posted by Jackie Gaston
Thoughts on Gratitude
I've been thinking a lot about the concept of gratitude and what it means. For me it has had a somewhat negative connotation. That sounds kind of weird in a way but I don't think I'm the only one who has had a charge around it. How many times have you heard or been told that you should be grateful that things aren't worse for you or that you should be grateful for what you have even though you don't have what you want? I've been so busy feeling guilty for having any less than grateful feelings that I've never stopped to figure out what gratitude really is until recently.
Dictionary dot com cites gratitude as a synonym of thankful. I know how to be thankful but that definition doesn't seem quite full enough for me. Gratitude has had an element of groveling, being thankful things that are less than what I want or for whatever someone else thinks I should have. There's that S word again. Maybe the charge I've had around the G word is more about the S word. Dictionary dot come gives the definition of should as: must; ought (used to indicate duty, propriety, or expediency). Duty is the key word here for me. Gratitude as something that I have a duty to feel just doesn't seem right. In fact, until very recently, I just didn't grok the concept at all.
Then something changed. It changed in an instant during the very ordinary act of taking a pan out of my cabinet. You see, for more than a year, I lived in furnished apartments. This meant that I had no access to my own things. I didn't mind it very much except for my kitchen things. I have acquired each pot, each pan, each gadget, and each dish because it fits with my own concept of ease of use and my own aesthetic sensibilities. My pots and pans are plenty sturdy but not to heavy. My dishes are a discontinued pattern that I collect via eBay. Cooking with other peoples kitchen equipment was annoying to say the least. I was constantly missing some gadget or bowl that I'm accustomed to using for a particular task. Oddly, the thing I missed the most was my wooden fork. I use that fork for all kinds of things and I found myself reaching for it when I knew it wasn't there.
A few months ago, we were able to retrieve our things and get rid of all the stuff that wasn't ours. I have been reveling in having my things back. Eating from my own plates. Drinking from my own glasses. Having all of my little gadgets that make cooking a fun and creative activity for me. Then last week I reached down to get a pan to make tortilla soup and was overcome by a feeling of gratitude that I'd never felt before. I wasn't thinking about how nice it was to have my own things again. The feeling just washed over me and took my breath away. It only lasted a few seconds at that intensity but it changed my view of gratitude forever.
I now have more than an intellectual idea of what gratitude is. No one, not even me, was telling me what I should feel. It is impossible to intellectualize feelings but we all do it to one degree or another. Many times it takes the form of rationalization. We think that we have to have a reason for feeling or not feeling something. Rationalization keeps us in our heads rather than in our hearts and keeps us from hearing the messages that our feelings have for us. When we deny our feelings or don't pay attention to them, we set ourselves up for all kinds of unwanted moods and situations. We get so used to ignoring our feelings that we don't even know we are doing it. Then we wonder why things turn out the way they do in our lives. It's as though the UPS guy is knocking at our door but we don't open it and wonder why our package isn't here.
If we ignore our feelings long enough they go into hiding and start to find other ways to get our attention. Bad moods, physical symptoms, other emotions that are too intense for us to ignore. If you think you have some feelings that you have ignored for so long you don't know what they are, give me a shout. The biggest part of my work is helping you find out what feelings you're not acknowledging and hearing the messages those feelings have for you.