I used to be a waste of space. Each day ran into the next, and they were all worthless and futile. As I look back on those days, it’s hard to believe that some of those things actually happened. From time to time, I am presented with a very real and vivid reminder that my former life was real. It all comes back to me when I need to obtain a travel permit from my probation officer. The trip through security at the courthouse brings it home. 

I spent many years out there on the edge. Eventually I wound up homeless and injecting unknown quantities of drugs each day. I drank without cessation and smoked 2 packs of cigarettes a day. This consumption occurred without a legitimate source of income. I couldn’t hold a job. I resorted to a life of crime and found myself  in constant contact with the law. I was the most miserable person you could imagine–trapped in an unending negative feedback loop.

prison-bars-300x183I spent 12 months in prison.  It was the best and worst thing that ever happened to me. When you spend that much time confined you learn a great deal about yourself. In prison you are stripped of everything. Your freedom is gone. I discovered  how many things I had taken for granted. I remember thinking how nice it would be to sit on grass, under a tree, outside. There are a multitude of simple things we take for granted: the ability to drive, eat ice cream, interact with a woman, or walk to the grocery store. Events and scenarios I never really thought too much about until I was confined in an environment of unending concrete, and barbed wire. There are so many things we dont appreciate. 

I have become sensitive to the air of entitlement my fellow Americans carry with them wherever they go. We conduct ourselves as though we are deserving. We have become a country focused on the pursuit and acquisition of “things”. We are a nation built upon the notion of success. Too often we define our success according to how many “things” we possess.  Consumption: a bigger house, a nicer car, a  trendy purse…the list goes on. It’s a sickness, we are sick. I too, am guilty of this from time to time: I want to be faster,  I think I need a new car, or more money. It seems as though I am never content with the perfect life I have constructed from less than nothing.

Yet, when I look back and reflect on those rough times I realize that I’ve got it all. I always have enough cash in my pocket. I have a roof over my head, and a warm bed to sleep in. I never go hungry, and most days I feel pretty healthy. I have a job that I love, I make my own hours and I come and go as I please. I have a wonderful family and great friends. I have a gorgeous and brilliant girlfriend. I am grateful for my life  just the way it  is. I should have died many times over. Somehow I made it though. When I was released from prison I had nothing. Now I have everything I could ever want. If I die tomorrow, I die a lucky man. 

imagesCA1Z4VG71According to the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness conducted at U.C. Davis, people who kept a gratitude journal exercised more regularly and were healthier, and more optimistic about their lives than those who recorded daily events in a neutral tone. 

We become what we think about. We are a product of our thoughts, beliefs and attitudes. Imagine the positive impact that gratitude could have on your life if you took the time to ask: “what are 4 things I am grateful for today?” We are lucky to be on this side of the grass. Sometimes life is bitter, mostly it is sweet, but surely it is what we make of it.

Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy – because we will always want to have something else or something more.”
- David Steindl-Ranst

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