Has it been said so often that gratitude has become a cliché? The first time I remember gratitude being touted as a panacea for all of our issues was on the Oprah Winfrey show. She promoted a gratitude journal. Apparently she writes in one every night before she goes to sleep or so she said. I have no reason to doubt her.
At the time, I tried it but what I found out is that working full-time and caring for a family, I was either too tired or disinterested to take five minutes to write anything. Brushing my teeth took priority with that last gasp of energy. The elegant journal purchased from Chapters became a place for grocery lists.
Looking back I realize how much I had to be grateful for at the time. When we are in it, we don’t often see how precious the time is. I look now at my daughter who has a young family. She is working full-time and frazzled. I understand completely why she cannot take five minutes to recognize that this might be the best time of her life. Life is miscalculated giving us banquets when we should just have appetizers.
So I have spent some time coming to terms with the concept of gratitude. There are reasons to believe it is a perfectly reasonable frame of mind. But one has to be very self disciplined to not stray from the parameters set out by gratitude.
Number one is that you shouldn’t compare yourself to anybody else. Be grateful for what you have. Well, I am grateful for what I have. But there are moments of deep resentment of others who seem so much better off for so much less effort. I believe young people call it FOMO or fear of missing out. Life doesn’t measure up to that portrayed in the social media. The platitudes iterate that you don’t really know what goes on in other peoples’ homes. I do know what goes on in their homes! I see it and I hear it. OK, let’s get past that one.
The next parameter of gratitude is to look at what you have, not what you have not. I can do that! However, on some days the bar is pretty low. My aches and pains are only a six out of 10. My friend has eight out of 10 pain. Whoops, I slipped into the comparing myself again. I know it’s not a good day when I compare myself to Anne Frank during World War II hiding in her attic. Yes, I’ve been isolated and alone for months. Not quite Anne Frank. Nobody is going to kill me if I poke my nose out the door and I have food and shelter. Too much food.
Gratitude tells us to look around for the beautiful things we have each day - the air we breathe, the blue sky, the sunshine and fresh air. This platitude was not written by an Albertan. Last Sunday I experienced four seasons in less than four hours. Beautiful blue sky quickly turned into gray clouds, quickly turned into driven snow, quickly turned into rain and then back to blue sky. Gratitude had to do a Covid ‘pivot’.
Yes, there are days where gratitude is difficult. One has to fight human nature to compare and complain. I may not write in a journal but I do take a moment every day to exercise gratitude. I accept my moments of bitterness and disappointment. I think back to when I was a young mother working and raising children. I should’ve been much more grateful. I don’t want to make that mistake now. Although gratitude has become somewhat of a cliché, some days it’s the only thing that gets me by.
By Anita Goodman