The Problem with Gratitude

A couple of months ago social media went berserk with “grateful” challenges. It seemed that everyone hopped on the proverbial bandwagon, cymbals clanging…drums beating…trumpets honking.

Our business was up and running but I had personally hit a rough patch. It was like I was a balloon sailing merrily along with the wind when all of a sudden I developed a tiny little hole. Not enough to blow the whole thing up at once, but enough to have me whining steadily and losing air.

Grateful challenges had people sharing how wonderful their lives were, how much they loved everyone, how green their grass was. How stinking happy they were. I decided not to participate because I was quite content at that moment with the noise coming out of the tiny little hole in my balloon. I felt I had the right be unhappy and was going to enjoy it for a bit.

I did. I did enjoy it for a bit. Every morsel of pain I chewed on for awhile…getting the full flavor out of it. Every bit of sorrow I swilled around in my mouth so I could taste the fullness of it. Every difficulty I swallowed so that I felt the satisfaction of being fed by it.

Until the grateful challenge. Until a random comment from a stranger in my store helped me realize why I didn’t want to be grateful.

Gratefulness won’t let me feel sorry for myself! And at that moment I was working the false humility angle by feeling sorry for myself. Bad.

Gratefulness won’t let me be selfish! And it was ALL about me at that point. Didn’t I ALWAYS do…, wasn’t it ALWAYS me who…won’t I EVER be able to…Wrong.

Gratefulness won’t let me be unkind! Oh the deliciously horrid thoughts we can conjure up when hard done by. The sheer genius and creativity we all of a sudden possess when we want to get back at someone. Nasty.

The strangers comment? All he said was…being grateful is having the gift of looking at the same set of circumstances with a new pair of eyes. Whammo. Done. Finished.

Grateful.

What Happens When You Let Memories Slip Through?

All that was missing was the subtle smell of wood smoke. The crisp morning air was just enough to tingle the end of my nose when I breathed in, the clear sky promising a warm day ahead. The pink hue of early dawn had wrapped its beauty around my soul and asked me to stop my busy feet  and enjoy the moment.

I carried my steaming mug of fresh brewed coffee outside onto the deck. I say fresh brewed because I have a thing for a good cup of coffee. It’s my drug of choice and daily companion. I’ve stopped apologizing to all the nay-sayers out there who love to quote the newest studies saying how bad it is, mucks up your insides and makes your teeth and hair fall out. Ok, I’m exaggerating but I know you get the picture. I’ve decided to stop listening.

My eyes close so that my heart is open to see. Birds singing to each other high in the Spruce trees makes me smile for a moment. The wind whispers through branches just beginning to gain strength after a long winter, ruffling my already out of place hair. It’s in the relaxing that it overwhelms me.

There are few similarities so I’m not sure why. A moment in time so long passed that it had ceased to exist, or so I thought. The merest wisp of memory that had floated into my subconscious in the cool of the morning, minus the wood smoke. Africa. 

A heavy sadness fills up my chest cavity to the point that I am afraid I will sink through the flimsy material on my chair and split the deck as I fall. Inaudible, untraceable, so sad that my whole being ached to reveal its source.

I had shut that part of my life off like a kitchen faucet many years ago and now that I wanted to test the water again, not even a dribble would come out. I couldn’t grasp the essence…I was sure wood smoke would have unlocked the door.

Tears threatened to well up and make my signature chin wobble. Our family has a long line of unique chins which have been handed down generationally, my generation included. I push the tears back, they are not allowed to slip between the crease of my closed eyes.

I wonder…if just once, I would let the glistening drops fall, what story would be told? Would the dam break? I take a deep breath to help me relax. Hesitant and afraid of what is going to be undone, I decide to let one get away.

How to deal with the worst teacher ever

Her face shattered my peaceful Saturday morning. How is it possible that after all this time the very sight of her made me come to a full stop. Dead still. Heart beating out of my chest. Stone cold.

I had to admit that my naiveté made me laugh. How stupid was I to have assumed that never again would her name cross my mind…never would I have to think about those days ever again.

Boarding school had it’s own set of standards. They sat at the front of the class not the back, at her command, so the light of her favoritism could shine brilliantly upon the children she had deemed smart. I only realized much later that children having trouble in school normally sat in the front so that the teacher could encourage them along and provide additional help or guidance. Not here. My desk was at the back.

I purposely slowed my breathing as I gazed at her now aged face. The jet black, close-cropped hair was now silver, the lines of her face deeper, the hawkish chin and forced smile…the same. Her perch had been on a freestanding stool at the front of the class. She was so thin that she could cross her legs and then wrap the foot of the crossed leg back underneath her other leg again. Contortionist, perfectionist, antagonist. Rhonda-hater.

You don’t deserve my help she told me once, because you will never figure it out and I refuse to waste my time on you. Go back, sit down and shut up. I was standing in front of her asking for help with fractions. My mind, fully capable of grasping English and Geography was having spasms at unlocking the mystery of math. Stomping my foot I shouted at the top of my lungs, “You HAVE to help me. You are the teacher and if you don’t help me who will?”

The cold cement floor met me hard as she hurtled me out of the classroom. No one had dared ever stand up to her in that manner and I was going to pay for a long time. From then on I was not allowed to answer questions in class, my tests did not have feedback on them, I was a silent presence of evil rebellion in her classroom that would never again have a voice.

Add a friend? No. Forgiven, yes. I went back to wrapping my head around a complex deal I was putting together for a client. Life was indeed full of irony. Who would have guessed that I would be working in the world of finance after making a personal declaration in Grade 6 that I would never be able to understand math? Not I. Certainly not her. I smiled, satisfied.

The Mind, Unhinged

I had flown in like a proverbial witch on a broomstick. Disheveled, out of breath, jacket buttons done up wrong, purse strap falling down my shoulder which I yanked off before it could hit the ground. Mad that my personal “maintenance” was becoming more complicated instead of easier at this point in my life. Not that I minded it so much…just not today.

“Do you have time?” I pleaded with the lady.

“Sure” she said. “Just give me a second to get set up.”

I sat. My breath coming in short, stiff puffs of agitated exhalation. I had a million things to do and my mental list kept getting longer instead of shorter. At least if I could stop in ONE place and get everything done that would be helpful…instead, every errand meant another stop, another parking spot, another discussion.

And now~ here~ not super high on the “earth shattering” list, but important none-the-less so that I wouldn’t go through the next couple weeks looking like a cave man’s other half.

“You look stunning…” I jerked my head around absolutely sure it was not in reference to me. Across the room she sat. The hairdresser had added the finishing touches to her beautiful up-do. My mind raced through the possibilities…grad? No, a little too old for that. Wedding practice run? Definite maybe. Yah, that had to be it. Check, figured that out, on to the other items on my list that needed mental sorting, piling and boxing up so I could move on.

“Ok ready now.” My lady sat me in her chair and asked me scoot as far forward as possible and lean back so my neck was arched against the back rest. Ouch…oh the pain and misery I had to endure to get my eyebrows threaded. The sound was like scissors madly slicing anything in their path or knives being sharpened. Eyebrow hair flying in all directions suddenly made me smile thinking of the cookie monster and all the crumbs as he ate.

The doorbell rang as the beautiful lady left the shop.  Her hairdresser was immediately the centre of attention, questions were flung around about why, who, what…where. And then the answer. Dressing up for a special party, boyfriend cancer free for 5 years after having had it twice. Making sure to commemorate his fight and his win.

How quickly can an internal run-away train come to a screeching halt? Pretty quickly. My mind stopped spinning with the mile-long list, all of the unimportant details drifted quietly away. I felt free…unhinged from all the stuff.

I left the shop, buttons done up properly, walking slower, savoring the scent of fresh spring in the air. This year was going to be special I decided.

See the beauty ~ respect the life ~ celebrate the moments