A New Approach to Thankfulness

I have, unfortunately, never developed an aptitude for thankfulness. I’m a glass-is-half-empty kind of girl, and to be fair, for the last decade or so, my life glass has seemed a bit dry. A lot of wonderful things have happened to me over the last ten years – meeting and marrying Dustin, having a child, learning, growing, creating a family – but I’ve also had to deal with a lot – a diagnosis of Bipolar syndrome, joblessness, tooth problems, jaw problems, mysterious bone-growing problems, and chronic pain. In some ways, my twenties and early thirties have been a steady progression through one disappointment after another. Don’t get me wrong, I have always been pessimistic. But I used to be a whole lot less pessimistic than I am now. Life can only kick you with its steel-toed boots so many time before you stop expecting it to hand you a cookie.

Needless to say, thankfulness is not my strong suit. I am great at misery and self-pity. I am an expert complainer. But gratitude? Seeing the silver lining? Not so much.

I wish I had a better attitude, especially after reading everyone’s Facebook posts on Turkey Day. There is a whole lot of delightful, heartfelt optimism and gratefulness out there, and I’d like to finally be a part of it somehow. I have therefore decided to take a stab at the whole thankfulness thing this year – in my own way, of course. Instead of straining my eyes to make out the silver lining in what seems to me like dark and ominous storm clouds, I have chosen to take all the bad, unhappy, and unfortunate things in my life and simply be thankful for those. Here goes…

1. I am thankful for constant pain. Feeling pain is an indication that I am reasonably healthy – that my nervous system is functioning correctly – that I am not a leper or an amputee or a paraplegic. Constant pain means that I am still alive. Bam! Thankful.

2. I am thankful for stress and overwork. Having too many things to do means that I can still contribute to my family and my society. Being tired and overwhelmed is an indication that I have not actually given up and refused to get out of bed. I am still trying to be a good human being – to be responsible and productive. Stress and overwork are a sure sign that I still feel normal human urges and emotions. Bam! Thankful.

3. I am thankful for minor financial anxieties. Worrying about how we will pay for new work shoes or buy Christmas presents this year means that I am not worrying about more important things – like how I will pay for my food or medicine or how I will keep my child alive. Bam! Thankful.

4. I am thankful for depression. Yeesh. This is a hard one. Okay…if I did not experience periods of crippling depression, I would not be the person I am today. I would have chosen a different career – had kids earlier – lost a lot of opportunities to become stronger and more resilient. I would have missed out on the exact, weird, wonderful child that I did end up getting. I would not have met some of my dearest friends. And I would not have seen, beyond a doubt, how much my husband loves me. Without my periods of unreasonable, gut-wrenching sadness, I would not be me. And, all things considered, I really quite like being me. Bam! Thankful.

Huh. Maybe there really is something to be said for optimism. This whole thankfulness racket really does kind of bring about a sense of peace and well-being – I may need to make a habit of it.

Happy belated Thanksgiving, everybody, and especially to my fellow pessimists. I suggest that you take a moment and count your blessings (or your curses, as the case may be). You may find, as I did, that there are a few refreshing drinks left in the glass after all.

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2 thoughts on “A New Approach to Thankfulness

  1. Bam! That was good. Took me years – no make that decades – to discover that being thankful is a great combatant to depression or other negatives in life. Keep at it Julie. Joy is just up ahead.

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