I needed a tube of ointment. On prescription. I was finding LA daunting – big, brash and a far cry from my little home-town in the UK. Still, the plus would be everything was open 24 hours here and I’d have it in a jiffy.
$140 later (and 4 minutes with a doctor to write the script), I was starting to feel immense gratitude for the good old NHS. As many of you know, with Mum in hospital last week, and the kindness given throughout, I already had great appreciation for our British health system.
‘A drive-through pharmacy?’ said my friend and colleague TimD. Some 4 miles later (but an hour in the car), we walked (yes walked, not something I did that much in LA!) into a very large chemist. ‘We have one last tube,’ said the smiling man behind the counter.
‘Great,’ said I, excitedly. ‘How much?’
Now this is where you need to sit down (unless you’re from the US).
‘$589,’ he smiled (apologetically this time). I audibly gasped. I must have heard wrongly.
‘Don’t worry,’ said the smiling face, ‘I can discount it to just under $300 for you.’
Now I’d been very shocked by many things in LA in my first 2 days (the traffic, the multi-lane freeways, the ginormous plates of food), but this was a new one for me.
‘That can’t be. It’s free in the UK, but I did once get it on private prescription and it was only $20’
‘Welcome to the US,’ said smiley man. I exited. Tubeless.
And this is when I reminded myself about grateful living (as I ranted and raved manically, rapidly repeating the figure 600 loudly). Now, I’m as guilty as the next to have criticised the NHS. Long waits for ops, multiple lost letters at the GP, and even mis-diagnoses. However, as with many things in life, it’s not until they are taken away, that you often realise how lucky you. I pondered on how many things I take for granted on a daily basis. My squishy bed: how I’ve missed it. The underground (I hate it in England – I moan incessantly as a Londoner about public transport, but wow I could have done with it on this trip). My full power shower and fluffy towels. And then there’s just the fact that I live in a country where I am free – freedom of movement, freedom of choice, freedom of voice. The list is endless.
There is such an abundance of research out there showing the positive impact of expressing gratitude in our lives – and listing things that we are thankful for at the end of our day. Evidence suggests that the practice of gratitude can even lower blood pressure, improve immune function and lead to better sleep.
But what I have been focusing on recently is the phrase, ‘grateful living’. It feels (and is) slightly different. Rather than expressing thanks for the fact something has gone well (I’ve won a commission; had a great trip; eaten scrummy food), it’s a wider emotional expression and awareness that absorbs our every moment; it’s about making a decision to live a life being grateful for the many things we have all the time. In the words of the delightful organisation Gratefulness.org:
Grateful living is a way of life which asks us to notice all that is already present and abundant – from the tiniest things of beauty to the grandest of our blessings – and in so doing, to take nothing for granted. We can learn to focus our attention on, and acknowledge, that life is a gift.
So, as I sit on the plane to NYC, writing to you from the skies, I am full of gratitude for so many things. And I have determined to make a conscious decision to live my life gratefully as best I can. As I said to my Mum as I called her from the plane (how exciting is that!), I don’t think I’ll ever take a prescription for granted again. Who knew a tube of cream in LA would change my life so much. Oh that, and the exceptionally yummy avocado toast!