Parenthetical

Originally published in San Diego Jewish Journal, October 2016 issue

By Natalie Jacobs

On page 69 of this magazine you’ll find a small story on a small-ish book called “The Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life.” Say what you will about self-help books (and in all honesty, I’ll probably agree with most of your snark) – but sometimes it is nice to have someone else’s voice in your head saying, “you have the power to persevere if only you do these simple things” (never mind the fact that if you take the self-help genre as a whole you’ll end up with somewhere near 1.3 billion “simple things” you should be doing to improve your life). Still, one New Year’s Eve a few years ago, journalist Janice Kaplan had an interesting idea, and perhaps because she was writing a book on it, she stuck with that idea for a whole year. Every night of that year, she was going to write down three things that she was grateful for and in the process, she would learn how to turn lemons into lemonade, she would test the true power of positive thinking, she would…you get the idea, you’ve heard the clichés.

According to all the examples outlined in her nearly 300-page book (which her publishers will try to tell you is a memoir), finding, feeling and focusing on gratitude worked for her. She became a happier, healthier, more fully functioning human (who was already a best-selling author with a handsome doctor for a husband, an apartment in Manhattan and a house in Connecticut, and two successful adult male children but hey, always room for improvement, right?). (See, I’m with you on the snark train.)

Anyway, when I read a book I can’t help but ruminate on the text even if I find it easy to make fun of, so in the weeks that followed my time with “The Gratitude Diaries” I occasionally did say to myself “find gratitude” in all manner of situations (my yoga instructor would be so proud). I won’t write a book about it, but it did make me feel better. Especially when I got some news that bruised my ego.

A couple months ago I was invited to run for a seat on the Board of the San Diego Press Club. I was flattered and sent in my candidate statement right away. Elections rolled around and I went through a mental list of every Press Club member I knew. I came up with three, so I had an inkling the end might be near. But I rattled off what I hoped were presidential-sounding emails soliciting support. “I’m running for a seat on the Press Club Board and I’d really appreciate your vote!” or something like that. A week or so later, the votes were in and I didn’t make the cut.

First, I let myself feel sad and disappointed and, because I felt I deserved a little indulgence, I even went so far as to come up with a whole scenario where my very invitation to run was part of a broader scheme meant to stack the deck in someone else’s favor (maybe I’ll write a book about that!). But then, gratitude arrived and instead of closing the door and hollering “NO SOLICITING!” I let it in and we sat down for tea. Turns out, I’m not a total failure and I can still be good at my journalism job after suffering this defeat. I’m grateful for the invitation and the kind words that accompanied it. I’m grateful for the opportunity to present myself to a group of unknown colleagues. I’m grateful that I had the chance to contact some people I really respect, ask for their support, and receive it.

Didn’t someone once write in a book something about when one door closes another opens? Here’s to looking on the bright side.

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