Bitter or Grateful?

“You get what you get and you don't throw a fit.”

I've heard this said many times.  I don't know how it's meant to be heard, but I tend to hear, “You are an ingrate.  If you were good, not bad, you would be grateful.”

Sometimes it's pretty hard to be grateful, especially when a dream is deferred, derailed or dies.

Maybe we didn't get the family we wanted.
Maybe we were defrauded in a business deal.
Maybe we are getting older.

Each of us has a dream that has gone unfulfilled. Eric Hoffer, a Depression era migratory worker wrote, “The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.”  It is sometimes terribly difficult to count our blessings, but what if we don't?

Perhaps you've heard told the story of a group of teenagers on an excursion in the desert.  One of the kids gets bitten by a rattlesnake.  Instead of immediately extracting the venom from her system, the friends go in search of the rattlesnake.  They kill it dead alright.  But when their focus turns back toward their friend, the venom has spread throughout her system, and her leg must eventually be amputated.

When we are bitter about unfulfilled dreams, harboring a grudge toward Providence about not getting the life we wanted, even deserved — aren't we letting venom move through our system?

I'm learning that giving thanks for the dreams that have (and have not) come true, isn't about being a good girl, or not throwing a fit.  It is an antidote to bitterness, one that allows me to survive, to prevail — and happily — in the life I do have.

We need to acknowledge the loss — we can be mad, or sad, or both, for a time.

But then we choose.

“There is always something for which to be thankful,” quoth the beloved Charles Dickens.

Bitter or Grateful.

P.S.  (Added four days after the original post).  Here are some resources/ideas that will help us cultivate gratitude.

  1. In Kare Anderson's post Say it So You Lift Your Spirits, she suggests that when we tell stories about our lives, we notice those incidents that are anchored with negative emotions, and then try to reframe them by searching for the redemptive details.
  2. Check out this article titled Grateful Girlfriends Make the Best Stress Relievers, and the authors' 40-day plan to for women to talk to one another about what is right in their lives.

Finally, Victoria Pynchon left this comment on Facebook that I think perfectly captures what I was trying to convey in my post.  She writes: “failure to keep a daily gratitude list is the short road to one's own hell on earth.”   She's right, isn't she?

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