I wrote this in late September 2015 after I suffered a pulmonary embolism. Jeffrey Tucker just posted something on Gratitude which brought this essay to mind, so here it is again for a new audience. 

I have a lot to be grateful for this week, so I thought I would make it my topic for today.

My daughter’s fiancé is an enthusiastic follower of Rhonda Byrne’s philosophy in The Magic. He didn’t care much for The Secret (her book and film about the law of attraction), but he finds The Magic, which is about gratitude, to be a powerful way of living effectively and happily. The words “thank you” are his mantra.

The book is unusual in that she advises being grateful for everything, even things that seemingly are bad. As an example, she discusses getting a speeding ticket. One’s initial reaction might be “Stupid cop!  I wasn’t going that fast!  Why is the world out to get me? Why can’t I get a break?  I see other people speeding all the time and they never get caught. Why me?” and so on.

Whine! Whine! Whine!

Here is Byrne’s take. She gives ten things you can be grateful for when you are caught speeding. Here are five.

  1. I’m grateful to the police for wanting to protect me from harming myself, because, after all, that was all they were trying to do.
  2. I’m grateful to the police because if I am honest with myself, I was thinking about other things, and I wasn’t concentrating on the road.
  3. I’m grateful to the police for the wake-up call. Being pulled over did affect me and it will make me watch my speed and drive more carefully in the future.
  4. I’m grateful to the police because if I think about my own family being put in danger by other speeding drivers, then I definitely want the police to stop speeding drivers.
  5. I am grateful to the police for making sure that I arrived home safely, and walked through the door to my family as I usually do.
This was in a chapter called Magically Transform Mistakes into Blessings. Pages 224-225.
As I said at the beginning, I have a lot to be thankful for this week. Number one – I am thankful to be alive.
Sunday night I had severe back pain on the upper right side. It was so painful I could hardly sleep. I was up most of the night. In the morning I told my wife I needed to see a doctor. We checked in at a walk-in clinic. The doctor, a very nice lady of Indian extraction, checked me over and gave me requisitions for  blood tests, ECG and an x-ray. That took a couple of hours and after she got the results, she told me to go to the Emergency Department at the hospital and tell them that my D-Dimer test came back with a reading of 1180.
The D-Dimer is used to rule out the possibility of an embolism. An 1180 reading said it was a possibility. At the hospital I went through all the tests again. And they followed that up with a CT Scan. The CT scan showed that I had suffered a pulmonary embolism. I am now on a drug called rivaroxaban, an anti-coagulant, which I may have to take for the rest of my life, but at least for a year.
Further research on the Internet revealed that pulmonary embolisms have a one in ten mortality rate, usually in the first few hours of onset of symptoms.
So I am grateful for being alive. I am grateful to the doctors and the hospital staff for looking after me so well. I am grateful to the diagnosticians who took blood samples, performed ECGs, took x-rays and CT scans. And I am so grateful to my wife for chauffeuring me around and staying by my side through it all.
I want to offer one warning to others who may develop any of the symptoms. It started with back pain localized on one side on my upper back.  Upper back pain is relatively rare. Lying down and trying to sleep had the pain radiate to my front. And it also generated difficulty in breathing.
So while I was up for most of the night because lying down was too painful, I researched my symptoms on the Internet. Top of the list of possibilities was pulmonary embolism.  The website recommended seeing a doctor immediately if this was suspected. Because of my general good health, I brushed it aside as unlikely and waited until morning. But PE, as noted above, usually kills you within the first few hours of onset of symptoms if it is fatal.
So if you encounter these symptoms – upper back pain radiating to the front if you lie down, and shortness of breath – go to the emergency department of your local hospital right away. Don’t wait. Don’t see your doctor first. Go straight to emergency. If I can save a life by these suggestions, I have one more thing to be grateful about.
Here is my review of Rhonda Byrne’s book.
Book Review: The Magic by Rhonda Byrne

I’m a bit of a self-help junkie. I’ve read numerous books from the first one I ever read, Maxwell Maltz’s Psycho-cybernetics, through Nathaniel Branden’s books on self-esteem, Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits, Dale Carnegie’s books and more. I’ve even taken programs like the Landmark Forum and Raymond Aaron’s Monthly Mentor. I’ve taken them out of interest and out of a desire to improve some aspect of my life. A lot of people take them out of the belief that positive thinking can make you rich. They’re interested in becoming more successful.

I read The Magic because my daughter’s fiancé swears by it. He reads a bit of it daily and practices the things it preaches. He is also very successful and I think highly of him. So I read it.

I was a bit skeptical at first. I had not read Rhonda Byrne’s first book, the best-seller, The Secret. The secret, of course, which is now out of the bag, is nothing really new but a synthesis of things that have been written about by many others. And that is the law of attraction. Elements of this are in Maltz as well as in Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich.

The Magic builds on that foundation with a different focus. The core idea in the book is that one should be grateful for what one has. An attitude of gratitude for what you have will lead to you having more. It can be summed up in that saying, Count Your Blessings.

The book has an introduction and conclusion with a 28 day program of daily exercises to go through every morning before starting your day. The first of these exercises is to write down ten things you are grateful for, then read over each item in the list saying, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

Byrne doesn’t specify who you should be thankful to. If you’re not religious, you can be thankful to the universe, she says. That is still a bit mystical for me, so I just went about it being grateful in a general way and to no one in particular. If I could assign some one or something to be grateful to I did. Once I wrote “I am grateful for my computer because it keeps me constantly entertained and lets me keep organized and write.” For that one I mentally thanked Hewlett Packard.

I followed the practices she suggested because I figured it would do no harm and certainly give me a better appreciation of the book. So in all I wrote down 280 different blessings I am grateful for. These ranged from gratitude for my wife to things as innocuous as being thankful for a sunny day so I could lie by the pool reading a book to a rain day so the rain could nourish the plants as we had been having a lot of dry weather.

I have to confess it sometimes felt like a chore. But in the end, I thought the exercise worthwhile. In general, I am an optimist. I am usually in a happy frame of mind and grateful for all the blessings in my life. And there is a certain element of common sense in the idea.

If you have a negative frame of mind, if you are pessimistic, like to grumble and complain a lot, it makes sense that you will not be particularly happy. If you have a positive frame of mind, are optimistic, and appreciate and enjoy the good things in your life, you will be happier for it.

I don’t know if using the book and the exercises in it will make a pessimistic person a happier person. I am a bit skeptical that being thankful for the money you have will lead to having more money. But I do think you have better odds with a positive and optimistic outlook.

Pessimists tend to be reactive. Optimists tend to be proactive which is the first of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits. Covey’s is a more practical book.

That said, I enjoyed reading The Magic and the exercises. It gave me some insight into myself, and deliberately writing down 280 things you are grateful for really gets you thinking about how many good things we experience in life. All too often we take things for granted. Saying thank you is a good habit.

 And now for the big  finish!
This article originally appeared at The Jolly Libertarian.