As I try to conjure up the required attitude of gratitude inherent in any “good spiritual student,” the usual list comes to mind.
I’m grateful for my family, friends, the roof over my head, the food on my plate, my health, running water, blah blah blah.
Are you bored reading this? I am.
While I truly am grateful for those, in all honesty, I’m a bit bored with this list. It’s not that I’m bored with these blessings, it’s that I’m always grateful for them, so rehashing them feels a little stagnant and overdone.
It’s easy to be grateful for things that make me comfortable, like my soft, fuzzy blanket, or happy, like my mom and her now cancer-free body, even if her post chemo, newly grown hair is more like my fuzzy blanket than the silky, shiny, straight hair she once had. I’m happy and grateful that I get to experience more life with her regardless of her chia pet hair.
That’s easy, a no brainer.
But what about the tough stuff, like breakups and betrayals and the cancer that tore through my mom’s body before she beat it?
Is it possible to reach deep within oneself and find gratitude for those painful things?
Maybe a better question is: is it necessary?
I’ve read countless articles about why we should be grateful for our adversities, but frankly, they all seem pretty trite. Sure, our tragedies and hardships may have made us stronger, but maybe I could’ve found my strength in a different—oh I don’t know—less want-to-kill-myself-and-everyone-around-me kind of way.
As a highly sensitive person, things affect me deeply. And when I say deeply, I mean: imagine if you start digging into the ground with a shovel. You could dig for the rest of your life to the end of the earth and still not reach the bottom of my emotional well.
So when traumatic things happen in my life, you might as well bury me in that hole you just dug.
I am not grateful for them.
Sure, I can try to find the positive side of them. I can look for ways in which they made me who I am today and imagine what my life would lack now if those things didn’t happen—but how would I really know if I’m better off now because of those hard times and bitter turns? Instead of spending a decade in my 20s sulking in my bed depressed, I could have spent a decade laughing and running barefoot in the sand on the beach. Would I actually be in a worse place today if I was happy during those 10 years instead of suicidal?
Maybe. Maybe not.
While it might be a good exercise for strengthening my silver lining muscles, it doesn’t mean I have to ever be grateful for them. Being on the spiritual path doesn’t mean you have to love and appreciate everything that happens to you. Too often, we feel guilt and shame for not being able to be happier, more positive, and grateful. Being on the spiritual path means accepting yourself just as you are, no matter what you’re feeling.
Sometimes not being grateful for things is okay.
Sometimes your dad dies suddenly of leukemia and you regret the years you spent being angry with him and shutting him out of your life.
Sometimes your boyfriend leaves you for a younger woman and your self-esteem dive bombs into a black hole.
Sometimes your friend kills herself while you’re away for the week taking care of your mom during chemo, and the last time you saw her, you were too busy to look her in the eyes and tell her how much you love her.
Sometimes sh*t happens and it sucks.
Am I grateful for all these things that happened in my life?
So why put more pressure on myself to try to be grateful for them when I don’t have to?
Instead, I can be grateful for that spark in me that never stopped loving, never stopped fighting, never stopped living, despite all the sh*tty things I’m ungrateful for.
I can be grateful for that untouchable, indefinable, immeasurable light within me that keeps going every day no matter what, that believes in the inherent goodness of life and seeks out the best in things, whether I find it or not.
I can be grateful for the life force that continues to flow through me regardless of what’s happening—because it means that if I’m experiencing anything at all, painful or not, I’m still alive.
And because I’m alive, I can stand tall and say:
Life, you can whack me with your adversity stick all day long. I’m going to take your blows like the strong warrior Goddess, superhero, sensitive woman that I am, and while I may fall, I’m going to keep getting up, dusting myself off, and carrying on.
And for that, I am grateful.
The other stuff? Not so much.
Author: Tree Franklyn
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Callie Rushton