Slices of Life: Riding the gratitude train

If we want to make our own gratitude a habit, perhaps we’d benefit from practice.

Jill Pertler
Jill Pertler

I have much to be thankful for. I am a strong advocate and overall supporter of thankfulness. When the kids were younger we even had a gratitude wall in our kitchen where we listed the many things we had to be grateful for — things we call blessings. I believe thankfulness should be a part of each day. This is the season of giving thanks. I am a proponent.

A columnist might even be expected to write about gratitude this time of year. But what happens if you’re just not feeling it?

I have a confession: This is the situation I found myself in this Thanksgiving. I just wasn’t feeling it. I had no reason for my glass half empty attitude. Things were going well.

The kids hadn’t broken anything major recently — no car crashes or broken bones. My husband and I were in a happy groove. Our goldfish appeared content. Even the cat seemed happy. Life was good.

It should have been. But something about me was off-kilter. I found myself pulling the turkey out of the oven. We sat down to a wonderful meal. Everyone had plenty to eat. We were all together. And I should have been exploding with gratitude. Instead I fizzled.


It wasn’t coming naturally, like it usually does. It’s embarrassing to admit — not feeling grateful when there is so much to be thankful for.

I’d been riding along smoothly, when inexplicably I fell off the gratitude train. There was no good reason for my lack of balance. Nothing pushed me off. I guess I wasn’t paying attention and just fell. When I realized my predicament, I knew exactly what I should do.

Get the heck up and get back on.

Gratitude is a choice. Sometimes — most times — it comes easily for me. Like breathing. I am thankful for that. I see gratitude in the everyday and the mundane. But I also believe it is my choice. To see beauty — or not. To choose gratitude — or not.

Some days it’s easier than others: to see the mostly clean carpet and ignore the stains. Other days, the stains seem glaring and it’s hard to be grateful for stains. I suppose it’s difficult to be grateful 100% of the time. We’re only human — me included.

So when the glass seems half-empty maybe we simply have to practice redefining it and call it half-full. Habits build with time. Gradually, and if we practice positivity over and over and over it just might become a habit.

Many of us spend a significant amount of time practicing various life interests: sports, hobbies, education. Maybe we should see gratitude in the same light. Maybe we need to practice that, too.

It’s politically correct, this time of year, to be grateful. I suppose it’s PC all year long, but we’re more focused on it during the holidays and one day in November in particular. But if we want to make our own gratitude a habit — something as much a part of us as breathing — perhaps we’d benefit from practice.


And when we do fall off the train, and find the glass looking more empty than full, maybe we get back up, take a refreshing sip from said glass and realize we aren’t alone. Just about everyone falls off the gratitude train at one time or another.

What we do next is what defines us.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Katie Rohman has served as the managing editor of the Duluth News Tribune since 2019. She started with Duluth Media Group in 2017 as regional editor of the Superior Telegram, Pine Journal, Lake County News-Chronicle, Eastern Observer and Western Weekly. She has worked in newspapers around the Midwest since 2004.
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