When in doubt, be grateful

joan didion, circa 1969

This post is #29 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

It was a difficult day on the horn of the hump.

On the other hand, 20 or even 10 years ago, it took much less than a day like this to unseat me. Keeping things in perspective is a gift of having looped around the mountain enough times. Even if you can’t see as well or move as quickly as you used to, you recognize the view well enough to know you’ve been here before, and you’ll be back again.

One of my favorite ways to stick a fork in a day that’s less than perhaps everything I wanted it to be is to find five things about it that were pretty damned good.


  1. We came within millimeters of $31,000.
  2. My protruding tummy & I made it through Day 8 of the dreaded 30-Day Shred.
  3. The overdue fines were racked up for a good reason and are going to a good cause.
  4. I got an incredibly polite rejection note from Joan Didion herself.
  5. I get a fresh start tomorrow.

Words don’t always come easily, and when they do, some days they just don’t sparkle like others. That’s okay. You can always make a serviceable casserole from them.



Photo by Julian Wasser, Time Life Pictures, Getty Images, via the Library Foundation of Los Angeles who no doubt licensed it properly for their ALOUD series, at which Ms. Didion is appearing this fall. I’ll be in Detroit, goddammit, but you should totally go; I would.


  1. Colleen, I love your honesty and your ability to talk about the crap days without whining, and without putting on an artificial, sickening gloss to it either. Keep going! x

  2. I find that gratitude is the best place to begin when I don’t know what to say. Like when I’m trying to write an email that I don’t want to write … I start by finding a way to thank the other person for something. ANYTHING. After that, the words seem to come much more easily.

    1. Excellent point, Jess. Thank you.

      In addition to being the polite and kind thing to do, it’s usually prudent. Sometimes, I get “too busy” to do that, and I swear, it’s like not washing your hands before you eat or something—nothing good comes of it.

  3. It’s my first time here and I want to say I’ve surely been getting this life lesson…example: instead of feeling like nobody likes me, be grateful for the people in your life who you’re certain of their love and support for you. It’s like this power hits you and immediately grounds you when you just ponder and show gratitude for the love that does surround you.Gratitude is grounding for sure! Good luck with the challenge!

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