November 26, 2014

This Thanksgiving: Reframing our Gratitude List.


Every Thanksgiving, I, like many others, take note of everything I’m thankful for.

The usual items make the list: health, home, family, husband and such.

This year, I decided to start a new tradition. One that would bring to light the things I may be overlooking. It can be easy to spot the blessings in our life; it’s much more challenging to find the blessing in the hardship, the misfortune, the tragedy. I want to reframe my perspective on the things in my life that never make the gratitude list, but perhaps should.

A great way to begin this process is by asking ourselves, “what really sucks in my life right now?”

Go ahead, ask. It won’t take long for the mind to go crazy with suggestions, real or imagined. Then list the ones that stand out. Take time to reflect on each one. Why does it suck? What is it robbing you of? What feelings does it stir up in you? These are not easy questions.

After some reflection, step back, and begin to shift your perspective. Leave the bitter feelings that stirred up aside for a while and ask yourself a new set of questions—what is this sucky thing trying to tell me? Where in my life do I need to make some changes? Is there any part of this that’s enlightening?

When I ask myself that initial question, here’s what comes up, in no particular order:

1. Debt

I have debt. It really sucks. It’s a heavy, burdensome, soul-sucking shackle that follows me around and won’t loosen its grip. But it didn’t just land in my life; I allowed it to come in, little by little, dollar by dollar, almost imperceptibly. And now it sits, unyielding, on my shoulders.


The obvious message my personal debt is trying to give me is this: stop spending what you don’t have! It sounds cliché and common sense. Nevertheless, it wasn’t common practice. Debt has taught me the value of what I already have. It taught me that material possessions are just that—material things that can be replaced. It took going into debt to break me open, to become honest with those around me, and honor the truth.

I am thankful for debt because it has forced me away from the slavery of consumerism and distraction of shopping into cultivating a much richer, meaningful life.

2. Unemployment

I don’t have a job right now. Like many Americans, I find myself in constant waves of frustration, discouragement, shattered hope, and financial uncertainty. I work freelance as a writer and thankfully have the support of my husband, and I’m thankful for that. But not having a job goes far beyond no income. It can lead to unworthiness, a loss of confidence, and isolation.

I want to work because I want to contribute to something, to be part of a team, to be altruistically valuable. I want an outlet for my creativity, my passion and ideas.


Looking at unemployment through a different lens, I can be thankful for the gift of time it presents me. I can use that time to dream, reboot, volunteer, create, write, read, meditate, get dreaded chores done or simply be. I can take this experience and support others going through the same thing. I can find my voice again; I can discover what it is I wholeheartedly want out of life.

3. No BFF

I’m naturally an introvert. I like spending time alone and recharging. But I also crave deep, strong personal connection. In a world where we are more connected but less fulfilled, a treasured friendship is not something to take for granted.

Growing up, my family moved around a lot, twice to different continents. I wasn’t able to maintain long-lasting friendships. And not working has only prolonged the absence of meaningful relationships in my life outside my husband and family.


The ache in my soul that yearns for deeper connections reminds me of my amicability. It tells me I want to offer friendship, communion, and the simple joy of having a good conversation that leaves you in good spirits. Not having this in my life encourages me to go out and seek it. But perhaps more importantly, it gives me the chance to learn how to befriend the one person I can’t be without: myself. If I cannot be a kind and loving friend to myself, I will be a lousy friend to others.

I’m sure I can think of more, but these stand out predominantly.

Now it’s your turn. What can you add to your gratitude list that you’ve never listed before? What sucks really bad and could use a perspective shift?

Wishing you and yours a wonderful and gratitude-filled Thanksgiving.


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Author: Anokina Shahbaz

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: BK/Flickr

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