These weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are a tricky time for gratitude and balance. I resent the outpouring of saccharin gratitude foisted upon me from every direction during the Thanksgiving “season.” I become anti-gratitude; curmudgeonly and resentful in response to thanks being promoted so vociferously and ubiquitously. No thanks. Gratitude doesn’t mean much to me when it stands out like patriotism or simplicity as an abstract bandwagon to leap upon because ‘tis the season. It feels hollow and sheeplike to pony up and offer another platitude about thankfulness. It ain’t integrated into a way of life; it’s just words.
I’m a balance convert, an acceptor of crankiness. Rather than repression and false gratitude, I revel in reality. I’m not grateful for my misery, but when I’m resentful and cranked, I don’t seek to be anything else. And I don’t suggest others should either. Is it a Buddhist practice to accept what is, watch it unfold, blossom in its fullness and then eventually pass? It seems to me that it works a lot like digestion – take it in, take what you can from it, and then discard the rest, and move on. Next time you’re hungry, you’ll eat another meal and have another experience.
I watch the bad mood, the resentment, the monkeymind, the feelings of entitlement and victimization come and go, as they are wont to do. And same goes for the experiences of awe, gratitude, wonderment, joy and connectedness. Wooing them, stalking them, and yelling about them when I have them does not seem to entice them to stick around and multiply. That watching part of me reminds of one of the central tenets of quantum physics — the observer effect. Identifying with the observer, even a little, helps to take the sting out. It keeps at least one tiny piece of me grounded in the notion that “this too shall pass.” Let it in, let it out. Like breath, like food, like love.
I think it is basically about judging. I work as a therapist, and I’ve visited the other side of the couch, and I can say with conviction that learning not to judge my own emotional experiences has been overwhelmingly positive for me. Gratitude is a whole lot more pleasant than resentment, but coaching myself to be grateful is grating on my nerves.
I choose to identify with my Inner Observer, my Quantum Popeye. I yam what I yam. Until I become the next thing, anyway.