What an Unusual Roommate Taught Me About Pathological Gratitude

There was a summer in my life where I shared a house with a US Senate candidate. I learned a lesson from him that I think about at least once a week – pay attention to and be grateful for the little things.

He was running for office with all that he had.  Over the course of the summer, it was also becoming apparent that he was going to lose. I observed this man who was watching his dream slip away filled not with bitterness, resentment, and disappointment but with gratitude, joy, and deep appreciation. It was borderline pathological, and it was awesome.

He was away from his family campaigning. He was physically exhausting himself campaigning during the day, often doing 2 parades a day running back and forth shaking hands in the summer heat all across the state. He spent evenings getting turned down in call after call to donors asking for funds to just survive against his millionaire opponents. He was trying to boost morale with campaign volunteers who were watching the polling get worse and worse over the summer.

Most days ended at 10pm with a call to his wife, a bologna sandwich, and a glass of the cheapest wine I’ve ever seen in my life. That’s when he would sit back and be giddy with gratitude. Rather than lament his losing, he would be giddy about just having the opportunity to run. He would go on and on about all the people he got the privilege to shake hands with that day. He would focus on how blessed he was to have people volunteering to work so hard in support of him. He would delight in his cheap glass of wine and savor each sip.

This gratitude didn’t make any sense to me. It seemed so inconsistent with the reality of what I saw him experiencing. It seemed to me at the time to be almost pathological – which is what made it so great. I learned that summer to be grateful. I learned to seek out things in my life to be grateful for rather than wait for things to happen to me and then be grateful. I learned to notice those moments, slow them down, and breathe them in fully – sunsets, the beauty of falling snow, savoring a meal, how beautiful my partner looks at breakfast, sunshine, learning something new, a song that just hits the mood perfectly, the joy of rooting for my team even when they lose, and much more.

It is a great lesson. I am grateful for the learning and the teacher.

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