I Got Gratitude All Wrong

Rhea sitting on a windowsill thinking about Gratitude.

At the start of last year, I wrote a blog post on how 2020 was going to be my year of gratitude. But not much longer after I published the above-mentioned article, life as we knew it, changed.

The pandemic hit. Casualties mounted, economies sunk, perceptions shifted and belief systems collapsed…as the very state of our existence dwindled.

For an external point of view – if you think about it –  there could be no better year to test one’s endurance and commitment to gratitude than one like 2020, when the world experienced a catastrophe of such a magnitude.

So, if you’re wondering – in the midst of a global upheaval – did I manage to stick by my singular resolution?

YOU BET I DID. Not only did I wake up every day and say a silent thank you before I got out of bed, but I also maintained a gratitude journal. And on days when my anxiety peaked, I even drew up lists of 10 things I was grateful for at that moment. I stuck to it till the very end. In fact, this practice of gratitude, by then a lifestyle choice extended even into 2021.

But sometime around end of February things changed and the tenacity with which I maintained gratitude depleted drastically.

Now more than halfway through 2021, I often find myself thinking a lot not only about how different 2020 was compared 2021, but also how easy it was for me to be grateful than it is now. And when I do find myself actually looking back, I have come to realize that practicing gratitude was easy for me because back then, not only did I have it easy, but rather, I had it good.

Don’t get me wrong, like millions of others the pandemic did affect me in many ways: like uprooting me from a life, a city and house I’d known for 25 years; affecting my work; affecting the dynamic between my parents; affecting my physical and mental health every single day.

Not to mention all the bad news I kept hearing not just from my country (daily wage workers fighting for basic sustenance, workers in cities not getting to go back to their villages, children from poor families not having access to smartphones for their education), but also from around the world.

While any of these reasons could easily throw me into a spiral of depression and knock me off the path of gratitude – for the things that really mattered as far as my personal existence was concerned, my life as such was actually unaffected.

While my friends and relatives stayed crammed up in their flats in the city – I had a large farm house to roam around in. While they had to think twice about going out for a mere walk – I had rolling hills and scenic pathways all to myself. While they stood in lines 6-feet apart to stock up on basic groceries, I had the luxury of picking out fresh produce from neighboring farms any time I wanted. While they had to break their backs balancing house work and work-work, I had living-in help who gave us a hand every day. And while many of them struggled with their career shifts or lay-offs I could use my ‘new-found free time’ to experiment with my creativity.

My life in comparison wasn’t just unaffected, it was excellent! I had fresh air, peace of mind, abundant space, stability, security, hot meals, no real pressure – of course it was easy for me to say thank you every day!

Looking out of a window thinking about gratitudeBut that’s the thing: we all want the good times to last forever, but inevitably as time passes and life progresses – you know as well as I do – no state of existence ever lasts forever. For me it was near the end of February when things started to change at home. And while I don’t wish to delve into the personal details of what happened – I just want to say nothing is as it was before.

So nowadays when I think about gratitude – which I do a lot – I feel like it’s so easy for us to project good intentions and feel grateful when life is looking up. But perhaps the real test of gratitude is to be able to feel it – I mean truly feel it – when you hit rock bottom. To be able to muster up the strength to see the silver lining and say thank you even during times of adversity.

Neither do I feel shallow nor do I regret feeling grateful when life was easy – but I won’t lie by saying I can practice gratitude with the same ease now as I did before. Because I can’t.

Maybe I did get gratitude all wrong, maybe I didn’t. There’s so much I don’t know. But as Goethe once said “by seeking and blundering we learn” – and guess what? I am learning.

And maybe it’s hard for me to list out 10 things I am grateful for today – but if I try hard enough to see the good – I know sooner or later I will be able to complete that list. Because at the end of the day that is what gratitude is: to be able to see and appreciate the good even when happiness may seem bleak.

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