How a tuna salad sandwich changed my life

Over a decade ago my dream job was eliminated and chances were good that I’d have to uproot my rock star life and leave Chicago. I wasn’t happy about it. Actually, I was angry. Angry that I’d have to leave my high rise apartment with a pool in downtown Chicago, my favorite bar where everybody knew my name, my friends, my all access to any concert I wanted to attend. Not only was I incredibly angry, but unbelievably sad. Terrified. I felt alone. Lost. I had no idea how I’d pay my bills, what I would do next or where I’d be doing it. With all of that weighing on me, even the tiniest thing could upset me. Clogged toilet? Devastating. Hang nail? Crushing.

Since I was unemployed, watching The Oprah Winfrey Show was part of my new daily routine. I don’t recall the context or show topic but Oprah started talking about a gratitude journal. Every night she wrote in her journal what she was grateful for that day. I thought I’d give it a try. That night I opened up an old notebook and sat quietly at my dining room table and began to write. I wrote ‘my parents’ on the first line. I paused. I wrote ‘my friends’ on line two. I stopped. I began tapping the pen on the table, then on my head, racking my brain for something else to write. Time ticked by but nothing was coming to me. I closed the notebook.

The next day I went about my day as normal… working out, job hunting, watching TRL on MTV. At the end of the day, I opened up the notebook. I wrote ‘my parents’ on the first line. I paused. I wrote ‘my friends’ on line two. I paused again. Nothing else came to me. Days went by and I kept at it. “Well she’s Oprah, everything is easy for her”, I thought. Every night I’d bring out the notebook and start to write. ‘My parents’ was on the first line. ‘My friends’ was on second line. I started a new page in the notebook thinking that a new page would bring me fresh perspective. The next day I tried using a colored pen. The day after that I didn’t sit at the dining room table, I moved to the couch. Days passed. Two lines were all I could fill.

I little over two weeks went by and I was about to give up on this stupid idea. I opened up the notebook. I wrote ‘my parents’ on the first line. I wrote ‘my friends’ on line two. I paused. I thought long. I thought hard. In the last 24 hours I couldn’t think of even one more thing I was grateful for. I sat back in my chair. I looked around the apartment. And then very slowly and proudly I wrote, ‘my tuna salad sandwich was really good today’. A tiny tear rolled down my cheek. There is was. A life-changing epiphany.

The following day, as I often did, I walked to the Lincoln Park Zoo. The sun was shining. There was briskness in the air. The city was bustling. I made my usual trek around the grounds, walked home, had lunch, and continued with the usual. Later, I opened up the notebook. I wrote ‘my parents’ on the first line. I wrote ‘my friends’ on line two. I glanced at my previous list and saw ‘my tuna salad sandwich was really good today’ and smirked a little. I went back to my current list and wrote ‘the sun was out today’, ‘the tiger was in full view today’ (this was rare, he typically hid in his enclosure), ‘I didn’t get hit by a car walking home’, ‘I talked to my best friend’, ‘I liked TRL’s #1 song’. I couldn’t stop writing. ‘I applied for 3 jobs today’, ‘I added 5 extra pounds to my weights today at the gym’, ‘mom sent me coupons’. Line after line, I couldn’t stop. ‘There were no missing socks after doing laundry’, ‘going out with friends tonight’. I wanted to stop, thinking I should save some of these thoughts for tomorrow, but I kept writing. I thought about how I spent my day and how even what I had previously never given a second thought to, the smallest, most inconsequential occurrence or action is something to be grateful for.

As we enter 2020, I encourage you to eat a really good tuna fish salad sandwich. I could completely change your outlook on life.

Addendum: I am currently reading Oprah’s book “This I Know For Sure”. It was a Christmas gift. As this blog was about to be posted, I was reading the chapter on Gratitude. What are the odds? Oprah talks about her gratitude journal! Without giving too much away because I do highly recommend the book, she says, “Sometimes we get so focused on the difficulty of our climb that we lose sight of being grateful for simply having a mountain to climb”. She goes on, “You radiate and generate more goodness for yourself when you’re aware of all you have and not focus on your have-nots. I know for sure: If you make time for a little gratitude every day, you’ll be amazed by the results”. Oprah, I get it.

This blog was written by Natalie DiPietro, Integrated Marketing Sales Manager at iHeartMedia Milwaukee 

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