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Amy Choate-Nielsen loves the light — but not so much the dark. She decided to make a list of things for which she is grateful to focus on the light.

I had a conversation with a friend recently about gratitude.

Truthfully, my friend is a bit of a high achiever. He expects a lot of himself, and he reliably, consistently delivers above and beyond what other people anticipate, but sometimes, it takes a toll. Sometimes, it is exhausting to juggle life, and work, and family, and happiness. Sometimes it feels impossible.

We’ve all been there, in that place, where you’re trying your hardest, you’re giving your all, you’re doing your best and you know, deep down inside, that it is just not good enough. Despite your best efforts, there is disappointment, distraction and despondency. That’s when the darkness so familiar to this time of year starts to set in, and everything seems gloomy and hard.

Meanwhile, the leaves on the trees are brighter than they have been all year with their vibrant yellows and reds, and the chill in the air makes being cozy and comfortable all the more delicious. And speaking of delicious, I love autumnal flavors of maple and pumpkin, cinnamon and apples. I love turkey and cranberries and stuffing. I love a reason to look around and soak in all the things for which I am grateful. The light of gratitude is the balance to the darkness of despondency.

My friend decided he was going to make a list of things he is grateful for. In classic form, he determined he would start with a list of not two or three things, but 10. Go big or go home. And when he got to No. 5 on his list and started slowing down, he vowed to not give up until the list was complete. So, it turns out, you can be a high achiever even when it comes to being grateful.

Our conversation got me thinking. Of course I could come up with 10 things. No problem, I said to myself on an early morning walk. And then I started thinking of the things I was grateful for at that moment … the sound of the crunching leaves under my feet, the freshness of the air, the fact that I had a moment to walk around the block. And then my list became less thoughtful, such as, I’m grateful for chicken, because I eat it almost every day. And I’m grateful for delicious vegan food, because, even though I eat chicken, I don’t want to eat dairy, and vegan food has come a long way …

I snapped back to my initial query as another leaf crackled under my foot, and I laughed about where my mind had wandered. Aside from the fact that I was hungry, it made me realize that gratitude is more than just the act of liking something. Being grateful is a state of appreciation, and you can’t fully appreciate a thing without acknowledging, to some degree, the loss of the thing you’re grateful for.

Maybe that explains why gratitude is sometimes difficult. To truly appreciate a thing, one must have eyes big enough to see its pleasure and pain. Such gratitude is fed by humility and generosity, being able to accept and being able to give.

With that in mind, I’m going write my own thankful list, with a determination, I hope, that is as strong as my friend’s. I’m thankful for my family. I know, I know, this one is predictable. But if ever there was a thing that caused pleasure and pain, family is it. We are imperfect, but at the end of the day, I would be lost without them.

I am especially thankful for my little blond boy who rushed to see me, shouting “Mommy! Mommy!” with the most ebullient joy as soon as I walked in the door one night this week. He grinned at me with his lips spread wide, wide enough to show me all his teeth — except the one in the bottom front, which is now missing. He is full of the most sincere, infectious happiness that I have never before seen, and it is a gift.

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I am thankful for love. I am thankful for all the times I feel love, both given and received. I am thankful for the sun. It is getting dark so early these days, I appreciate the sun. I am thankful that I don’t currently have any sprained or broken bones and I can speed-walk through Costco just as fast as I want. I am grateful for the freedom and ability to move. I am thankful for comfort and safety. There are so many heartbreakingly sad and scary things happening in the world, from infernos to active shooters, I am extremely grateful that today, my family is safe. I will pray for tomorrow.

I am grateful to be alive. Despite the gloomy and hard times, there is light around the corner. There is light at the beginning of tomorrow. If we look for it, there is light in the darkness.