“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have this quote scribbled on a sticky note and hanging in my cubicle at work. When I’m really stressed or overwhelmed with a project or a lengthy to-do list, I glance at the post-it (hanging over a poster of Spider-Man), and remember to be thankful for having a job, doing what I enjoy, and constantly being challenged in new ways. When it is a slower day, I look at the words and remember to be thankful that I can sip on chai tea, and have time to think about my overall goals and aspirations.
This may seem like an overly-positive, or even privileged sentiment, but if we don’t have thankfulness, then what else do we have? I often feel guilty for feeling thanks or happiness when others live in constant fear and pain, but recognizing the good in my life is a form of self-care that I encourage others to explore. Is being appreciative really that sinful?
I believe that as long as you acknowledge and learn to understand others' hardships and work to help fix them, then it is okay to celebrate what is good in your own life. When you're often feeling panicked and suffocated by anxious and toxic thoughts, thankfulness can be a healthy (and welcome) alternative. Being thankful isn't a selfish act.
I can remember once taking part in a middle school church retreat, and writing a list of everything I was thankful for. The exercise began with the basics: food, shelter, water, family, and friends, but soon developed into grass, trees, chocolate, and even toasters.
The silliness of my extensive list could have been slightly insulting to those in charge, but is there truly anything wrong with being thankful for a toaster? Finding small things to rejoice over and see the good in can really elevate your mood and change your perspective. As much as my opinion on organized religion has changed over the years, I do fondly think of this list exercise from time to time, and realize that I could always be more thankful for what I do have, and acknowledge that any struggles have made me who I am today.
For example, I am extremely thankful for:
My RPG community. On Fridays and Mondays (and any other days we squeeze one in), it’s like my new, mini church of support and creative recognition.
The PoC, queer, and trans feminists in my life who are brave enough to educate and voice their truth. I learn from them every day.
Books and television. Reading and watching TV shows are my truest escape. (Do I have to mention Buffy here? I feel like I do. You'd be skeptical if I didn't.)
Bath Bombs - My bath-time is sacred, people.
And I won’t bore you with more things, except I am also truly thankful for the $20 in Girl Scout cookies I just ordered.
Whenever you are feeling anxious, or hardened and sinking from sadness and emptiness, I urge you to try to make your own list. There are many horrible things happening in the world, but recognizing what you love, and what gives you happiness or comfort, can give you the push you need to continue on. This small exercise has helped me, so I wanted to share it with whoever may need it.
I hope you go through your week with hope and appreciation for the small things that are good. As for the bad? May it make you more fierce and invincible than you could ever imagine.