As the holidays are now upon us, we are reminded that it is the time of year when we should be a little kinder, a little more giving and to show gratitude for what and who we have in our lives. And then we spend time with our families and leave the house.
Anecdotes abound with the stories of intrusive in-laws, drunk and crazy uncles and over bearing mothers (among MANY others). So why in the world would anyone be thankful for this crush of forced family time, high stress and maddening malls? Is it because Hallmark says we should? Because Santa is watching us? Or perhaps because it is good for us as well as others?
Gratitude is one of those things that get talked about in yoga classes, written about in articles and blogs and taught in meditation classes. It was for me an ideal that was just out there and “good” and something I should do more of. But I struggled with how to incorporate that into my daily life. This is especially true during this time of year when the irony of being cut off in traffic (4 times today in fact) settles into my system.
As with many goals I set, I went after gratitude with the engineer’s mindset. Goal set, check. Make list of steps to reach goal, check. Reach goal…no check. More struggles ensued. I tried a gratitude journal, I tried saying thank you to the universe when I faced challenges (typically through clenched teeth) and these approaches failed miserably.
I decided to set aside some time to make space for myself and explore why this was so challenging for me. Once I gave myself that space, something amazing happened. I was grateful. It turns out, that much like a young child, the more I chased this concept, the further and faster it ran away from me.
Once I stopped chasing this idealized version of a life filled with gratitude, I found things to be grateful for. From there, I started being grateful for more things, especially my challenges. This brings me back to where I started this post, with gratitude for the holidays and family gatherings. My wife’s family has a saying, “It isn’t a holiday unless someone cries.” And yet all bickering included, they look forward to the family gatherings around the holidays.
Our families typically know us best. That gives them the ability to get under your skin faster and better than almost anyone else. But they are family. They contributed to who we are today, both good and bad. I for one like who I have become. I wouldn’t be who I am today unless I had to struggle, laugh, bicker and all the rest of it in my life. And for the struggles and all, I am grateful to them. I am even grateful for the smile the irony of being honked at and cut off the day before Thanksgiving brought me.