That Gratitude Thing (Again)

This is only my 4th post on the 7th day of the blogging challenge.

It’s difficult to come up with something to write every day. ­čśŤ

I have been thinking about gratitude again this last week, as I spent almost a week crashing at other people’s homes while there was a heatwave going on and my a/c was broken (again? still? WTF?).

I have realized that I often talk about negative things. It seems that I want to write more when I’m trying to work through something negative than I do when I’m feeling good.

I guess when I’m feeling good or happy or content (or somewhat manic, even) I am DOING things rather than writing about them.

From Pixabay

But I know that expressing gratitude and good emotions is also important to keep on an even keel.

So, today, I am most grateful for my BFF and the fact that even though we haven’t hung out together as much in the last 3 years or so (and sometimes things have been strained), that she is still there for me, and she let me use her place while she was out of town for the last 4 nights.

I’m also grateful for another friend that put me up for a couple of nights last week.

From Pixabay

I’m grateful for internet service (especially since I may be losing it soon. . . .). Being able to connect on the internet is a really big deal for me. There have been points in the past where I was unable to speak to people in real life or to pick up a phone, but I was able to communicate online. Sometimes it was through using libraries/free services and sometimes from my home, but the ability to communicate instantly in writing has been critical to me at various points. There are so many internet communities and mini-communities that have become important, no VITAL, to me.

I am grateful that I have an apartment. The period from Sept 2006-March 2008 was not a comfortable one. I complain about this place a lot, but it is so much better than sleeping on a friend’s floor and/or renting a room in someone else’s house.

I am grateful that my daughter has grown up to be a fantastic person despite having me as a mom.

I am grateful for my resilience.

What are you grateful for right now?

But I still need shoes!

“I was sad/upset/complained that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet”┬á

photo by Ishtar

A fairly common bit of “wisdom” (pseudo-wisdom?)

It’s supposed to be a reminder to be grateful for the things you have by realizing that maybe what you have isn’t so bad.

A brief aside:

In May, I mentioned a site where another person with Bipolar had a list of the “worst things to say” to people with mental health issues.

Number 2 on the list was

“There are a lot of people worse off than you.”┬á

Number 3 is

“You have so many things to be thankful for, how can you be depressed?”

To me, these are intimately connected, partly because of the “no feet” bit of common wisdom.

I “shared” a meme on my personal FB page today that said,

“Saying someone can’t be sad because someone else may have it worse is just like saying someone can’t be happy because someone else might have it better.”

A friend responded by saying it’s about perspective, and her life is pretty good even if she doesn’t have everything she wants.

And I get that. It’s great that she feels that way.

There are always things to be grateful for, and it can help to think about those things when you’re down. I’ve talked about working on Gratitude this year; I know it’s good psychologically and spiritually.

BUT. . . .

What if. . . .

Using the shoes/feet metaphor, my feet are bleeding because I’ve been barefoot so long.

So, yes, if I see the guy with no feet, I’m grateful I have feet, BUT, my feet are in still in pain. My feet are in danger of getting infected. I’m in danger of losing my feet.

And if you keep pointing the guy with no feet out to me, it doesn’t help me heal.

I still need shoes!

Continuing to show me pictures of people with no feet and telling me to be happy about my shredded, bleeding, cold, painful feet doesn’t help me, because I still need the goddamn shoes.

Am I taking the metaphor too far?

How about some Real Life examples?

I’m am extremely grateful that when I could no longer pay rent, my friend was able to let me sleep on her floor for 4 months, so I/we didn’t end up on the street. It was amazing that she did that for us, even though it put her lease in danger and strained our friendship at times.

But I was still in a position of being evicted from our home, having no money and no job and unable to see a way out at that time. I was still in a position of having no home for my daughter and trying to keep her in her school for some sense of stability. I am still responsible for giving my child that as a childhood experience/memory.

And then there was a great conversation with my therapist.

At the time, I was taking some hard classes and hanging out and studying with this one woman. She was smart, funny, and very hard-working.

And she was in a wheelchair.

I never asked what was wrong with her; I thought it was something neuromuscular, because she had some fine motor problems as well.

I was comparing myself to her.

I was trying to think, “At least things aren’t that bad for me.”

It didn’t make me feel better.

In fact, I felt guilty about trying to feel better about someone else’s misfortune.

I was talking to my therapist, and she told me to stop, just STOP comparing my situation with other people’s.

Yes, this woman had physical disabilities, but she also had a great support system that helped her with a lot of what she needed help with. At that time, my support system wasn’t all that strong.

Our situations were totally different.

And even though her life had challenges, so did mine!

By trying to compare myself to her, I was trying to minimize my challenges, minimize or erase my problems.

I was belittling myself for not being grateful enough for not being in that chair.

I was not honoring my own life, my own problems, my own path, my own feelings.

I was suppressing my emotions.

None of that is good or helpful for me.

Going back to the original statement that spurred this post:

“Saying someone can’t be sad because someone else may have it worse is just like saying someone can’t be happy because someone else might have it better.”

The point, I think, if I’ve got one, is

Stop comparing yourself to others!

That’s it.

Just stop.

Everyone has struggles, problems, bad things in their life.

You probably don’t know what they are.

Don’t be thankful that you’re not in as bad a position as someone else is.

Try not to be envious if you think someone else’s life is better (that one is so fucking hard, I know! Still working on it. . .)

Don’t tell someone else that they have nothing to worry about because so-and-so has it worse.

There is no better/worse.

There is only different.

Don’t tell me to be thankful that I’m not. . ..whatever. . . like so-and-so over there.

Don’t point out the guy with no feet.

Remind me of the good things I have, to help me think about those.

Remind me that my daughter is turning into a great human being.

Remind me that I *did* finally finish my degree.

Remind me of the times that I took risks and they panned out.

But don’t tell me to feel better because someone else has it worse.

Don’t point out the guy with no feet to try to help me feel better.

Because I still need the shoes!

Gratitude

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

I remember a few years back gratitude journals were thee big self-help/spirituality fad. Oprah talked about it, even, and it became fairly mainstream.

I’ve been listening to a bunch of interviews with successful people (free content, here and here and here). And the feeling of gratitude is strong, especially in the woman-centered spiritual groups, but really, in most of them. Even in the┬áAmos Winbush interview I referenced yesterday, part of his daily affirmation is “Thank you, LIFE!” and he used it even in his darkest times.

I’ve tried, in thee last few years, I’ve really tried to find things to be grateful for. There was a point, even, where I hand-wrote and sent “Thank you” cards to various people in my life in one of my darkest times.

R, who has been my friend since 6th grade, once sent me a postcard saying, “You suck for never writing to me!” because, well, in our whole friendship, I’ve probably written to her less than a handful of times, even when in the military or separated on summer vacations. When she got hers, she called me to make sure I was ok, since it was so unusual for me to actually mail something.

I tried keeping a gratitude journal, but I’m sporadic about journaling to begin with and it quickly went by the wayside.

This fall, there were a lot of people on Facebook and blogs and stuff doing “30 days of thankfulness” for the entire month of November. I just couldn’t come up with anything to write about.

I can always say that I’m grateful for my daughter, and for N for sticking by me even when I’m a totally selfish shit, and my imaginary intermaweb friends. . .

And that was it.

I couldn’t come up with anything else.

An indication of my depression, maybe?

Suddenly, today, I’m bursting with gratitude for the strangest things. . .

I hated my job at [small company]. I mean enough to make myself a nervous wreck and physically ill at times.

But that job helped me go from renting a room in a toxic person’s house to being in my own place again. It introduced me to the person I bought my car from, which was a very serendipitous event. It introduced me to the woman who helped me come up with a name and logo for my tutoring business. I managed to maintain a good relationship with the company and even got a glowing letter of recommendation from them (and how often does that happen these days?). They sometimes didn’t want to but still ended up being flexible around my school schedule.

And I still have a business relationship with them. It’s not much, but in the last 6 months, the small checks from them have really made a difference. It showed me how much the owner’s attitude and force of will can shape and set the tone for a company.

And it modeled for me some things I would never want to do if I owned my own company – and that, too, is a blessing.

I’m still so, so grateful to R and N for always being there even when I push everyone away.

Modern forms of communication. . . ┬áand even the ability to look up someone from long ago. I’m even grateful to J for looking me up last spring, because it was a huge push I needed to finally stop wallowing in a particular pile of shit and become open for what could happen next.

My imaginary intermaweb friends, who are always so encouraging and protective and helpful, delivering hugs and a kick in the ass as needed. You know, even the grumpy old uncle and the guy living in Pleasantville – as annoying as they can be – have their place in that community [the people who need to know, know]. ­čÖé When I was completely unable to connect and communicate in the real world, you guys were there.

And now, my comfort level with electronic communication has me researching all kinds of crazy things.

No idea where it’s going to lead, but I’ve ignored my intuition for a long time, and maybe it’s time to stop doing that. So, I’m riding this thing out and taking┬ácopious┬ánotes.