Dani Shapiro
November 24, 2010

On Gratitude

You’d think gratitude wouldn’t have a place in a blog about writing.  We writers are notorious ingrates.  Nothing we do is ever good enough, and there isn’t a word anyone can say to change that.  We don’t believe accolades.  We turn a deaf ear to praise.  We feel stricken, most of the time, by this compulsion to set words down on the page.  A friend recently reminded me: writing isn’t a career, it’s an affliction.

And yet.  Within this affliction, there is so much to be grateful for.  I’ve spent so many years now alone at my desk, or curled up in my chair with a notebook on my lap.  I’ve spent so many years now, in silence.  It’s easy to forget that the world is full of people who don’t love what they do.  That loving what we do is one of life’s greatest gifts.  Sure, it’s a tortured gift.  How could it not be?  I almost never feel I’m getting it right.  I am like Penelope, weaving, unraveling.  Weaving, unraveling.  Eventually, something emerges, something takes shape that–if not up to my ideals of perfection–at least I can live with.  I live an examined life.  Sometimes I think the examined life is overrated, but in truth, there comes a point at which every life faces some sort of reckoning.  I think nearly every day of Buddhism’s Eight Vicissitudes: pain and pleasure, loss and gain, praise and blame, fame and disrepute. All lives contain all of these, the teaching goes.  All lives.  At one point or another.  None of us is spared.  So why not think about it?

I could wish that life was easier, that our financial lives were less precarious, that I didn’t have a deadline Thanksgiving week.  I could wish that I had some idea of what the future holds, the way some of my friends with regular jobs (or “job-jobs” as my writer friends and I call them) do.  Sometimes I wish it were a bit less of a high wire act.  But deep down I know that I wouldn’t really want it any other way.  As a Rabbi friend of mine recently wrote to me: we can think of the glass as half empty or half full — or we can just envision a smaller glass.