Years ago, the fleet manager assigned a Chevy Lumina van to me for my work duties. It was a shabby car, and had essentially no muffler. I had to drive that thing about eight miles a day, which was about nine and half miles too many for me. The noise it made was truly miserable, making my head feel like an egg in a microwave. I drove it in that condition for months, hating the car — and life — a little more each day.
Then they fixed it.
I tell you, it was like being born again. I have never before or since had such a positive experience of the absence of something. Every day I would get in that car, turn over the engine, and bask in the mere normalcy of engine noise.
I had once a shower that could not hold its temperature. It fluctuated wildly from scalding to freezing. My showers were unusually long because I spent almost all the time fiddling with the valve, trying to avoid burns and hypothermia. I would think of the game fish I used to pull out of Lake Michigan and toss into a chest full of ice — or of the lobster I once tossed into a boiling kettle. I swore I’d never eat fish again. It was truly miserable.
Then they fixed it.
I now take long showers just to bask in the sheer comfort of it.
These object lessons have taught me the great secret of gratitude. I now look keenly for the normal thing in my day, the thing I am most likely to take for granted, and I try to truly relish it. Whatever they are serving in the cafeteria — though it may be mundane, or overcooked, or soggy — there will be something there to truly savor if I just look for it. Whatever the weather — though it may not be my favorite, nor perfectly compatible with my plans — I breathe it in deep, feel it on my skin, hear its sounds, appreciate the quality of light unique to each day.
I have learned this secret: to be content in all things, to appreciate every car with a working muffler, and to thank every fish personally as I eat it.