Gratitude does not automatically spring to mind when things don’t go my way. I can be willing, however, to look, to appraise the situation and at least inquire into “the full worth of” something. If it all looks horrible, I find it useful to take the case that maybe I’m missing something about it.

Take the parking lot at Costco with 20 mph winds and sleet and no parking close to the store: definitely not my preference (and it was my birthday!). But viewed full-spectrum, parking farther away gave me more exercise, and shopping on a sleety day meant short checkout lines. PLUS I had bright red rubber boots for all the slush and could give up chastising myself for buying them for England where it never rains when I go.

My appreciating those things did not negate the freezing sleet and wind, did not turn the day sunny and warm. I simply had more places to look, more data points, than my automatic thoughts and feelings, which were focused (quite profanely) on the weather drama. And all was well. Everything—the good, the bad and the boots—became merely what’s so, and then turned into “so what?” And disappeared.

Hearing about the wildfires in California, I realize that sometimes an event hits you upside the head so hard you can’t look at anything. It does violence to everything you’ve counted on. I’m not talking about trying to appraise the unimaginable, the unthinkable. That, fortunately, is not most of my life. Most of my life is trying to get through the rain without losing myself, and now I see how appreciation, taking the whole measure, in those times can serve me.