Gratitude for when everything is garbage
There's always something to be grateful for.
Now bear with me here. This isn't a lecture, a judgment, or to elicit the image of some old-timey grandma pointing the finger and calling you "ungrateful." NOOOPE. None of that.
This is a life preserver.
On good days it's easy to feel grateful.
“Hooray, the sun is shining! Yay new promotion! My spouse makes me so happy, I'm the luckiest so-and-so in world!”
But what about the absolute worst days? Days when everything is going wrong and life seems very much like total bullshit?
Sometimes you may see people overflowing with gratitude for friends, flowers and abundance, while you can barely tolerate existing. It does not mean you are failing at anything.
Our capacities for gratitude are every bit as much in flux as everything else in our lives. It will wax and wane; you don't ever have to match anyone else's level at any given time.
On the days you can't think of a single thing for which to be grateful, here are the action steps:
1.) Pause. Get some paper.
2.) Notice what you're feeling, give it a name (or 10), and write it down.
3.) Get microscopically, ridiculously specific about the minute details around that feeling and/or your immediate surroundings, and turn them into gratitudes, no matter how silly/dark/weird they might sound.
So for example....
Feeling furious and want to be screaming profanities? Awesome!
"I'm grateful the word "Fuck" exists because it's so versatile, it perfectly sums up how fucking angry I am right now, it's very satisfying to say with that nice hard "k" sound at the end, and I'm glad I can yell it at the top of my lungs."
"I'm grateful I have oxygen and good strong lungs to scream with."
"I'm grateful I have so much anger letting me know that shit is messed up and needs to be changed."
Feeling so depressed you wish your mattress would swallow you? Been there!
"I'm grateful the depths of sadness I'm feeling can't actually consume my body because if they did I wouldn't have a chance to get out and feel other things."
"I'm grateful this sadness is letting me know lots and lots of things are deeply wrong and I need help with them."
"I'm grateful this soft blanket absorbs water so well, which means I can cry as much as I want and not feel soggy."
"I'm grateful DoorDash exists so someone will bring me a burrito and I don't even have to answer the door or talk to anyone."
"I'm grateful for the existence of sweatpants because regular pants are bullshit."
"I'm grateful for online search engines and smartphones that give me the chance to look up ‘so depressed I can't move’ and POOF like magic there are 10,000+ articles/websites/videos/support groups that can give me helpful things to do right here and now, and all I had to do was move one finger."
Important note: this practice is not the act of "fixing" your feelings.
This is not to erase them, vanquish them, or turn them into something more comfortable. This is acknowledging them, working with them as they are, and cultivating space for other feelings too.
Things in your life can completely suck, AND you can be grateful about stuff simultaneously.
You can feel awful, AND happy.
Your emotions aren't here to battle each other for ground, they can co-habitate within you peacefully.
So yes, you can be grateful and miserable/angry/depressed/terrified.
When it's hard to find gratitude, it's time to narrow the scope and lower the expectations.
You can be grateful that you like your shoelaces.
Or that there's a leftover muffin and you get to eat it later.
Or that you have a TV streaming subscription, that's a real thing now (when I was a kid we hauled our asses to Blockbuster...in the rain...uphill both ways...) and you have it and you get to enjoy using it.
Or that gravity hasn't reversed itself spontaneously dumping your coffee all over the ceiling.
(It's a WIN. Take the win!)
Can you find 3 things around the room right now to be +1% gladder that it exists?
(Or that it does a necessary job? Or for reminding you of something?)
Did your table manage to hold up your plate today?
YES. Great job, table!
Did your stomach manage to digest any food today, giving your body nutrients and calories it needs to keep functioning?
ACES! Great job, digestive system!
You've most likely got a good number of fingers and toes doing good work for you, have you thanked them lately?
(If you're missing some, have you been kind to the remainder who are working overtime?)
Write it all down. Seriously.
How long is that gratitude list now?
It might feel stupid to say to yourself, "I have a pillow! Pillows exist and I have one! It's soft and I get to lay my head on it, YAY!"
...but the more stupid, seemingly insignificant, crazy-specific, generally-overlooked things you notice and add to the Gratitude Pile, the bigger that pile gets. As it grows, it comes closer and closer to outweighing the pile of dark exhausting awful things. It doesn't take long for those silly, small gratitudes to pile up so high the bummer stuff seems small and manageable by comparison.
Once the bummer pile is manageable, you get to move forward towards days ahead...where you may eventually find yourself honestly feeling deep, cheezy, over-the-moon gratitude for butterflies on sunny days and the majesty of life itself.
It will still wax and wane.
The point is to practice finding it, and enjoy feeling it while it's there. (And yes, it very much helps to have a hard-copy list for reference.)
"I must look for the glowing things,
The warm things
The friendly things
The beautiful things.
They aren't a given anymore. I must seek them,
Build a fortress of joy in the midst of despair.
(It's always both.)
Tend the garden and compost the weeds.
Until one day, the dark, cold, pinching things slink to a distant corner, neglected,
And I smile deeply at my landscape again."
All the love and hugs, friends