The Gratitude List
Depression aside, I think I'm a pretty positive person. I don't like complaining, and I try not to project negativity out into the world.
This can be difficult when things aren't going well, or when I'm feeling particularly down about something in particular or just in general.
As cheesy at it sounds, at times like those I've found it really helpful to make a list of things I'm grateful for.
For example, a few years ago, a book I'd written was up for an award. I've been lucky enough to have been nominated for a few awards in my career, but I've never won anything, and I've never felt particularly like I had much of a chance.
It's an honour to be nominated for these things, truly, and usually that satisfies me.
But this one, I believed I had a shot at it. I dressed up for the awards ceremony and sat with my agent and panicked about what I would say when I did win.
Spoiler alert, I didn't win. And for some reason, I was super disappointed, and I carried that disappointment with me for a few days.
(I don't think there's anything wrong with feeling disappointment; I just hate dwelling on stuff like that for very long.)
In order to help myself move forward, I made a list of things I was grateful for about that weekend where I hadn't won the award.
I'd got to visit New Orleans, for instance, and hang out with my agent and a bunch of good friends I only see once or twice a year.
My buddy Chris Holm actually did win an award that night, as did my friend Joelle Charbonneau. Both are wonderful people and super deserving of recognition.
I met a number of readers and fellow writers and industry types who were clearly thrilled to see me, who cared about me as a person and made me feel like I had value in their lives.
And finally, my brother and his wife had their first baby! I was an uncle!
The gratitude list really worked. I tried to focus my mind on being happy for my friends and loved ones who'd experienced success and milestones in their lives, and to remind myself how good I actually have it, in every way.
Another, more challenging example came in February of 2017, when my Jeep broke down in the middle of the mountains on a drive from Calgary to Vancouver.
I'd literally just spent a thousand dollars at a dealership in Calgary to have the vehicle looked at, and the part that failed was a part that the dealership assured me wouldn't break down and leave me stranded in the mountains.
I was pissed. I was stressed. And even more so when the dealership told me to kick rocks and they weren't going to cover any of the costs of anything that had gone wrong, nor the additional $1500 in repairs it would take to actually fix the Jeep.
(For the sake of SEO, I'm just going to say it: Don't ever, ever do business with Crowfoot Dodge in Calgary. They're sleazy as fuck.)
Anyway, I was mentally not in a good place, and I was unloading pretty heavily on friends and family and on social media.
I was grateful for the fact that the Jeep had died only about a hundred miles from my home, and close enough to civilization that I wasn't completely alone in the mountains.
I was grateful that the weather was decent. Rainy, but decent.
I was grateful there was still a little light left in the day when it happened, and I was grateful I was able to limp the Jeep to a nearby gas station before it died completely.
I was grateful for the many passersby who asked if I needed help, for the man who tried in vain to give me a jump start, and especially for my dad, who was working when I called him, but who set aside his tasks to talk me through troubleshooting and strategizing and just basically talking me down off the ledge.
I was grateful for the tow truck driver, who was pleasant and professional and had plenty of good stories to tell as he towed me into a nearby city.
I was grateful for the desk staff at the Comfort Inn in Chilliwack, BC, who after hearing I was stranded upgraded my room and discounted my rate with no hesitation.
I was grateful for the cold beer, hot meal and delicious "panookie"dessert I ate at the Boston Pizza that night.
I was grateful for the mechanics at Canadian Tire in Chilliwack, who saw the Jeep first thing the next morning and at least got it running again, and who charged me the bare minimum for their time.
I was grateful I had the resources for a tow truck, a hotel and a repair job, and that I hadn't had to camp in the wilderness.
I was grateful the Jeep made it back to my apartment the next day before dying again.
I was grateful to find a mechanic in Vancouver who could pinpoint the problem.
I was grateful to my dad for a heck of a lot.
And ultimately, I was grateful that when all was said and done, I would never have to drive a Jeep product again.
Life could have been worse, in so many ways. My vehicle broke down, and it was stressful and scary and financially a huge kick in the teeth, but I could stand it.
I could look at the good that had come out of it.
And by focusing on the good stuff, and the things that had gone right, I released myself from the anger I was carrying with me and the feeling of being wronged, and set about working to make things better, make things right.
I have so many things to be grateful for. Sometimes, it pays to just write them all down.