I am usually focused on how to make things better. An attitude from my kid that could be better. A story at work that could use a better headline. A room in my house that would look better with new decor and furniture.
In other words, I’ve got a critical eye. It’s very helpful sometimes, especially when I can frame it as how we can get from good to great.
Expressing gratitude doesn’t come so naturally to me — not that I don’t feel it, just that it’s in the background. These are things already taken care of; they don’t need my attention.
Then again, studies show gratitude makes you happier, even healthier. Two experts, Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, studied people who counted their blessings and people who counted their grievances. The first group had better outcomes.
I’m not sure how healthy the Thanksgiving dinner is with its sweet potato souffle and pecan pie and cranberry sauce, but it turns out giving thanks is healthy. Here are a few of the things I’m thankful for.
- Coffee every morning.
- Neighborhood friends that my boys are growing up with and learning how to do life with, including learning social skills like how to get along and how to make up after a fight.
- Bicycles that get my boys where they want to go, along with allowing them to build confidence and independence.
- A basement where these boys and their friends can yell and blast music and pull each other on a scooter and then sling into a cushion against a wall. I am not thankful for these things if they’re happening upstairs.
- My new office in The Times’ building, in a room where the temperature isn’t always set on freezing.
- My mom, who always tries to help when I feel like I’m drowning as an adoptive parent.
- The ability to text message my parents and siblings, whether it’s a picture of my dinner or something silly the kids said.
- Dark chocolate with sea salt. Also, cheese. Basically any cheese.
- My husband, the only person who is right there with me in the struggle to parent our boys through all of their fears and anger. It can be messy, and we can take turns being the better parent and the struggling parent.
- My church, where I can bring my whole self to the conversation rather than quietly pretend to fall in line with doctrines that don’t make any sense given my experiences in life.
- Loud hopeful rock music, even if no one else has heard of my favorite bands.
- That moment when something appears so clearly and I’m able to move forward with more understanding and compassion. In other words, connection with God.
- Warm sunshine.
- My youngest, who is probably more empathetic than I will ever be. He’s also delightfully silly, loves to cook and sometimes makes up song lyrics.
- My oldest, who loves to create and throws all of himself into every fun thing. His enthusiasm can be contagious. He also loves to learn, especially about animals.
- Experiencing new food, whether it’s a new place or new dish in town or eating my way through local fare while on vacation.
- A home I can afford, which offers space and warmth.
- TV dramas that engage me in their storylines and take me somewhere else for a while.
- My dad, who’s always proud of me, even though he probably doesn’t understand what I really do now — I’m sure it was more fun to tell his friends his daughter is the editor of a newspaper. Also, I’ve never fully understood what he does. So, now we’re even.
- A new job that I love and room to grow and fail and keep trying.
- Co-workers who care about their work and our community. Also, the newsroom, which will always feel like home even if I moved offices.
- Reliable cars, a grocery store nearby and a good school for my kids.
- And, of course, you dear readers. Writing a column is one of the stranger experiences I’ve had as a journalist — sharing my life and having people care may always be kind of mind-blowing to me. Thanks for coming along for the ride, and especially to those of you who reach out and let me know when this column has meant something to you.
Shannon Casas is director of audience for Metro Market Media, parent company of The Times. She is a North Hall resident.