Column of Light

Thoughts on gratitude

Larissa Pham
Gay Mag
Published in
4 min readNov 27, 2019


Illustration by Carmen Johns

FFor nearly two years, the pinned tweet at the top of my profile has read: “boring and grateful, same as always.” I’d sent it out from a rooftop in Mexico City in February of 2018, imagining my words beaming out into the sky in a rush of brilliant particles. That was how I felt — radiant with gratitude, and rendered absolutely uninteresting by it. I didn’t mind being boring. It was amazing just to be alive. And there I was, surrounded by bougainvilleas, with love in my heart.

My journey to finding a practice of gratitude — and I realize how that sounds — has the scent of a religious conversion. I’ve always had what I described as a wayward spirituality, a vague sense that something sublime exists, but I could never find its proper container. I felt myself cresting toward it at odd times: singing in a choir in elementary school; burning incense for my house’s Buddhist shrine; seeing lanky long-stemmed wild poppies wave from the sidewalk on a sunny day. But I didn’t want to be punished by religion: I only wanted to know its divine joys. As I grew older, I found myself looking for this feeling all over, wanting to be swept off my feet, convinced I could find it somewhere on Earth, far from the divine. I searched in tabs of LSD in the park, then ecstasy in bedrooms, in getting tied up and choked out and in going to concerts so loud my ears rang for hours after. But even as I crashed headfirst into hedonism, I craved what I thought I saw in the affect of monks and nuns — that bright, heavenly, direct line to the spirit, which would make me, previously a huge mess, pure and easy to love and incapable of ever being sad again.

Of course, that’s not the way the world works. There’s no way to never be sad, just like there’s no way to ensure that your parents will live forever or that no one will ever hurt you. I bounced around this way for my late teens and early twenties, alternatively going on benders and reparatively fasting, and eventually landed in therapy after a breakup so bad I thought I should probably give my friends a break from listening to me complain.

I never kept a gratitude journal the way my therapist wanted me to — weirdly, I’m not very good at writing things down every day, especially if I’m asked to — but I latched onto the new vocabulary. (I am grateful for my therapist! So…