“I’ll Have the Gratitude with A Side Of Pain Please”
I love our Wednesday Women’s group. We get together after a long day, notebooks in hand, and settle into our sacred circle with the intention to transform our lives. We let loose the habits shaped from our pasts, divulge an occasional secret dream, and bask in the fertile conversations of our lives reimagined. Even though Saturday put up a good fight, Wednesday is now my favorite night of the week.
This week we discussed gratitude. I LOVE me some Gratitude, and its sister, Appreciation. I truly believe they are the stepping-stones to a happier existence. I’ve witnessed how they can literally transform a life.
That being said, when terrible things happen in life, and they do; the losses, the failures, the disappointments and the heartbreaks. You do yourself a disservice by immediately slapping a happy face bandage over the feelings.
Back in the day at the start of the “New Age” movement, it was taught that everything could be solved with a positive affirmation and a side of gratitude.
“Be grateful that your life is in shambles, you’ll be a better person. Now say this affirmation: When shit rains down on me, I will smile and grab an umbrella”.
So, that’s what a lot of us did.
I was the poster child for laughing through tears. I had notes with positive affirmations stuck all over my house. I had them written in lipstick on my bathroom mirror.
I firmly believed that I could “positive think” my way out of every sad, sucky situation. But there was no feeling behind my gratitude, it was all lip service. I was hurting and the last thing I held in my heart at that moment was appreciation for the situation. I could have tattooed an affirmation on my forehead, that still wouldn’t have made it so.
When you know this stuff as well as I do, you think you should implement all the teachings you have in your back pocket to navigate your pain. All you do is delay it. Pain, anger, grief and the rest of the crew HAVE TO BE FELT in order to dissipate.
Then, and only then, can the gratitude flood in and fill the void.
But not one minute before.
I messed that up for over thirty-five years.
I’ve had “delayed reaction syndrome” regarding my darker emotions. Sadness hits me months later. I can throw a dinner party with balloons and sing with the band minutes after terrible news.
I’m THAT girl.
I misunderstood the directive: This too shall pass.
I never let it pass me, I ran faster, in my endless race of avoidance.
I used to feel guilty for feeling sad and wanting to cry all day. I thought I should be able to rise above it. I would gear up with my pad of Post Its and search for the silver lining every time life took a terrible turn. But often that lining is buried deep under multiple layers of anger, pain and resentment. You have to really get in there and mine for it. Otherwise, a positive affirmation scab can form, and everything just festers underneath.
It’s not pretty, I don’t recommend it.
I do believe you can “Fake it, till you make it” which is affirming a behavior as you learn it, but not until the underlying issues are resolved.
I hold such deep admiration for those cultures where it’s accepted to wail with grief. Men AND women, what a relief that must be. They just give into it, and let all that emotion out. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. Seems so much healthier.
I’m always afraid the sadness will be so deep it will swallow me whole, and my wailing will never cease. Dogs will continue to hear it for weeks and pray for sweet relief.
So this is my cautionary tale of not reaching for gratitude too soon.
We discussed this at length on Wednesday, because we are all about transition through transformation. We all agreed that we would not cheerlead someone out of their pain. Myself included, because I am the biggest offender. We would hold the place for them to feel through the layers until the onion is peeled.
We won’t let them wallow either. Tightrope walking, I know. But so do-able in this group, and for that I am TRULY grateful.
Are you someone who can process your emotions in real-time, or are you more like me with “delayed reaction syndrome”. Let me know in the comments below.