Developing a "Sense" of Gratitude (in the New Year)

Man on Bridge


When I caught a cold a month before Christmas, I knew it wasn’t Covid because I never developed a fever or other major symptoms, besides I had a home Covid Test Kit available if needed, and I created my own test. I told myself if I can smell peanut butter every day, I’m fine.

As the mild cold developed, I simply sniffed the rich aroma of peanut butter once in the morning before breakfast. It worked perfectly the first day of my cold—and day two, three, four and five. By day six, my cold was almost over. I took one final sniff of peanut butter. Suddenly, its pungent scent was gone. More accurately, my sense of smell was gone. So, I tasted the peanut butter. Nothing. So, I performed my home antigen Covid test. I tested positive. (Despite “playing by the rules,” being cautious, and being fully vaccinated.)

Politics aside, it was a surreal experience to lose—completely—two senses in one day. Everything tasted, well, neutral. No flavor. Zip. Zero. Zilch. In blind taste tests, I couldn’t taste the difference between root beer and Seven-Up. I couldn’t differentiate between ketchup and mustard, or raspberry versus pineapple salsa. Coke and water tasted essentially the same (except for the fizz). Food became mundane. Without a sense of smell to tempt me to eat, I lost my appetite—and ten pounds. Mid-afternoon snacks became irrelevant. Eating, although critical, felt optional.

This experience became disconcerting. What is it like to lose two senses? I felt like my world just shifted from color to black & white. A good friend, Dave, added perspective when he said, “Jim, pick an arbitrary date in the future and don’t expect the return of any taste and smell until this date. This will help prevent you from experiencing the daily stress of the sudden loss of these senses. Don’t expect any improvement until, say, January 10th, that’s roughly six weeks. In the meantime, focus on anything else.”

It was sound advice and I stopped worrying about it. Instead, my wife and family conducted a few fun blind tastes with me over Christmas break. It was fun to guess what treats my family was feeding me. Every blind taste test helped turn my dilemma into a delight. Laughter is the best medicine, after all. (By the way, Christmas time is not a good time to lose your sense of taste and smell. I missed out on a lot of goodies.)

When January 10th rolled around earlier this week, I could smell peanut butter and taste the refreshing contrast between root beer and Seven-Up, ketchup and mustard, raspberry and pineapple salsa, and orange juice and grape juice. Today, I can taste and smell tuna, ham, split pea soup, enjoy an apple, chili, blueberry yogurt, and much more. Recently, from my home office, I could smell bacon cooking in the kitchen. This was a breakthrough, since I typically could only smell things directly under my nose. I have never savored a piece of bacon so much.

Yet, as of this writing, I’m about 60% home. There’s still a long list of things I cannot taste, including coffee, chocolate, and ice cream, but I’m on my way back. And I can’t wait to smell my favorite scent again—fresh air on a summer day—or after newly fallen snow. So, what’s my point? Well, this post is not actually about Covid. And it’s not about my personal journey to restore my sense of taste and smell.

It’s actually about developing a completely different “sense”—a sense of gratitude—when my life is right-side up or upside down. It doesn’t matter.

I can’t tell you how excited I was to smell peanut butter again. (Guess who felt like dancing?) Never thought I’d be so happy to taste the difference between a sweet and dill pickle. A potent reminder that the little things are the big things.

Our five senses are miraculous gifts. I thought I understood this. Last year, I even wrote a blog about the value of “savoring” the little things. (See link below.) I’ve tried to savor the little things most of my life. Yet, this experience was a wake-up call. It reinforced two things to me:  Pray for anyone battling illness—especially an illness greater than your own. (Covid or otherwise.)

And second, in this New Year, I’ll not only stop and smell the roses—I’ll be grateful I can actually smell them.


SOMETHING TO CHEW ON:  In this new year, in what area would you like to slow down so you don’t take your incredible life for granted? Email me and let me know. I answer every email within two days.


Here is the link to my former blog titled “Savoring Life and the Little Things:”

Please feel free to ask me a question, leave a comment, or join my mailing list by subscribing to my FREE newsletter, PAUSE MORE. RUSH LESS. below. We'll talk about how to slow down your life to live it more fully.

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