Gratitude

Quite a few of my blogging friends are participating in National Blog Posting Month – NaBloPoMowhile others are focusing on gratitude on a regular basis in honor of Thanksgiving.

I’m grateful for cat squeezes …

It has made for some reflective moments this week to simply read about gratitude. I tend to stop and consider how this issue or that experience impacts me. What is it about the simple experience of gratitude that resonates with us? I honestly find myself feeling better just witnessing someone stopping to “count their blessings?”

Part of it may be that my experience – growing up, working in the human services field, living with a disability, etc – has made me acutely aware of what I don’t have to be grateful for each day. Yes, honestly, writing about gratitude does require us to take a moment to think of things we resent, the unfulfilled wishes, the dreams, the unfairness of life.

And to be honest even though I’ve witnessed some horrors professionally – I don’t always sink to my knees in appreciation. Instead, I tend to absorb the outrage and probably channel some of my own in to whatever form I use to spew it out — especially blogging.  Or Twitter. I guess that’s a form of projection? The world screwed this person just like it screwed me?

But even with that admission, I can say that I honestly do recognize the ways in which I am very fortunate – the material gifts I have, the opportunities I make and the people in my life. None of that is solely “earned” of course, most are accidents of birth or expressions of privilege being born a white female in a working class American family in the late 20th century.

I’m grateful for my privilege. I’m sorry that the world is constructed this way, but I also take ownership of the fact that not everything I *have* is a result of my effort or investment – and untangling those complicated threads is not easy or even realistic. I simply acknowledge that I have privileges others do not and also that I have a concurring responsibility to use it to make a difference.

That sounds pretentious and weighty, right? Well, it is – of course it is! – because its true. There’s an inevitable smarminess to counting up the ways our lives rock and expressing humility about it all. I suspect the truly grateful don’t need the exercise, but I see that it is has enough benefits to offset the smarm.  And generate some engaging new Facebook memes, I hope. And people who might take offense will hopefully consider the big picture theme of this post.

I’m not going to make a list here. Do you really care? I’m not particularly humble as a general rule and my list probably isn’t that unique. Not that I want to squash other people listing their gratitude – it is clearly an effective way to prompt the rest of us to shift our thinking. And that’s incredibly valuable – I truly do appreciate the folks who are making an effort to participate in this activity.

I’m just a little skeptical. Sometimes gratitude is a bit like guilt … “I hate my job, but I know I should be grateful I have a job in this economy” is a good example.  There doesn’t have to be a “but” … right? We can dislike our circumstances even as we recognize that privileges that come along with them?

What’s great about the month long exercise is that repetition is an effective tool to change our habits – it involves two key steps: raising our awareness AND practice. I can get very huffy about the former and somewhat lackadaisical about the second which is a stumbling block to really allowing myself to be grateful. My pitfall is the sense that the other shoe is going to drop if I get too comfortable – I am worried about the future instead of living in the moment. And not in a good “save money, plan a vacation” way. In an anxious way that interferes with the simple joy of being grateful, much less content.

Unfortunately, it is November 16 so writing a blog post daily is not viable. However, I am grateful for those who have participated in the month long exercise and got me thinking about gratitude. Today, I am going to strive to both appreciate and enjoy the things for which I am grateful.

 

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