Giving Thanks to things that suck..

vintage-thanksgiving-farm-harvest-postcardThis week is Thanksgiving! Every American’s favorite time to eat, drink, and be merry. We gather to celebrate the peace and harmony that we imagine existed between English Settlers and Native Americans. But more than that, we gather with family and friends to celebrate the abundance in our lives, and to give thanks for all the good things we can be grateful for. Social Media encourages the sharing of gratitude. In November, Facebook is full of #30daysofgratitude posts. But what is gratitude? And why is there so much pressure to feel it?  This time of year, I’m reminded of the importance of not only being grateful for the abundance in my life, but also the lack. And while it may be important for me to be thankful for all that is good, I realize it’s the things that suck that really create a sense of gratitude within all of us.

Last week, it was cold here in Texas. Many people here aren’t fans of the cold weather. I love it. For me, it allows me to tap into my mindfulness, which leads eventually to gratitude. It’s the same reason I enjoy watching sad movies and Naked and Afraid. The conversation in my head goes like this:

My Ego:  BRRR. It’s friggin’ cold!

My Self:  Yes, but you have a jacket.

My Ego:  Stop being so positive!

My Self:  Just breathe, and enjoy the feel of the wind on your face, and the warmth of your bed. Today on this earth, others are not so lucky.

That damn Self of mine, always has the answer for everything. Always trying to remind me that so much is good. It’s not that I don’t have the right to complain. I always have the right to complain. It’s that I have the CHOICE not to complain, and that is entirely based on perspective.

Gratitude is all about perspective. As an anatomy geek, my view on perspective is that is it is just like having a healthy range of motion in the head and neck. With both, you should be able to look around. A lack of perspective in one direction or another is what robs us of the ability to see around us. And thus, lacking perspective, robs us of gratitude. If you are only able to see those with more money, or more “success”, you will lack proper perspective and feel constantly less than. Conversely, if you are only able to see those with less, you feel a false sense of “better than” and will see no need to grow.

It’s the sucky stuff in life that gives us focus, direction, and motivation to rise to a better place. But without perspective, life’s sucky moments just..suck. For instance, there’s a popular phrase for those in the first camp: “FML”. It’s a commonly used acronym in modern media culture. People who use the term “FML” in a non-joking manner should instead substitute the acronym “ILP”,  because they clearly lack perspective. If being served a skim latte instead of a soy latte causes you to cyber moan “FML”, “ILP” is a more accurate description of your plight. And that is a real plight. Because perspective is your right as a human being, and necessary to your health. You best get you some. Then there are the rest of us- the cheerleaders, the optimists, the deniers, who use terms like “Look on the bright side” when addressing the deep and complex concerns of others. This statement also lacks perspective because it attempts to simplify and even reject that which deserves time and acceptance. Optimists and pessimists both lack healthy perspective to some degree. With the pendulum swing of our moods, we all play both from time to time. But it is worth stating that a greater joy can arise from acknowledging the darkness in our lives. Particularly if it speaks to your present truth.

Giving thanks for health, togetherness, and abundance are popular only because we’ve acquired the perspective to know that there has been a time, or may be a time in the future, when we are not so fortunate. This is why people across many cultures offer a prayer of thanks before breaking bread. There is an awareness on our part that we are fortunate, and others may not be so. Some think Gratitude exists despite suffering. This is not so. Gratitude exists because of suffering. Joy happens the moment we accept our situation. Only then, can we truly move forward. “Thank God that that’s over.” We say. We reflect on our suffering in order to tap into the joy of the present moment. And it is the knowledge of suffering that bring us into a place of joy. Today I am ok. Today I am well. Today I am with family. Today, I am fed. Today, others are not. Today, I am here. Today, I am able to feel gratitude. And that is bad ass.

True abundance is nothing more than perspective. If you can look everywhere, all around, and SEE, you are really fortunate. So, don’t feel afraid to acknowledge all the things that suck this holiday season. No matter what the cheerleaders say. Because how will you know where you’re going if you can’t acknowledge where you are?  Next year, or tomorrow, or in an hour, or after one more breath, you might be better. You might be healed, or full, or wealthy. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll really strike it rich and be able to see for the first time in your life.

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