My thoughts turn to gratitude this sunny spring day. Not so much because I am grateful but because I started to notice how much time I have been spending whining about how ungrateful other people are.
It seems I have (once again) become the gratitude police. I can be any kind of police that is needed at any given time to be honest. When I start to notice the mantle I am wearing it is usually time to take it off and think about why I am wearing it now.
I have written in a gratitude journal off and on over the years. For those of you around my age you may remember the Sarah Ban Breathnach series. She got me started. I really appreciated what she had to say back when she said it. Although I think I heard she had some setbacks in her family after publishing her first book that probably made her realize that others in her life were not so grateful she was writing books and making money. Truthfully I have forgotten the details and to speculate here would simply be unkind.
I wrote in the gratitude journal faithfully for awhile and still have it on my bookshelf. I reread it last week and saw how I had written gratefulness towards my husband one time. I read this aloud to him since I am sure I do not say this enough to him. He seemed pleased that I shared it. Although there may have been some suspicion on his part that I was just then making it up. But not so. Honest.
When I find myself going down the rabbit hole of gratitude policing, it is usually at a point where I think others are not being as grateful to me as I think they should be. And by that I mean showing me that they appreciate all the wonderful things I do for them. But for all I know their gratitude journals could be full of fond gratefulness towards me. But what use is that if I never know what they have written.
Writing down what I feel grateful for is a good exercise in making me stop to think of what I have or of the people in my life that are important. It lifts my spirits but underneath I have started to think it also lets me off the hook. If someone spends a lot of time preparing a meal for me or us, or someone invites me to lunch so I can talk all I want, or offers to drive me to book club, or takes the time to read a draft of something I have written and offer feedback then perhaps showing gratitude by doing something nice for them is more useful to me and to the world than writing about them in a book that no one sees except me.
The rabbit hole opens up when my mind starts this kind of whining:
"Can't they see that I do all this work and no one cares." "Maybe I'd like to be invited to dinner at their house sometime" "Invite me to go with you this time? Why is it always me doing the inviting, driving, cooking? I'm sure you get the picture.
But writing that I am grateful to have friends to invite or family to feed or committees where people try their best doesn't keep me from the slippery slope for very long. I make a resolution that I will not be taken for granted, walked upon or used, which all the self help books tell us to look out for. (Another rabbit hole.)
What I have decided to try is to genuinely thank those folks who have made my life easier, happier, more stimulating or entertaining. My energy is going to be directed to those folks, through some gesture on my part, to give back what they have given to me. And what I choose to give will be a gift freely given. And by the way that last statement is one of the most difficult ever. Who doesn't wonder after giving a gift if they will receive something in return at some point. (rabbit hole alert)