If there is a life-long pet peeve I’ve had is gratitude. By that I mean not actually being grateful for things, but the whole shenanigans surrounding it. The “practice gratitude and your life will be better” movement. Gratitude journals and count your blessings lists. I think I have a problem with the relentless positivity that I see around it. I cannot imagine any of these self-help gurus being grateful for trouble, and yet as a Christian I am expected to do that. There are more than 50 verses in the Bible about praising God in trying times.
And to be honest, I totally suck at that. As the dawn on the 3rd Thursday of November rises on the other side of the Atlantic, many people will feel that they have little to be thankful for. Others will feel they haven’t had a better year. I’m grateful I’m not American so I don’t really have the pressure to find something to be grateful for, although I’m sure I have a couple of #BiSgrateful hashtags on Instagram of late. It’s really hard to find things to be grateful for. However, after sleepwalking my way through deleting Black Friday emails giving me offers to buy things in the UK, where we don’t have Thanksgiving because 1776, I feel inclined to make an effort to find something to be grateful for because it seems we’re embracing the consumerism without the nice bit, although it is a bit ironic if you think about it. You spend a day being thankful for what you have only to go out the next day to get.more.stuff.
Starting a business is a trying time. I’m thankful for the support I was given, even just people who did not say I’m absolutely crazy. I’m thankful for my friends, even those who keep stealing my duvet at night when they stay over and then I have 3h of actual sleep over a week (hello, Helen).
I’m thankful for Blessed is She and all the women involved in it kinda trying to hold it all together, this whole being a woman in the Church thing. It constantly feels like it’s falling apart.
I’m thankful for the Peony Project, constant reminder that the egocentrism behind sharing my thoughts with the world has a purpose, even when I don’t know what it is.
I’m thankful for the Women in Leadership Network for connecting me with many amazing and inspiring women.
I’m thankful that my mother is still with us, no matter how hard our relationship has been in the past. I’m thankful that my aunt has stopped being a witch about what I do with my life.
I’m thankful that I live in a nice place where I’m getting to know people rather than feel just like another shadow against a wall in the big city. I’m thankful I could wear a red dress on Red Wednesday because I live in a country where I’m not persecuted for my faith.
It sounds like very small things but it gets lonely at times, and it gets scary when, despite what the various gurus tell you about making the big bucks in no time, you actually don’t know what your next pay check will look like. In a sense it’s easier to go the self-employed route when you have no family, as that means you’re only responsible for yourself, but on the other hand you realise it can be rather daunting to face it on your own. And while I’ve sort of come to terms with my perennially single status I’m also not really grateful for it because sometimes I really wish I had something other than myself to fight for. And it’s true that running a social enterprise in itself means I am fighting for something else, but what about crashing on the couch with a bottle of wine and someone who just cares?
And that’s without going into the whirlwind of emotions in which you’re like “Everybody thinks I’m doing amazing stuff, why does nobody like me?”. It doesn’t take long before you start seeing Baldric in the mirror when you get up in the morning.
And honestly, I can now fit clothes that I haven’t been able to fit into for at least 2 years and while it’s incredibly expensive to be on a gluten-free diet it reduces the amount of medications that I need to take to be able to do things people take for granted like leaving the bed, exercising, taking the stairs…that, I am thankful for, even if I cry internally whenever a shopping for bread cheese and ham for sandwiches to take to uni approaches the tenner.
But I don’t feel any happier or fulfilled or ready to tackle whatever the day has in store for me just because I’ve just made a list of stuff I am grateful for. I don’t have any fuzzy feelings or feel like I have rediscovered some ancient truth that had been lost. I feel like I always do, or in fact I feel like curling up in bed and crying. And I am genuinely thankful for all of these things. It’s not just that I say I am.
When I think of compliments I have been paid, or that have been paid to people especially if they wrote memoirs or novels, is that of being authentic. Honest. Even raw, at times. Not concerned with looking like what you have to look like.
So many people are falling into the trap of this pressure of a perfect life, and I see that a lot moving around entrepreneurial circles. If you’re not smiling, perfectly coiffed and rich you’re doing it wrong when actually it’s a battle, and battles are messy. There’s so much need for embracing the realities of life that sometimes it feels like we swung the pendulum the other way and now the pressure is onto being a beautiful mess. There is still a level of socially acceptable messiness, and a point that is considered too far, even in the church when seriously have you read the Old Testament? There’s some seriously messed up stuff in there.
Gratitude follows the same pattern. You confect this great life because you are so #blessed and there are all these nice things in your life, and beat yourself up when you just can’t find it in yourself to be positive because s* happened because that’s life, s* happens. And yes, I’m using swear words. That sometimes happens, too. And we should face it, and not make life out to be great when it’s just life. Ups and downs, good and bad. And we should be thankful for it.