“Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” – That’s one of the most famous lines in Tennessee Williams play “A Streetcar Named Desire”. Blanche DuBois, the main character in the play, at the point of no return in her hopeless, deranged mental state, turns to the doctor, and accepting to be immobilized in a straitjacket, surrenders to her own fate uttering these enigmatic words.
Ever since I first read Williams’ play, Blanche’s sentence got stuck in my mind and I find myself repeating it in different situations. Gratitude – with a slight ironic twist that few can quite capture, unless I explain my humorous intentions – is the feeling that motivates me to quote and extract the juice and punch line spirit of this line. I know, of course, that Blanche was not acting from a place of gratitude, but rather a psychologically disturbed state that preyed on her targeted victims as a survival mechanism to fit her selfish motives and needs. It is, undoubtedly, a priceless literary closing line for her complex character, leaving the audience stuck in the web of a shattered mental chaos.
Now, back to how I use the sentence. Gratitude is one of the most powerful “potions” that we have at our disposal as we concoct our magical brew. The feeling of gratitude has to come from within, and then it enters and permeates all areas of our lives. When we feel gratitude, we are actually inviting the energy of abundance into our lives. There is enormous power in that.
Some may say that it is difficult at first to find things that one could be grateful for on a daily basis. It is not. Awareness is all that is needed. All we have to do is keep our senses open to everything surrounding us and observe. All we need is to give us the opportunity to stop and experience the silence within our hearts and minds and experience the spectacle of life taking place right before our eyes at every moment.
A lot of people might think that we need a tremendously positive event in order for us to be able to experience the transforming energy of gratitude. We all have heard about the terms “chain reaction” and “snowball effect”, where the amount of energy initially released will grow exponentially as the system increases entropy. The same concept applies to our thoughts and actions. Everything starts with a minimum amount of energy released that will increase the levels of disorder and finally cause the system to collapse into itself generating another system that will generate other causes and effects and so on.
Our minds have the potential to influence the reality we experience and recreate our experiences accordingly. Our minds are constantly assessing situations and labeling them in order to feel safe and in control. We feel afraid to trust, surrender and let go, and we create friction. This happens every single day. The connection we seek lies in our release of control, in our complete letting go of expected outcomes.
Many people may wonder how we can feel grateful in the midst of suffering and pain. However, it is exactly in our suffering that gratitude is most needed and its energy releases the necessary push that will turn the situation around. I have seen example of this in my life and the lives of many others over and over again.
Every single day offers us plenty of opportunity for us to change our tunes and align ourselves with the beauty that surrounds us. We have all heard the saying “Stop and smell the flowers”, but few of us have actually put this into practice on a daily basis in those moments when that pause is the one element that will shift our focus and perspective. It is all relative.
When we are in the middle of a situation that falls far short of our expectations or desires we often experience resistance, frustration and anger. All these emotions disturb the natural flow of energy in our brains creating a cycle of unwanted similar emotions triggered by our conditioned inability to stay present and perceive the “flowers” around us that will give us the breathing space we need to approach the challenge that robbed us of our poise and peace. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but it is exactly how the system works in our lives.
It is a concession we make when we allot the time to breathe and notice elements present in our reality that draw our attention to its beauty and change our perspective towards love and acceptance. It is a choice we can make. We are not retreating from action. On the contrary, we are reshaping our thought processes so we can reassess our situations from a privileged angle.
Gratitude is an acknowledgement that there are plenty of things that we can be grateful for every single minute of our lives. When we are grateful we become present and we notice. We act from a place of love, not fear. When in the midst of chaos we notice the smile of a child, a flower, a rainbow, a tree, a random act of kindness, the sky or anything at all, we lift our hearts and minds higher than any experience we might be facing, and transformation takes place right before our eyes. Every time we do that we are winners travelling together, and we ride the streetcar of life in the right direction.