When I woke up this morning, I walked into the kitchen and realized that the light looked different. The sun was streaming in, as it does in the mornings, but the quality of it was new to me. I recently put up new curtains, white lace, and the sunlight was filtered to a golden glow. It was beautiful.

This time of year has me thinking about gratitude, as it does so many people, at least as evidenced by the blogosphere and Facebook posts. It’s not a bad thing, per se, to examine our lives, and to be thankful. But I have been pondering this, as I said, for a bit, and I am coming up short.

There is a quality to gratitude that I’m lacking, and I think it’s acceptance. To be grateful for something, you have to accept it into your life, and be at peace with its presence, so that you can acknowledge what you’ve gained from it. There are many things that I am thankful for, but so many others that I have yet to accept and truly own. And if I can’t accept ownership of them, then I can’t really be grateful for them.

Sounds a little circular, this logic, but it makes sense, I swear. It’s something that I’m working out in bits and pieces, and as I get more perspective on it, as more chunks of the picture show themselves to me, the whole of it takes on new shape and meaning.

I am pretty expert at not accepting things that I don’t want to be true. I suppose that most of us are to some degree, but I think I may have Olympic-level skills in this event. It isn’t that I don’t objectively know the truth— I do. I just don’t fully accept that the last word has been spoken on the subject, until I am damn good and ready to do so. Naturally, this can be…..problematic.  I drag out things in my mind for FAR longer than necessary. I am wounded by conversations and happenstances that shouldn’t have that effect, in large part because I will. Not. Let. It. Go.

Every time things have not gone in my favor represents a failure on my part. Ridiculous, no? So I replay in my mind how, perhaps if I were to have another chance, I might do X or Y differently, and this time, I would get it right. This time, I would be better. I would not fail. In large part, this is due to being raised by a mother for whom “good enough” did not exist. You either excelled, or you disappointed. No middle ground. No excuses. I absorbed this into all my fibers like a sponge, and I have been trying to wring it out for the last 30 years, with limited success. I am trying to be OK with “good enough.” If I could get there, I could let so much baggage go.

For every romantic relationship that has ended without my permission, for each friendship that has soured for reasons I don’t understand, for every situation that I have not mastered or been in control of, I have a blemish on my brain. I pick at it and make it bleed, repeatedly, until the day comes when I decide I’m done. When that time comes, whether it takes weeks, or years, I can accept it, integrate it, and move forward. But not until then. Until then, that picking at scabs will make me cry and gnash my teeth and search for meaning that doesn’t even exist, all the while knowing, intellectually, that this is the stupidest waste of time, ever.

My relationship with shame is tight. We are totally BFFs.

So it feels like my gratitude is a step or two behind. Filtered by the need to replay things ad nauseum. Stunted by my inability to accept the unfortunate as merely unfortunate, and glean the good that came out of it. It isn’t helpful to only be grateful for the good things. The most telling lessons come from what didn’t work out well. Without bitter, there is no sweet.

This morning in the kitchen, even through the filter of the curtains, the sun was bright and warm. Despite this stew of shame and guilt, this obsession with ruminating on actions that are long-ago completed, I know that, eventually, I will be able to let go of these things. My scabs will heal over, and the bleeding will stop. The sun will warm my face and I will accept it, simply, gratefully.  It’s a work in progress. I’m a work in progress.







6 thoughts on “Filtered

  1. “It’s something I forgot that I needed in my life. I’ve been trying to fill that space with so many other things, but they haven’t fit. So I’m plugging away, and it’s rough and raw and probably not awesome, but it’s mine. It’s filling that space.” Thank you for that. I always appreciate someone who can put words to my feelings.


  2. At some point I made myself think of the “me” I talk to that way as a child, in that, when I speak or think self-criticism, I imagine that I’m speaking/thinking it towards a child. It horrified me so much, it was tremendous in helping me learn to be kind to myself.

    because it’s an awful awful feeling. (lots of hugs your way!)


  3. This is beautiful, Jenn. Thanks for sharing it over at The Blogess. I can very much relate. I use Maya Angelou’s words as a mantra to remind me — “You did what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better.” And also Ralph Waldo Emerson’s — “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
    I guess the thing is, annoying as it is, that we couldn’t have gained the wisdom to know better without making those mistakes in the first place. ❤


  4. I stopped by after seeing your comment on the Bloggess’ blog. I’m so glad that I did. I, and I am pretty sure, most people kick themselves around about mistakes or faults or slights from the past. For a long time I looked around at my girlfriends who seemed to have no regrets, while I was filled to the brim with them. I would think that I would learn so much and see how far astray I had gone if I could just get an aerial view of the crossroads where I made decisions. Then, I could see what might have been and where I should really be in my life if I hadn’t screwed up.

    I realize now just how wrong I was about that. I can’t say that I am now regret free, but a feeling kind of like peace came to me when I realized that everything I’ve done and been through have made me the person I am today. I am a good person. I love and am loved. I get up every morning and try again to get it all right. That rarely happens, but I keep trying. I like the person that I’ve become. I don’t like everything about me and I am very self-critical, but I keep going every day. Past pains will creep in, but they aren’t as damaging any more.

    I hope you find the self-acceptance you need. I will be following your blog, just one little internet person cheering you along.

    Liked by 1 person

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