Gratitude and its Opposite
Gratitude makes it easier to feel good again after feeling bad. It is a force of buoyancy, working to lift everything up.
Ingratitude, or complaining, is the weight which makes it all harder.
The Weight of Ingratitude
Let’s say Max and I fight about something silly… as couples do. I buy an item while out shopping that wasn’t on the grocery list. Max manages the food budget, and is annoyed by the on-the-fly decision making, and further annoyed when I get defensive about it..
After the fight, imagine ingratitude slinking around my shoulders. Clawing at my belly. The viper hisses seductively into my ear, and his slithering body feels almost like a hug when I’m feeling vulnerable. He whispers about how little Max must care about me for us to argue about something so small. Ingratitude tugs on my ear, telling me how I am not valued, or appreciated. He empathizes, “You were having such a good day… now look what happened. This is so sad, so difficult.” Ingratitude tells me that my partner really must be a jerk to make a stink over just a few dollars, that my defensiveness was natural. Even righteous. I’m really something of a martyr. I am the Joan of Arc of grocery shopping, reduced to embers and ash, but beloved in my suffering.
The murmurs of ingratitude are tempting… so, so tempting. They feel like the words of a concerned friend. That friend pulls you down, down, down. They encourage your heavy body to lay in the bed, curl under a blanket, and sigh under the weight. After a while, you feel like a poor little baby who needs a good cry, and to be taken care of for a while.
But, asking friends to take care of you is a luxury. No one wants to take care of you all day, every day, forever. Someday, you will hit a point where you ask too much and offer too little. That is the sort of person who is often called a “sad sack.”
I have been a sad sack.
The Lift of Gratitude
We return to that same moment. The grocery shopping is over. The argument has ensued. I’m feeling rather sad and attacked.
Gratitude is the warm, booming voice that tells me that I am stronger than I feel right this second. Like a good father swooping in to care for a skinned knee, Gratitude slaps me on the back, tells me to stand up, encourages me not to cry.
I am strong. I am tough. Little conflicts happen all the time– and aren’t I lucky to have a person in my life to weather the small conflicts with me?
There’s always a way to appreciate the perspective of the person I have been fighting with. Max argues when he cares about something. I respect that. I want someone in my life to advocate for things that are important to them, and to us. If Max just let everything slide all the time and fell into complacency, we’d end up doing what I think is best all the time. Or making no decisions at all. I would lose out on the power of his wonderful, thoughtful brain. I want his brain working for us.
And, lucky me! Today, I have his brain working at the problem of budgeting food expenses.
By the time I let just a few of these grateful thoughts pass through my mind, I feel uplifted. I feel better. I feel lucky.
Going up Together
After some gratitude and appreciation, I find Max again. I give him a big kiss. I tell him I love him. From the look on his face, I can tell he has been doing the same thing– he has been having a conversation with Daddy Gratitude, and appreciating how lucky he is. He smiles warmly, tells me he loves me too.
We are very lucky.
And so are you. Even if you’re not sure sometimes what for. You are very, very lucky.
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