Discover more from Where on Planet Earth
The Secret is Gratitude
Journal Post #30: July 17th 2023, Bucharest Romania
Hola and welcome to Where on Planet Earth! In case you got here by accident and are not yet a subscriber, sign up below! For more visuals on our travels follow us on IG @whereonplanetearth
I recently had a birthday (36!!!). The following day I opened Facebook for my annual visit to check the birthday messages from the dwindling amount of people who are still using it - thank you, btw, for all the beautiful wishes I got that day! Facebook showed me one of those “check the silly things you posted and how you looked a long time ago” pic (above).
I stared at the collage from a long ago birthday; Alan’s and my face smooched in the center, surrounded by pics of the food we ate to celebrate - I guess some things haven’t changed. In the caption I wrote a sentence about the celebration and ended it with: “I am so blessed!”.
That sentence struck me because the night before, after a celebratory dinner, I had written something very similar: “Entirely and absolutely blessed”.
The similar messages made me reflect on the last two decades of my life and made me realize that the underlining feeling for most of that time has been a deep feeling of gratitude.
The more I thought about the past couple decades the more it was clear that even when I had felt depressed or lost, I had also felt fortunate. Gratitude can be layered - I guess all feelings can - and even in my darkest hours gratitude has always accompanied me. Sometimes it’s the background soundtrack, playing softly and easy to forget, but clear as day if you pay the tiniest bit of attention. Sometimes it’s so loud I can barely hear anything else. But it’s present, always.
When I first arrived in Texas more than 15 years ago as a 20-year old Venezuelan immigrant, I felt a deep sense of loss. Loss of friends and family, loss of love, loss of community and language, loss of day to day routines and comfort, loss of a warm culture, loss for all the “what ifs”. This feeling of sorrow stayed with me for a long time. I know now that I was depressed, but back then I attributed my mental state and physical sickness to simply having to get used to the new life I never asked for or wanted. But, surprising to me even to this day, right next to the feeling of hopelessness there was gratitude. And the truth is that there were many reasons to feel fortunate; we had been able to emigrate from a struggling country, my father had a job, I would be able to transfer credits and finish College, we were doing okay.
There have been other times too, when life was complicated and stressful, tiring and confusing. Still, I can clearly see gratitude around, floating like a cloud around me, present but unobtrusive.
I think feeling grateful - to me - has been the secret to a fulfilling and happy life.
The fact that gratitude is good for you is not particularly insightful - there is a ton of research about it - but realizing how much of a part it has played in my life has been a revelation. Now that it’s as clear as day, I want to hold on to it, cultivate it, water it, sing to it, make it an altar.
Because gratefulness grounds me and lifts me up at the same time, and what more could I ask for?
A couple nights ago we stumbled into a Latin concert. Mind you, we were in the small town of Veliko Tarnovo in the north of Bulgaria. The moment I stepped into the low-ceiling cavernous little room the concert was at, the band was playing “Soledad y el Mar” by Natalia Lafourcade. The shock of listening to this moving song by a Mexican artist I love deeply in a small room of a Bulgarian bar was like jumping into freezing water, at first confusing and then absolutely exhilarating. The band of two Argentinians, a Peruvian, and a Polish played Latin songs the entire night, and we sang and danced to Salsa and Cumbia, even when the electricity went out for a few minutes.
It was a beautiful night, and also very sentimental. It had been a very long time since I felt as nostalgic. It’s hard to explain the longing I feel for the country I was born and raised in and how the knot in me often comes untangled when listening and dancing to Latin music. But that is a post for another day. My point is that I was both joyous and sorrowful, but above all, I was so very grateful. Grateful for the magical coincidence of stumbling into the concert, for the pleasure of singing out loud in my native language while in a far away country, for the release of moving my hips to the rhythm, for being a proud Latina.
I feel very blessed today, but I have the sense that whatever happens in my life, I will always find a way to feel that way. And for that, I am forever grateful.
Where are we now?
We arrived to Bucharest Romania yesterday, as did Alan’s mom who is visiting us for about a week (from Mexico City)! We are excited to start exploring this new-to-us country, starting with its capital! Bucharest is actually the first place in the Balkans we are staying for five nights, so I am excited about taking it easy, although we have been good about this lately :). It’s oppressively hot over here, so that will certainly dictate some of what we end up doing. The plan is a couple of walking tours, many museums, and of course, good food! Let me know if you have any recommendations for the city!