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  • Writer's pictureJH

Gratitude is medicine

You know, life is pretty clever sometimes.

If you pay attention, if you’re open to the clues, there are messages everywhere that can be instructive, uplifting, and comforting. I received one of those messages on the weekend. It was more of a reminder, really, but it was still timely and powerful and I’m glad I was open enough to receive it.

I was at Tim Horton’s, trying to roll up the rim on a new car, when The Final Countdown by Europe came on the Muzak. It reminded me of a particular night on the first Sarah Smith European tour in 2017. We were in Berlin, Germany, and the whole band was varying degrees of sick. We’d had to cancel a couple of shows because Sarah’s voice was gone. The rest of us were beat down and weary, fighting a remorseless virus that dogged us through the entire tour and beyond.

Anyway, on the night in question, Sarah roused herself from a borderline coma and our good friend Geoff took us out to a wonderful Thai restaurant in the city. We were joined by a beautiful and charming dancer from Russia called Kateryna, who was at one time the spouse of one of Europe’s guitar players. It was a cool six-degrees-of-separation thing and one of the many neat little stories you accumulate on the road.

I told my wife the Kateryna story as we were waiting in line and the memory made me smile. We’ve done two Euro tours now, and while the novelty certainly hasn’t worn off, it’s amazing how quickly these things can become normal. Telling that story made me step back and look objectively at all of those experiences. Playing shows in Berlin and Hamburg and Vienna and so many gorgeous little cities in Germany and the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. Meeting people. Seeing things. Having the extremely rare and fortunate privilege of being on the road not just in Europe, but in Canada and the United States.

How lucky am I?

Honestly, how freakin’ lucky?

Man, you forget sometimes. You forget because it’s cold outside and the days are short. You forget because someone else got the gig. You forget when the opportunities don’t seem to be there. You forget because the accolades your ego wants don’t seem to be forthcoming. You forget because you’re afraid. You forget because you have the sniffles. You forget because that promotion didn’t come. You forget because the business didn’t work. You forget because your back hurts. You forget because you broke up. You forget because your team didn’t win. You forget, you forget, you forget.

I forget all the time.

So it was nice to be reminded just how good I’ve had it. If music ended for me tomorrow, if I packed it in or for whatever reason I just couldn’t pursue it anymore, could I complain? I’ve been given opportunities to do incredible things with very talented musicians. I’m grateful. I’ve recorded great songs and made videos. I’m grateful. I was able to turn the first tour blog into a book. I’m grateful. I'm nobody from nowhere and I've been able to play big stages. I'm grateful. I’ve met many of the most important people in my life, who will remain the most important people whether I play music or not. I’m grateful.

And that gratitude opens up all of the other gratitudes* that are there to be acknowledged and appreciated. My marriage of nearly 22 years. My home. My health. My cats. My friends. My family. My potential. Gratitude is medicine, and if you’re feeling stressed or anxious or frustrated or like things aren’t happening quickly enough, I prescribe a healthy dose of it, taken liberally and with intent (I know, I know – physician, health thyself).

None of this means that life isn’t hard sometimes. As I was typing this, I saw the news that Luke Perry had a stroke and died at 52. I know other people who are sick. Others who have suffered loss. Others who struggle with mental health. Gratitude doesn’t ignore those things, but it does change your perspective, and wiser people than me would say being grateful for what you have is what moves the universe to give you more.

So if you’re struggling today, try to be grateful. Be grateful for your happy memories. Be grateful for your people. Be grateful for your cat (even the scrawny kitten that won’t stay off the kitchen counter). If you have a job, be grateful for that, even if you hate it. If you have a roof, be grateful for that. No, it’s not always easy, but I’m pretty sure it always helps.

And if you’re feeling grateful for something extra special, let me know what it is!

* No, "gratitudes" isn’t a real word, but I like it, so I’m keeping it.

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