You know the clichés: “If you want to find happiness, find gratitude” or the classic, “Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have.”
While they’re true, we tend to brush off cheesy clichés. At least I do. Which is probably why I constantly struggled applying well-intentioned but overused sayings to my life.
But have you ever been familiar with a saying or a story but heard it in a different manner or context? Suddenly your perspective changes, or as another cliché says, “if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” That’s what happened to my dad, who then passed it down to me, who then began passing it to everyone I knew.
Once upon a time, my dad was skiing in Vail, Colorado. He was on a chairlift with my brother, a woman and her young daughter, and was complaining about how his feet were cold and his boots weren’t fitting right. Suddenly, the little girl says, “no whining on the yacht, right mom?”
That sentence caused my dad to pause, reflect, and literally change his entire perspective on his scenario. He was skiing. In one of the best ski resorts in the world. He was whining, completely forgetting he was on a yacht.
You see, if the girl would have said, “be grateful for what you have!” – something that usually goes through one ear and out the other because it’s such an overused phrase – I truly don’t think it would have had a lasting effect on my family. But simply changing the words allowed us to look at our life from a more positive perspective.
I began using the phrase at my bachelorette party. We were hungover in Miami and complaining about various situations: It’s cloudy out when it’s supposed to be sunny in Miami, I’m too tired to go to brunch, and UGH I have a stomach ache. But the moment someone said, “no whining on the yacht!” We agreed to savor each moment despite our minor inconveniences.
I started saying it to friends as a reminder both to myself and them that life is something to be savored, nurtured, and appreciated. I said it to my husband’s flight class, who’s almost done learning to fly the F-15, when someone was expressing how hard it was. No Whining on the Yacht is now the class patch for Class of 17-ABK, and they wear it on their uniform every Friday (see featured image).
To say it hasn’t been a challenge to live life full of gratefulness is a lie. I’m the type that hopes for the best but prepares for the worst. I carry a medicine cabinet with me every time I travel to avoid feeling a least bit bad, but worrying about it usually means I do anyway. When things are going really great in my life, I am always on edge. Certainly something will go wrong, right? Surely I’m unsatisfied in some way.
In fact, just the other day I was upset at my situation, and taking it out on Ryan:
“I live in this crap town and have zero opportunity to excel in a career of my own. You get to achieve your dreams, be really good at it, and have your wife and friends here, too.”
I could see the hurt in Ryan’s face, so I quickly said, “I know I have to be here. I mean, I chose to be here.”
To which he said, “but why not look at it as you get to be here?”
It’s been said that the ultimate anti-depressant is not Prozac, it’s gratitude. Maybe it’s an extreme comparison, as there are people out there who need medication, but I can tell you first hand that writing down everything I’m grateful for at LEAST once a week has made me more present and at peace with myself. I truly believe that minor depression and negativity cannot exist when you are noticing beauty in the everyday. But not just noticing…writing it down.
Write down the little, seemingly insignificant moments like, “I’m thankful for how sweet the lady was at the grocery store today,” or, “I’m thankful for this towel that makes it easier for me to dry after a shower instead of having to stand there naked until I air dry.” Literally, ANYTHING. I cannot tell you how significant your brain and perspective positively changes when you remind yourself to stop whining on the yacht.
“But what if my life is really bad right now and I have nothing to be grateful for?” You ask?
Ok, maybe you’re not on a yacht. Maybe you’re in an old pontoon boat, or a fish boat, or a canoe.
But you’re still afloat. And as long as you are, stop whining. Start paddling.