Need a little help with your gratitude practice? I look to Kat Ast as my guide

There’s a lot of talk about the importance of practicing gratitude – as a pathway to happiness, as a ladder out of depression.

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If you’ve heard about it, but are wondering how exactly to execute gratitude here, may I suggest trying writing a list? Take a peek at Kathryn Ast’s second to last post, from her instagram takeover over Christmas, where she shares:

Top 10 Reasons Why Living at BC Children’s Hospital Ain’t So Bad:

1.We get to spend tons of QT together (24/7 family bonding) 👪
2.You are forced to live in the present (forget making any plans)
3.You get to meet rad superheroes! (aka. bad ass kiddos!)
4.You get to meet medical professionals who truly care
5.You get to experience acts of kindness on the reg (ex. beautiful gifted quilts, meals, volunteers)
6.It’s brand spanking new! Thank you Teck Acute Care Centre!
7.The views from the 8th floor oncology penthouse 👌
8.Room service for Bo!  Fish sticks and spaghetti are his faves. 🍝
9.Towels and sheets laundry? Done ✅
10.Morphine for teething 😁 (come on Bo!  he only has 6 teeth)

Bright sides. All you have to do is look for them. Sometimes, that little bit of glimmer will be enough to get you through. Until the sun comes out again.

Things I am grateful for?

Well, that begins with Kat being willing to share a week in her family’s life, as their 1 year old undergoes treatment for Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

After Christmas, Bo had his 3rd round of chemotherapy, and they’ll be in the hospital or at Ronald McDonald House until Bo’s counts are back up after round 4 of chemotherapy. It’s still a long haul – likely this little displaced family won’t be home to Pemberton until May.

I am grateful to Kat for sharing their experiences through the week. My instinct, I think, when faced with tough times, would be to pull the curtains close. To go dark. To not let anyone see. Brave face it and keep quiet. Kat’s willingness to open the curtains and let the light in meant that we are not just left with our dark imagination to fill in the blanks. To see glimpses of this family in action – the realness, the hugs, the silly games, the joy, the love, the late-night scary fever, Bo’s criminally cute face – helped me take the unimaginable (“I can’t imagine what I would do if…”) and imagine myself right there with them (“well, of course, we’d hug and cuddle and sigh and play games and argue with each other, kind of like we do now…”).

That kind of imagining is so powerful. It’s better than pity, which builds distance between people.  It’s the roots of real compassion and empathy.

That Kat shared this week-long experience helps me stand a bit closer to one of my darkest fears – that something might happen to my boy – and instead of wanting to keep that at bay (with a nice donation, and a sigh and a “poor them”), it makes me want to pull these neighbours close and try to imagine, practically, what they might need, what might perk up their spirits or sustain them, how can I stand at their shoulders along with all the other people who love them and try and keep them sheltered from the howl of the winds and the midnight storms, so they can focus in on what they need.

Gratitude, on its own, can have a dark side. If we just sit in our warm houses, with our piles of Christmas gifts and leftovers, and our good health, thinking, wow, I’m grateful for all this, and then we stop there, it’s really just about calcifying privilege, isn’t it?

Deep appreciation is a beautiful thing to cultivate.

But the thing that has been nudging me, of late, when I think about gratitude and all I have to be thankful for, is that this needs to lead to action. It needs to move out into the world.

I think, if gratitude becomes a source of energy that helps push our best work and initiatives out into the world, if the work we do comes from a place of gratitude, then it will be generous and impactful.

How exactly?

Workshopping this. Any thoughts or responses most welcome.


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