Liam was only 15 months old when I saw him display gratitude for the first time. At the time, it was the best moment I had ever had with him; and still to this day, it remains a top-3 experience with him.
I’m not the best example of someone who constantly displays gratitude. In fact, I struggle with the notion and expectation that I must be happy and grateful for everything that occurs. I think people who are constantly happy and positive about absolutely everything are hiding something or are avoiding true emotions at a deeper level. They are just wearing a mask to be considered socially acceptable.
I’ve learnt the hard way numerous times, that there IS such a thing as being “too honest”. If I post something on my social media accounts that is overtly positive and inline with what mainstream happiness might look or feel like, I get tons of interaction! The likes, comments and shares go out of control.
However, if I post anything where I’m “too honest” or real, raw, or dare I express frustration or admit ungratefulness, well then people get uncomfortable and start shaming me. My own friends and family will quickly reply, attempting to correct me by saying things like:
“Look on the bright side”
“You should focus on being more positive”
“Be grateful for what you have”
But what if that is not my true, authentic emotion? Does that make me wrong? Does that automatically mean I have to work on my attitude and not post or say anything again until I’ve fixed it? Do these people really want ME to be happier, or do THEY just want to feel better, and my situation is making them feel uncomfortable?
A good example of this are the stories of usually men and fathers, who shame their kids (and sometimes their wives too) whenever they cry. Fathers tell their sons to “toughen up”, “don’t cry like a girl” and other horribly misguided expressions, forcing these tiny, fragile humans to learn that because YOU don’t know how to handle it when they cry, then THEY are not allowed to show that emotion or reaction when something naturally triggers it.
But back to gratitude, it’s Thanksgiving this weekend and that’s why gratitude is on my mind as it will be on most people’s mind this weekend. I want to be better at it. I want “being more grateful” to be my New Years’ resolution, but I’m not waiting for January 1st. I’m going to make today, Thanksgiving weekend the start of my new year.
Whenever I think of gratitude now, I picture my 15-month-old son Liam, clutching his Care Bear looking up at me with eyes like I had never seen before. He couldn’t understand why we had given him this stuffed animal, but that didn’t matter to him. He was just so grateful we had, and he cherished that teddy bear. It was his, and it was special.
That’s what I want for myself. I want to be overtaken with emotion when I am given something. Even if it is something I have taken for granted my entire life. So many people - myself included - continually dwell on what we don’t have and forget to be grateful for what we do have. I think society influences this far too much. We see pictures on Instagram and tell ourselves that’s what we too deserve and are owed. The expectations and standards are ridiculous.
For example, this weekend I won’t be eating a turkey dinner. I have no friends or extended family coming over and it will be a quiet, lonely weekend. Today I saw a post on Instagram asking,
“How many turkey dinners will you enjoy this weekend?”
HOW MANY?!? Since when is ONE not enough?!? Not only does this imply that having a turkey dinner is expected, but this type of post makes me feel like I deserve more than just one.
It might be a tough weekend for some as it will be easy to fall into the social media feeds. See, because I won’t be busy cooking a big meal this year, or reconnecting with extended family, I will likely scroll aimlessly through images of all of you enjoying your meal, making me wish I could have what you have, while forgetting about what I already have.
The fact of the matter, and the point of this blog is that there is always going to be someone out there with more than you, and someone with less than you. We dwell far too much on the former, while we try to ignore the latter; because it makes us feel uncomfortable.
This Thanksgiving I want to be uncomfortable if that means being content and grateful for what I have; knowing some have more and others have less. That doesn’t change the fact that I need to be grateful for what I’ve been given. Now, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with wishing for and dreaming of having more (trust me, a turkey dinner this weekend would be so good!), but it’s when we overlook what we have already been given, that the issues arise. Regardless of whether I’m eating a Turkey dinner with nine other side dishes or a simple box of instant macaroni and cheese, the fact is that I have food and I’m not starving.
Can you think of something in your life that you’re taking for granted? Why not make a point this weekend to cherish that item and be content with what you have, even if only for a moment.