I often listen to something called alternative country music and a singer-songwriter named Ray Wylie Hubbard is a major player in the genre. Hubbard and many of his alternative country counterparts tell stories in song and they are often autobiographical.
In a song called Mother Blues Hubbard tells a story about his dissolute days and his journey to a bit of redemption. It is a classic tale, to be sure, but the closing is what I find totally arresting and profound:
And the days that I keep my gratitude
Higher than my expectations
Well, I have really good days
The searing simplicity and sheer power of that thought lifts my spirit. Especially when you are facing ongoing sadness gratitude seems awfully difficult to muster. And yet, there is so much to be grateful for even when we confront adversity. Yes, my wife is gone and I’d love to erase that reality but I had 39 wonderful, blessed years with her. My kids are fantastic. My friends bless me everyday with kindness and laughter and they accept me for what I am.
Our expectations do become outsized. We convince ourselves that our plan for our life is the must-have list of our demands when in fact, expectations are a form of arrogance. Why should we be allowed to escape sadness and pain? One of the prices we pay for having great joy, happiness and triumph is that sometimes the wheel turns against us and bad stuff happens.
I have a close friend who wakes up every morning with gratitude. Rather than complaining about aches and pains and the slights from yesterday the key is to be grateful for everything from waking up, to the sunshine to all the special gifts that will grace your day.
Ray Wylie Hubbard had it right. Those expectations will make you greedy, disagreeable and will always lead to a letdown. Gratitude will make for really good days.