There are books and articles and websites promising if we are grateful, we will be everything from happy to abundant.
Our lives will fall into place with gratitude.
Our perspective will change, our faces soften, our very beings radiate.
Our children will miraculously start to live grateful lives.
But practicing gratitude for these reasons doesn’t always “work”.
Gratitude doesn’t always work as an antidote to greed. It doesn’t always stave off the desire for more. Our kids say thank you and still want the next toy, the next skinny jean, the next itunes download.
It doesn’t always return the thing lost, or salve the broken places.
It is limited in shifting perspective, and often not permanently.
It is often misused – Hey, be thankful it wasn’t your car that got into an accident, wasn’t your kid that got caught, wasn’t your speeding ticket .
Gratitude isn’t a one size fits all occasions.
There isn’t one gratitude prayer that works.
And certainly not a magic wand that takes away pain.
This year has been a personal one of loss, transition, new beginnings and having to face the truth that I have had more questions than answers, and that most days felt more confusing than confident. This is why I started writing 115 Wednesdays because at least I could share one aspect of loss because the others were too personal. But every post in that series symbolizes at least 3 other places of life altering loss.
In this year of expecteds and unexpecteds, I’ve had to decide which pieces get picked back up. Which people, habits, and routines serve me in this stage of life instead of me serving them hoping for something in return when there is no reason to hold on except that I’m useful, I’m needed, I’m on default.
Gratitude was one of those pieces on the floor.
Gratitude often betrayed me- it didn’t take away the pain, or change how I saw a situation, or kissed everything and made it all better. Not even close.
So I had to decide if it was worth keeping in my life. Well aware of the books, the science, the practices I was committing to, the questions became:
Will gratitude be a permanent part of my life going forward?
If not, what are my other options?
If so, will I practice this regardless of how I feel or what I see?
Will I practice gratitude on faith that something in me is deepening, grounding, and holding me, not because of the promises of happiness or abundance?
I chose yes because the only alternative I could conceive of was nothing. And where there’s nothing, there’s a default of anxiety, fear, and control.
I rationalized if I could default to irrational gratitude for something in every occasion, it would be my feeble act of faith that something bigger was forming.
It could symbolize I trusted God to show up. I needed a shortcut to healing and the risk was minimal. If gratitude didn’t effect me, at least I tried it, at least I didn’t pay for it, and at least I could take it off the plate of pieces that would be my world.
So I sent a check for my car payment and added a thank you note. That I loved my car. That I was grateful for it.
I looked cashiers in the eye and said Thanks so much.
At the end of confusing days I laid in bed and said thank you to God that my confusion might mean I’m a smart cookie and while I don’t have immediate answers, all I needed was direction. And thank you God because I bet that’s coming.
I thanked my son for helping with dishes, for mowing the lawn, for making me laugh.
I sent brownies to friends who stayed by me in what felt like one crisis after another.
Nothing was assumed anymore.
After a year, I would like to share with you 5 ways how I think Gratitude “works”.
1) It provides a new default for expectation. I realized wholeheartedly that what I see worthy of thanks didn’t have to happen for my benefit. Gratitude acknowledged the good.
2) It’s a deeper place to land when my and others’ expectations are not met. Oh, xyz didn’t happen, okay. What did happen? Where can I go to find something good and can we make changes from there?
3) It’s an antidote to anger and despair.
4) It salves the questions with no answers. Literally the information I learned this year that messed with my mind that had no answers had gratitude for closed doors, truths revealed, and detours that were unwelcome. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I do not understand, I do not have answers – thank you anyway.
5) It shortcuts to hope. I am fairly certain that where there is no Gratitude, there is no hope. I think the reward for the courage it takes to say Thank You in the midst of difficulty is the shortcut to believe that God hears, that it doesn’t go unanswered, that this is not the end. And if it should be the end, then it is a conspiracy on our behalf to shift, transition, grow.
This year was not the year to teach anything about gratitude but to learn it, receive from it, meet it and ask it for its’ gifts. During this holiday when the word is highlighted and people express their thanks, I am honored to be joined even for a week on this place to land our souls. May we all consider receiving from this often misunderstood practice.
Vikki Spencer, The Mom Whisperer, Mom Coach
Share below something you know for sure about Gratitude…I would LOVE to hear your thought!