How’s your attitude of gratitude these days?
Are you brimming with positivity at the thought of another Monday morning commute? Simply thrilled that you are blessed by mountainous piles of laundry? Endlessly joy-bound by the dozens of toys that clutter your child’s bed? Awestruck at the good fortune of being allowed to pay your phone bill?
Well, I know I’m not, anyway.
Until I think about it like this:
- a Monday morning commute means a job to go to.
- mountains of laundry means a way to wash dirty clothes and clean clothes to wear.
- toys for your children mean people love them and want to demonstrate that.
- paying for your phone bill means you have money to do so and a phone to use.
How annoyingly sugar-coated, right? Trust me, even I am rolling my eyes here as I write that list. In fact, I thought long and hard before publishing this post. After all – you don’t need me to tell you how lucky you are to have a phone bill, or a job you don’t love.
But this is how gratitude works. It’s not just a matter of being grateful for the beautiful things. It’s quite easy to be grateful for a hug, a newborn baby, a good coffee, beach holidays, snowflakes and kisses.
But for me, the real power of gratitude lies in recognising the blessings in everything we have – particularly those things we take for granted.
But what if I’m not feeling it?
Last week, I was in a bad frame of mind. Just cranky and tired and all used up. To be honest, I didn’t want to feel grateful. I didn’t want to hear how lucky I was. I was wallowing, and damned be anyone who tried to snap me out of it.
That happens sometimes, I guess. People have bad days. The good seems…less so. We get caught up in the idea of, “I’ll be happy when…” Or “It’s easier for them because…”
I don’t buy it.
Yes, gratitude is hard. No, sometimes we don’t want to allow ourselves to feel grateful, because that will require us to stop wallowing. But the reality is, my mum was on to something when she routinely told me as a self-centred, moody teenager, “There are people in the world who would love to have your problems.”
Man, that really used to piss me off.
I didn’t want to hear that. If it didn’t improve my situation right then and there, I didn’t care.
But, as teenagers sometimes do, I had totally missed the point.
Understanding that there were people who would love to have my problems really could have improved my situation. Because, all of a sudden, the out-of-fashion trainers, the missing mixtape and the schoolyard gossip would have mattered so much less. Understanding my privilege could have brought about perspective.
But instead, I missed the opportunity to learn that lesson at 15. So here I am, at 31, still trying. Instead of teenage worries, I am now consumed with phone bills, laundry and clutter. But instead of getting lost in them, I’m trying (really, really trying) to see the good in those things.
I’m trying to flip it, and shift my perspective.
Sometimes it works and other times it doesn’t. But the more I practice this way of thinking, the closer my gratitude remains to the surface. It’s becoming easier to dip in and out of it as needed.
Yes, gratitude is hard. But it doesn’t mean we should stop aiming for it.
What’s one thing you can choose to be grateful for today? Even if you really, really don’t want to be?