Except for maybe philosophers and poets, few people spend time realizing life as they're living it. I'm reminded of Thornton Wilder's Emily, the young heroine in the play Our Town, who died in childbirth but was given a chance to relive one day in her life. She chose her 12th birthday. She's overjoyed at first to relive the day, but she quickly realizes how fast life passes us by and laments, "We don't even have time to look at one another!"
Some philosophers, and I'm not mentioning any names - mostly because that sort of information can be boring; it detracts from my point, and let's face it, some of their names are difficult to pronounce - give us fancy, impersonal reasons for why the world is the way it is, but none of these philosophies, other than being intellectually stimulating, have ever fully answered any of life's "big questions" for me.
Irrespective of the theories I read, I continually return time and time again to the same "gut" feelings - to the same sentiments.
Like most people, I spend my time in an array of activities: traveling, teaching, exploring, conversing, loving, caring, cooking, writing, and so forth. Yet, in everything I do there is a sentiment of gratitude that is present and apparent throughout every moment.
They say that once people adjust to great change that within about 6 months they're back to being themselves. After my accident and cancer, I had a few well-meaning friends tell me, "Once the shock of what happened to you wears off, you'll be normal again. You're just overly sensitive because the feelings are fresh and raw."
But the feelings of gratitude haven't worn off because I was sensitive and grateful before the accident, before the cancer. I knew from an early age that life can show up on your doorstep with unexpected tragedy and have long-since continued to revisit the thoughts that allow me to overcome feelings of pain and despair.
It's not the absence of tragedy that makes me grateful to be alive, it's the people whom I love and enjoy along the way as well as the freedom of creative expression I have at any given moment to express myself, ascribing to moments and concepts deeper meaning.
It's the abundance of opportunities we have if we use our time wisely. It's the laughter, the joy, the silliness, the contemplative thoughts, and all the other expressions that accompany human existence that continually keep me in a state of privileged appreciation.