Some people I went to high school with like to post on Facebook about how, if someone is depressed or having trouble loving life, it's because she is lacking "an attitude of gratitude." To which I say, "Go fuck yourself."
While I agree that it's great and helpful to look on the bright side and count your blessings, hearing that advice from a third party who knows nothing about your situation can appear to lack empathy and sound a little bit like, "Maybe you'd have an easier time snapping out of it if you weren't such an ungrateful little bitch." To which I repeat, "Go fuck yourself," and add, "You sound like my mother."
I know this judgment probably isn't what's intended with most "attitude of gratitude" posts and my interpretation is biased by my own experiences, but I also know my experiences aren't unique. I think audience perspective is worth bearing in mind when doling out blanket advice to hundreds of acquaintances on social media. Yes, happiness is a choice that comes from within, but implying happy people are doing it right and unhappy people are unhappy because they're doing it wrong is a vast oversimplification of the human experience. Life is hard. Maybe we're all just doing the best we can with the hands we've been dealt.
Anyway, I think more helpful advice informs people not what to think or to feel but what to do -- because, while thoughts and feelings come and go regardless of how we try to force them, action is what we actually have control over. So rather than try to follow "be grateful" or equally unhelpful and invalidating advice, in honor of Thanksgiving today, I am making a list of things for which I am thankful. Making a list is an action. It is something I have control over. Everything on my list of "consolation prizes" belongs here too.
Here is my Thankful list:
1) I am thankful for my BFF Jerry. We've been best friends since my senior year of high school nearly half my life ago, and she knows my mother firsthand. I can't even list all the ways she has been important to me and vital to my continued existence. She is the closest thing I've ever met to a soul mate.
2) I am thankful for my husband. He works hard and is the most resilient person I've ever met. This is not hyperbole -- he is the most resilient person most people who know him have ever met. We have different interests but the same sense of humor, and I never really get bored of spending time with him, even if we're just sitting on the couch watching YouTube videos together. I ultimately married him because I could not imagine another person who would give me a better shot at being a happy, fully functional person than him. He's the kind of person you'd want on your team. I also like who I am when I'm with him. I feel like myself.
3) I am thankful for my daughter. I have never had a greater incentive to keep trying than her. She is resilient and cheerful in ways I never was as a child. She is smart and creative and beautiful and legitimately funny. I hope she somehow develops an athleticism that no known person in her family tree has ever possessed, but even if she doesn't, she is perfection.
4) I am thankful for my home, which is in pretty good shape and which keeps my family safe and warm and dry. I am thankful for the neighbors who I see when I go outside. It's so friendly here. We know each others' names and say hello like we're in a more spacious and physically comfortable version of college. I am thankful I generally prefer getting rid of things to hoarding them. I am thankful I generally prefer getting my home repaired to living with issues that make me feel ashamed of it. I am thankful I have the money to do the things necessary to maintain my home and also that I know how to handle money. I am thankful my mother taught me about finances, even though she couldn't manage her own.
5) I am thankful for the public library system, which saves me hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars per year in books and videos I can borrow rather than buy and keep.
6) I am thankful for my sun lamp, Yogi brand's St. John's Wort herbal tea, my elliptical machine, Netflix, the gym near my house with all the good weight machines, meditation as described in Pema Chödrön's How to Meditate, and everything else that helps me to feel okay.
7) I am thankful for the people who share their stories and feelings on the internet and make me feel normal and sane. I am thankful for the people who read what I write and make me feel less alone. Thank you.
And to anyone reading this who is feeling depressed today because
they are alone or feel alone or have to spend time with family and only
wish they could be alone, I say, "That sucks. I'm sorry you're having
to deal with that. Have you tried watching Netflix or, if you're with
family, surreptitiously watching Netflix on your iPhone? I hear the new Aziz Ansari show is good, and I always recommend Firefly for a good distraction. Have you tried
making Bingo boards of all the crazy and casually racist things your
mother might say over dinner? Have you considered cataloging the most
ridiculous things your parents say and sharing them with friends or the
internet for our mutual entertainment so that you can look forward to their
madness rather than dread it? Have you tried bourbon or cheesecake? I'm sorry you're having a hard time today. You're not alone. I
hope you feel better soon."