What the Penguins That Got Away Taught Me About Gratitude Lag and How to Love Myself in the Present, Not the Past or the Future

Mariko O. Gordon, CFA
2 min readFeb 5, 2022
Mariko Gordon

The vase in the window sparked much joy in me.

The hand-drawn penguins were happiness personified, and it was only $60. It made me smile and in my head, it was mine. But I didn’t grab it right away — so many brilliant things to check out and no one else was in the store.

Then the door opened and someone said “I’d like to buy that penguin vase in the window.”

My heart sank. That vase was a one-off. The artist, Lynn Patton, finds vintage porcelain pieces to paint on, and while I could talk her into drawing more penguins, it wouldn’t be on that cool ’50s shape.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the penguins that got away.

Funny how often we long for a past self. Today it’s the self that owned the magical vase of joy that I hadn’t paid for yet. In the past, when I weighed 140 lbs. I missed being the self that weighed 125 lbs. But now I weigh 160 lbs. and would be thrilled to be my old 140-lb. self.

We suffer from gratitude lag. We are rarely content with ourselves.

Either our past self was better, or our future self will be better. Why not cultivate being happy and grateful for who we are now? Truth is, we were imperfect back then, and our future self will no doubt be flawed as well. Be happy now.

I never want to go back to my old self. Even the one who owns a penguin vase.

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Mariko O. Gordon, CFA

Built $2.5B money mgmt biz from scratch. Coaching badass women to build & love their businesses, manage their finances, and make sure the thrill is never gone.