2010 has been a difficult year for many of us, the world over. I have friends who have been successful and productive for most of their lives who are now unemployed or underemployed, have lost their homes or are in foreclosure, who have become clients of food pantries, and who have had health crises they can't afford to address.
Not everyone has a supportive family, a spouse or friends to help. Some of us who do may feel they don't do enough for us. We look to our politicians; what have they done for us lately? Where's our economic recovery?
And we're supposed to be thankful now?
Well...it might be a little easier to cope with the hardships if we could muster up some gratitude for what we have.
I don't suggest we go all Pollyanna and say we are glad to be living in a friend's basement when in fact we are not glad about that...or grateful to have at least one good hip when the other one's disintegrating and hurting like hell. No government worker I know here in Santa Cruz is glad about the furlough days that cut into their salaries.
So I suggest we take a look at the people, institutions and bodies that have done us wrong in this past year, and ask ourselves...
1. What have I received from this person, place, institution or body? Maybe not today, maybe not this week, this month or this year. What about in this lifetime? Make a list and be specific; don't negate any of what you have received, no matter how small or insignificant you rate it. Example: "My husband walks the dog sometimes." "My body wakes up every morning." "My mother read to me when I was little." "The pantry gave me government-issue cheese and canned beans for six months."
2. What have I done for this person, place, institution or body lately? Put it in writing. Notice how it feels to read your list. Does it feel like "enough" for you? Did you do these things out of obligation, with generosity, with a motive to get something in return, because you were afraid not to?
3. Is there something I am not acknowledging or appreciating about what this person, place, institution or body has given or done for me? Am I seeing it as "not enough," "too little, too late," "they owed it to me," or a "yeahbut"? What would it be like to drop the qualifiers?
4. Is there anything I want to say or do for the person, place, institution or body, now that I have looked at my thinking? Am I grateful to them? Do I want to make amends? How can I express my gratitude, or be of service, in a way that would feel comfortable, true and non-manipulative?