The Things We Take for Granted

Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Jorinde Berben

This morning, the power was turned off in our street for maintenance purposes. It made it clear, rather quickly, how much we depend on electricity in this house. It was dark, so I started looking for the little electric candle lights I use around the holidays. I had, of course, just before it turned off, opened the electric garage door so that it was now stuck. It took me a couple of hours to get the bright idea of going to youtube on my phone (thank God for batteries) and figure out how to close it manually. I couldn’t make coffee or tea, couldn’t turn on the radio or do the ironing I had planned to do. The cleaning lady had to sweep instead of vacuum, and all I could offer her was water or milk.

It got me thinking about all the other things we take for granted, and really only notice when they fall away: the cars we drive, the food we eat, the water from our taps, the people in our lives and, maybe most famously, our health.

And yes, it makes sense that we take things for granted. Our brains are programmed to look for stuff that’s new and different (and usually is then threatened by it and tries to bring us back into the fold), so what stays the same for a long time kind of disappears from our field of vision (good stuff and bad stuff). We stop noticing the sunshine when we live in southern California (as I did for a few months), and get used to how amazing it is that our trash gets picked up every week at our front door. We lose track of all the hot showers we’ve taken, and all the chocolate we’ve eaten. And we forget how many times others have forgiven us our mistakes, and have held us when we were sad.

We only remember when we lose those things.

Yet the key to appreciating things doesn’t have to lie in not having them. It’s actually pretty hard to appreciate something the moment you DON’T have it. You can miss it, sure, but getting in touch with what the experience of having it is tricky. It’s much easier to fully feel grateful for it when it’s there.

Every night, my partner and I tell each other or send a text message containing three things we’re grateful for that day. These are usually things that stand out about the day. From now on, though, I’ll try to think of one thing every day that I could easily lose sight of, like the fact that I can walk, the gas in my car or having a family I’m close to.

Just because we’re used to something, doesn’t make it any less wonderful.

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