Gratitude. It is the trendy word and emoji of this decade.
Thank you, Oprah, for at least pushing it to the forefront of our radars. Too bad it has been hijacked as a smokescreen which from behind we can do “the easy stuff.”
I played along with the gratitude game.
It took separating from my husband and putting our daughter first-and-foremost for me to realize how wrong I’ve been when it comes to the action of gratitude.
Until this year, I used gratitude platitudes to tell followers, strangers, music fans, friends, and family that I was thankful for the something-or-another that came my way.
I noted it on posts, selfies, tweets, and emails.
I sat alongside neighbors at church and participated in the weekend process of “bow your heads in prayer and let’s thank God for his gifts,” or in lay-people’s terms for receiving stuff that is real or virtual.
I felt like I deserved to be dropped.
Ninety days after my walk-away from 25+ years of “a perfect couple,” I decided it was time to let our mutual friends know what was up because they hadn’t yet heard. Then I followed up with personal phone calls. I’m sure many of you read about it through my first blog essay that I posted on the 90-day mark.
In doing so, I figured the revelation would leave me without the cherished friends and extended family members who I had inherited in tandem during an era of dating and matrimony.
To my astonishment, this was not what was to be. I was not being dropped from the lives of those I loved.
I had not kept the field of relationships well-tended.
Because what really (REALLY) have I done to be a true friend, a valued in-law, a reliable aunt, cousin, and sister? Not much.
I had been traveling the route that I had allowed to be put in front of me. My saying that I am grateful for someone’s presence in my life isn’t really gratitude if I don’t go to any real effort. Instead it is an avenue of self-stroking.
It came in the form of a smiley-face comment on a friend’s life achievement or a sad face amid tragedy. Especially troublesome were my occasional re-tweets of their news – especially if they had more followers than me.
I would contact friends and family directly when needed. I would let weeks or even months go by when there were other distractions. There were always other distractions.
Gratitude is a commitment subscription.
It is not about giving thanks to acknowledge what you get from life or from other people and their connections.
It is not about the lovely house, a steady job, health insurance, the next gig, or the famous person who retweets you.
It is the ongoing sensibility that there are friends in your life with whom you should talk regularly and support and listen without the need for some benefit in return.
These conversations should be genuine. You actively listen to them and hear what they say about their day, and you really care about it. You want to know more because you have an interest in them and not because they are “an obligation or opportunity.” And you certainly don’t wait for the appearance of a familiar topic to interject and talk about yourself, your day, your interests, and your pursuits in the world.
The equation of life.
I define gratitude as the privilege and abundance I am granted when I am part of the lives of others. There is so much beauty that grows from those friendships and family relationships.
Family members and friends, who I took for granted, are there for me. I value their love, their listening-without-comment, and their continued desire to have someone like me integrated into their lives and futures.
Moving forward, I will be more attentive. I will look for addition and subtraction opportunities:
“Lisa, what physical and mental abilities do you possess which deepen your connections with others? What small change in your daily routine can you redirect to subtract harm from the world around you?”
From now on, you will not catch me professing gratitude-platitudes and hands-in-prayer emojis. Instead, I plan to honor the privilege granted to me of genuine friendships and being a quirky member of a talented and equally quirky family.
Séu went to the beach in northern Spain this weekend. She booked a solo bus journey in her quest for a second surfing lesson. On the cold and somewhat sacrificial waves, she “got it” and thus plunged herself into a new passion. Now she wants me give it a try. Remember my purchase of a skateboard a few years back? Yeah, like that went well.
As always, thank you for reading.
Lisa (and Séu)