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.