How to Turn Guilt Into Gratitude

Gratitude changed to guilt
It is never too late to turn guilt into gratitude

Trying to turn Guilt into Gratitude…

It was a crushing news day. I read about a friends’ child dying. I heard testimony about ISIS and mustard gas. I learned that a close acquaintance had lung cancer. I realized that a colleague had enough money problems to have to abandon her craft. I watched a video of a brutal racially motivated crime and saw a photo of a man killing cats with a smile. I listened to Latino mayors talk about their cities being swallowed by the sea. Amongst it all are the testimonials of other Americans who think a man who spews hate should be our next president.

My response to the above?

Guilt.

I wrote a post about NAPPING. Of all of the carefree privileged topics on the planet napping may top them all.

But to react with guilt? 

It helps no one and changes nothing. I feel guilty just thinking about the inefficacy of my response

I have researched guilt in the past and come to some clinical conclusions. None of which matter if I can’t practice flipping the coin of guilt to the shinier side of gratitude.

Instead of guilt I will practice being grateful. I appreciate my health and relative wealth,  liberties that let me be liberal, a skin color that allows me to work within the establishment if I choose. I am grateful to be able to support organizations and individuals that work to create equality. I notice science and policy that is slowly beginning to shift towards taking care of the planet and I choose advocate for these changes.

I can stop napping and wake up to our flawed world and know that things can change in a second for the worse. Which means they can change for the better as well.  

I can celebrate that.

—-

What do you do with your guilt? What gratitude can you offer today.

Thank less

Jasper likes photos about as much as I like thank you notes
Jasper likes photos about as much as I like thank you notes

It has been a crappy morning. I woke to a rejection letter that I sneakily read before my morning medihation (not a typo). I try to meditate before email so I have a fighting chance at clearing my mind, but obviously I failed. I spent my 12 minutes breathing and thinking about how thin my skin is. Then chastising myself for thinking that. Then judging myself for thinking anything at all during my 12 minutes.

I somehow started the toothbrush before putting it in my mouth and sprayed toothpaste in my eye. This is no happy gentle Tom’s of Maine toothpaste either. It is full on chemical filled whitening crap that lightens my teeth about as well as meditation clears my mind.

There is nothing actually wrong of course. The fix n shit went under contract last night. My boys are lovely and snuggly and the three of us enjoy our current book so much that we sneak in extra reading time. Stealing it from tech time no less. I try to remember these good things as I pack for my day. But instead I am in a muted rage. I ask Leo if he ever just feels mad for no reason (might as well turn my crap mood into a teachable moment) as he hugs me before leaving for school. He tells me I am not mad, just sad. And he says it with such compassion and love that I don’t yell at him that he is WRONG.

Oliver skips out of the house chanting the five lines of gratitude that he will recite at this mornings school assembly.

I say thank you when others help me or do something kind.

I show my appreciation through my actions and words

I appreciate the things in my life

I know the Earth and its resources are a gift

I show appreciation of my learning environment by keeping tidy and cleaning up after work and play

When he showed me the sheet, vibrating with pride that he had been selected to stand on the stage I asked this series of questions:

1. Did you write this?

2. Are there any changes you would make if you could?

3. What do you think of the last line? What message is that sending?

My dislike for institutional messaging seems to come out everywhere. I want the students to develop their own sense of gratitude. Beyond this I interpret the last line as a directive. Sure, be thankful for the earth and shit but you better keep your crayons in rainbow order.

He leaves the house reciting this doctrine. Repeating the last line as he heads out the door.

I arrive at the coffee shop to meet my accountability cousin. We have been writing across a wobbly two top from each other for three weeks. On a less grouchy day I would be happy to see him. Today I am buried in my spreadsheet, tracking the assignments I have given myself.

When we take a break he hands an envelope across the table.

It is a thank you note written by his lovely funny girlfriend. I follow my first instinct which is literally to reject the note. I jab it over the screens of our laptops and try to get him to take it back. He doesn’t of course.

The note reminds me of all the notes I haven’t written. Of all the appreciations I haven’t offered. Of all of the thank yous I haven’t required or even encouraged my kids to write. They are raining down on me. Giving me imaginary paper cuts.

Inside it is the perfect balance of gratitude and humor. She signs off “love (and no hugs)” She knows me. I read it again and a little bit of balance seeps in through the slices of the paper cuts. I am surprised how good it makes me feel, particularly on this thankless morning.

I reread Oliver’s lines. This time I take it slowly. “I show my appreciation through my actions and my words.”

This time I can’t find much to object to about it.

It might not be gratitude, but it is a step on the road.