant, and we found a well-located diner with generous portions for lunch.

22: I was able to simplify my daily cleaning routine using advice from the time management book.

23: The wide sweeps of color streaking the winter sky after rain.

24: We finally made some progress on our thank you cards.

25: My group trip planning spreadsheet idea worked well, and I even got to play with conditional formatting.

26: That first hug with Lawrence after he gets home.

27: I finally found someone to take the last spot for tomorrow’s escape room.

28: A fun and hilarious conversation about the performance art of Tehching Hsieh.

29: The maintenance team that knocked on our door at 11pm because our downstairs neighbor reported water leaking from their ceiling didn’t find any problems in our apartment.

30: Mom brought us home-cooked turkey and tasty Icelandic chocolate.

31: The techniques from the time management book helped me figure out that I was feeling stressed because I had planned 22 hours of to-dos between noon and midnight and adjust accordingly.


Gratitude, China Edition

We’re home! We got back late last night after about 25.5 hours of travel from door-to-door. It’s a 12-hour time zone change, and my body feels confused and disoriented. (What time is it? And also, what is time?) Nevertheless, I’m immensely grateful for having been able to take this trip, and I’m also so grateful to be back in my familiar, comfortable American life. I wasn’t able to keep up with this blog while I was away as much as I’d hoped (to say nothing of my poor, neglected travel journal), but I will share more about our travels in China soon. For now, though, it feels good to start with gratitude.

Things I’m grateful for from our three weeks in China:

  • the privilege of having the time, resources, and opportunity to travel internationally for three consecutive weeks
  • the technology of flight: it still astonishes me every time that I can sit in a metal capsule 40000 feet in the air, plunging through space at 600mph for more than 13 hours, and land safely on the other side of the world
  • the experience of having an extended family nearby, full of interconnections, rather than only my small, isolated nuclear family
  • the opportunity to introduce Lawrence to my extended family, including all four of my grandparents, and to important landmarks from my early childhood
  • being able to meet my cousin’s infant daughter, born while we were in China, before she was a week old
  • that the presents I had painstakingly selected for everyone were well-received
  • having a partner with me with whom I could share the experience of this trip
  • having enough language skills to manage basic communication and translation
  • people and translation apps to help with the rest
  • a body that held up through exhausting back-to-back-to-back-to-back days and managed to resist catching my mom’s cold despite extended close contact with her
  • my aunt and uncle being willing to host us for so long, and my uncle being willing to drive us all over Sichuan and accompany us to Xi’an and Beijing
  • discovering surprising new experiences even in places I’d previously visited
  • mountains
  • cable cars
  • pandas and the delightful, endearingly awkward way they wriggle around
  • an AirBnB only a few minutes’ walk away from Xi’an’s Muslim Quarter, where we ate dinner every night
  • high speed trains
  • huge breakfast buffets even at mid-range chain hotels
  • cheap and yummy groceries near our hotel in Beijing
  • cheap Didi rides
  • an international data plan and a VPN that allowed us to bypass the Great Firewall of China
  • well-labeled, bilingual subway systems
  • liquid yogurt in pouches
  • three weeks of not having to cook for myself
  • the sense of being surrounded by history everywhere I go, thousands of years of heritage as the same spaces have been used and reused in so many ways by so many generations

Things I’m grateful for about being back home:

  • clean drinking water straight from the faucet
  • cold drinking water that is actually cold rather than lukewarm
  • fresh, clean air to breathe
  • I can just hold my breath for a few seconds when walking past smokers on the streets without this strategy leading to asphyxiation
  • people actually refraining from smoking in places where smoking is not allowed
  • being able to read
  • being able to understand pretty much everything that’s being said to or around me
  • having the vocabulary to communicate my ideas
  • public restrooms that don’t involve squatting toilets
  • public restrooms that provide toilet paper
  • uncensored internet
  • fast internet
  • not having to aggressively push myself through crowds or to the fronts of lines
  • enough room on the subway that finding a seat feels normal rather than miraculous
  • the animals at petting zoos generally seem happy instead of sad
  • being able to talk about politics and social justice
  • not having to go through security every time I enter a subway station
  • not having to get a pat down every time I enter a train station
  • being able to breeze through customs with Global Entry and airport security with TSA Pre-Check
  • undeveloped land
  • my big, soft, comfortable bed
  • smoothies
  • bathtubs
  • easy access to cuisine from a wide range of cultures
  • being able to have introvert time again