Thanksgiving, Mortality, and Gratitude

Camp Codger

04-12-2023 • 4 minutos

Thanksgiving, mortality, and gratitude come together during a thoughtful hike by Gary.

I’m 75 and occasionally I feel every day of my age. And, frankly, I have been feeling mortal more often lately. The day after Thanksgiving was one of those days. I was hiking up Sun Mountain, one of my favorite short but intense hikes. Three miles round-trip and a bit over 600 feet of elevation gain. Now, I don’t practice walking meditation—maybe I should since it might ease my monkey mind—so my head is usually spinning through a wide range of thoughts. It can be really refreshing for me since it’s a good break from being tied to my digital devices. During these mental ramblings, I often have these moments of clarity about something that’s been bugging me. Seldom real epiphanies, just a better understanding and clarity.

Mortality

That morning’s hike followed the usual pattern, but I found I couldn’t hold my normal hiking pace. “God, I’m getting old” was my first thought, and then I started down the slippery slope of “doomscrolling” through my mortality as I hiked. I began wondering how much longer I could do this short, steep hike. A couple of years? Until I’m 80? Maybe in a decade when I’m 85? Well, I thought, if I can do this at any pace when I’m 85, there’s hope. My mood was improving. A modest breakthrough—I’ll bet I can keep doing this hike for many more years! Perhaps my demise was not so imminent after all.

Gratitude

I then drifted off to another thought that had been floating around in my head that morning—gratitude. Yeah, I know—thoughts of mortality and gratitude are usually not closely aligned, but I was just following the meandering of my over-active mind. The previous night I had read an interesting article on being grateful and being happier. There’s solid research evidence that expressing gratitude increases happiness. Even the philosophers of ancient Rome understood the value of being grateful. However, gratitude is not a natural emotion for most humans. We’ve evolved to focus on being alert to things that might harm us. Being grateful takes work. It’s just like exercise. Once you decide to start, you need to be disciplined and stick with it.

Thanksgiving

Anyway, after wallowing around in thoughts of my mortality, I decided to practice expressing gratitude during the remainder of that hike. And I had a lot to be grateful for. I was healthy and strong enough for a short, strenuous, hike, the sun was shining, I was on a pretty trail, and when I got to the top, the view was stunning as usual. And I couldn’t forget that I had a wonderful wife waiting for me at home and great family and friends. I could even see my house from the top of Sun Mountain. Pretty cool! I’m a really lucky guy!

But what’s truly odd is that it took conscious effort for me to be grateful for my good fortune. My default thinking that day, after struggling a bit early during the hike, was to go to the dark side and obsess about my mortality. That’s clearly not how I want to spend my time, so I vowed to work on my sense of gratitude. Thanksgiving was a perfect time to start that practice. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

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