Gratitude is not the same thing as happiness. Happiness is the sweet layer on top, the moments that comes with icing and sprinkles. But gratitude is something more. A wisdom that exists far below the surface, in the darker places, the places excavated by deep dives and less oxygen. Gratitude cannot be turned on like a light switch, nor is it meant to be a quick fix. It can't be "taught" to children, nor is it an ideal that can be used to incur shame. Gratitude is not a consolation prize. Gratitude is not a "fake it until you make it" or an “act as if” practice. Authentic gratitude, the kind that stirs like a rumble from deep within our core, is showing up to truth in a way that does not circumvent pain, replace loss, or negate the everyday existence of grief.
In a world where terrible things happen hourly, when things can suck at anytime, when grieving loss is a part of every single day of our lives, gratitude is not a cure all. It can be a life preserver, but it doesn't fix anything. Sometimes it comes easy, sometimes it doesn't come at all. The truth is, gratitude is usually found in the things that never last, the impermanent things, the things we get to hold for brief, savory moments, moments lined with the wisdom of knowing we'll eventually need to let it all go. Some might argue that it's only when we lose these things, that we begin to learn what gratitude really is.
By walking through challenge, by fumbling around lost in the dark, by losing the ones we love, by enduring pain, by knowing grief will never disappear, by living with unfairness and witnessing injustice, through anger, through doing the hard work of keeping it together, or falling apart, through surrender and forgiveness, only then do we get to know wisdom, only then do we get to know what it is we truly live for, only then do we get to feel gratitude at layers deep within our soul. Through these layers, through practice and presence, gratitude is an evolution of being, and a way of feeling, knowing we can never have it all, and finding love for something...everything, anyway.