Thursday, November 24, 2011
Gratitude & Thanksgiving
At the beginning of 2011, well technically the end of 2010, I decided to spend a whole year focused on gratitude. I've blogged about this a couple of times before, but it feels like it's time to say a few words about it again. Maybe because Thanksgiving is today, and I'm having a harder time feeling thankful than I have all year. I know why and a part of me feels like it's completely understandable, but I don't like feeling like this. I prefer my state of gratitude. I really do.
This year has had some strange ups and downs. My life has encountered some challenges that I probably should've seen coming but didn't. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say I chose not to see them. A little over a year ago, I told a good friend that "Willful blindness makes the day go a lot smoother." when explaining a particular situation in my life. I've come to realize that simple sentence had become my motto at some point over the years. If I didn't want to see it, I closed my eyes. If I didn't want to hear it, I covered my ears.If I didn't want to feel the pain, I acted like it didn't exist. If I didn't want it to be reality, I pretended it wasn't. I created a reality that looked like I what I wanted to see even if it only really existed in my mind. In a way I guess I bought into the idea that if you think it, it will happen. But there are some things you just can't think into existence.
In a way, I even became grateful for the willful blindness. It allowed me to smile. It allowed me laugh. It allowed me to in contact with people. It allowed me to be a wife. It allowed me to exist. It allowed me forget what I wanted to forget. It allowed me to ignore the truths that didn't fit with the paradigm I'd created. It allowed me to pretend I actually had a fulfilling life. It allowed me to maintain a certain level of happiness I even believed was real as long as I never looked below the surface, so to speak.
When the blinders were suddenly ripped from my face, I grabbed them and tried to put them back on. I rather liked the reality they'd created. I didn't want to face that that reality was a pretense. I'd worked hard to create it. I wanted to believe that happiness was real. I really did. I was grateful for the happiness I felt. So what if it was only surface happiness?
As I accepted that the blinders weren't my friend, I began to feel resentful and angry. I felt like too much about my life was false, and I didn't know what to do with those feelings. My gratitude for the life I had began to disappear.
I decided I needed to get back in touch with my gratitude in an effort to reconnect to my happy state of being because as my blinders came off I realized I wasn't as happy as I thought, but I didn't realize my former happiness had been surface level only. That took a while to discover and even longer to accept.
As I focused on gratitude, I discovered something that surprised me. There are things about my life I love. There are things about my life I don't like in the least. I feel genuine happiness and genuine sadness in my heart. I have needs and desires that are important. I discovered that I could be happy without denying who I am. I discovered I could be happy and still be loved. I discovered that pretending didn't help anyone. I discovered that being myself might cost me, but that not being myself had cost me more.
Focusing on gratitude lead me to understand that I want positive people in my life. I want people who are optimistic and loving and caring and supportive and encouraging and inspiring in my life. And just as much as I want people who give me those things I want people who allow me to give the same back to them.I want people in my life who are real. I want people who can say they're having a bad day without blaming the whole world. I want people in my life who can acknowledge both the good and the bad in themselves. I want people in my life who are honest not only with others but first with themselves. I want happiness. I want other people to be happy. I want people who want me to be happy without changing me. I want to laugh. I want to have fun. I want to continue my writing. I want success. I want balance.
Knowing what I truly want makes it so much easier to set goals. Accepting what I truly want makes it so much easier to express my desires and needs. Embracing what I truly want makes it so much easier to push forward. Letting go of the fear that my desires don't line up perfectly with the image others see of me or with those of the important people in my life is scary but leads to much more honest communication. The vulnerability may lead to pain, but at least the pain will be honest. I am grateful that I've come come to recognize, accept, and embrace my true desires in life.
I find I'm grateful for all the people who've contributed to my life's journey. Without them, I wouldn't be who I am. I'm grateful for the friends who helped me uncover my truth and supported me along the way. I love them more than they know.
If nothing else, I can say that my experiences have inspired my writing resulting in short stories, my novel, All She Ever Wanted, and my poetry including my recently released book of poetry, Love in Silhouette. So even when I think about lost moments or mistakes made, I have to concede my body of work wouldn't exist without the experiences I've encountered.
So, as I think about Thanksgiving, I realize that I have much to feel thankful for even if it's not the things people generally feel thankful for. Instead, I'm thankful that I'm facing my life - both the good and the bad - once again. I'm thankful for the growth I've experienced in the last year - actually all the growth I've experienced in my life. I'm thankful for the work inspired by my experiences. I'm thankful for real feelings even when they're not always happiness...
T. L. Cooper grew up on a farm in Tollesboro, Kentucky. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Eastern Kentucky University. Her poems, short stories, articles, and essays have appeared online, in books, and in magazines. Her published work includes a novel, All She Ever Wanted, five books of poetry, and a book of short stories. When not writing, she enjoys yoga, golf, creating plant-based recipes, and traveling. Currently, she resides in Albany, Oregon.