My friend Meridian has been on my case [though gently] ever since we met, about my lack of gratitude. What she means by that is that I don't have the habit, nor, often, the inclination to view a lot of what life and the powers-that-be in the world has presented to me in a positive light.
She's right in a lot of respects. While I am daily and deeply grateful for much of what I've been given: my beautiful and bold daughter Sarah, my dear friends (of whom Meridian is, luckily, one among many), the formal educational experiences I've had, being a Southern woman - I haven't been as filled with gratitude about a lot in my life.
Now, I'm aware certainly that some of what I don't feel thankful for: growing up in a dysfunctional and alcoholic home, being married to another drunk, a mother who taught fear more than anything else, and so on - those have been the very situations and people from which I've learned the most. Those times and places and people have forced me to grow and to grow up, to locate my voice and speak and write from its truth, to understand how to truly respond from my core knowing.
Yet I still, too often and too habitually, wish that things had been different, that I'd chosen differently. I still long to see the world the way others - those with more 'normal' pasts - see it, and wish I could choose from a place inside me that feels more secure - more deserving of the good things the world seems to offer.
No - I don't have an attitude of gratitude in general.
Well, my friend will be pleased to know that recently, since I began a new job, I've felt the pin-pricks of gratefulness. Not so much for those things I've already mentioned, but gratitude that the universe hasn't presented me with even harsher lessons - the lessons taught through experiencing a physical or mental disability, lessons learned when one is homeless, lessons learned when growing up in severe poverty or growing up far away from family.
Nearly every day when working at this job - in which I assist and support persons with disabilities to prepare for and find a real job in which they can grow and develop and eventually become more independent and capable - nearly every day I think, "There, but for the grace of God, would I be."
Now its not at all that I feel or see or think myself above or in any way better than the clients I work with. On the contrary - their courage and their persistence, their capacity to overcome, their faith that we can and will help them, their ability to take the small (and sometimes not-so-small) steps that will help us help them - all of these things often make me view myself as JUST SO DAMN LUCKY.
The incredible good fortune I had to be born to people who, while they weren't very well equipped to raise children, at least made sure we had a home and food and clothing and lunch money! How lucky I was to have family to step in when things went wrong or crises happened. How amazing that I never went to bed hungry, that I did not inherit any life-altering physical problems.
Gratitude for all of this, and more, keeps tapping me on the shoulder.
And when it does I often think myself rather whiny and even demanding to wish my life had been other than it has been. I have so MUCH - so much love, so many opportunities, so wonderful a home, sufficient food, and leisure, not to mention health and a mind that works well.
How can I not be filled with gratitude when I see the truth of what I have, when I encounter in others a reality that - had my life begun or been different - might just as easily have been mine?
So - I owe it to Meridian - and myself - and particularly I owe it to all of those folks out there who are existing in situations that might have been my situation - I owe it to all of us to say "thanks" when the gods and goddesses of gratitude press for my attention.