Is Gratitude Ruining Our Lives?

By Alison January 28, 2010 No Comments 5 Min Read

Gratitude is all. You have heard me say that sentence more times than either of us can count, because I believed it and I wanted you to believe it too. I wanted you to look at your life and say this is enough and for that I am grateful, so thank you Universe. Or thank you God. Or even thank you ME. I believed that being grateful was its own reward. That constantly stamping on the hunger for more (now, again) was the answer to contentment, to living joyously in the moment and avoiding the constant, gnawing need to be someone you weren’t.

But what if I was wrong?

What if gratitude and contentment merely curtail ambition: personal, domestic, financial or otherwise? What if gratitude teaches you to accept the status quo and by it’s very nature insists that anything else both smacks of greed and somehow goes against the natural order of either the universe or should you be a believer, Gods will? My dear, precious Housekeepers, what if gratitude is ruining our lives?
I have been keeping a gratitude journal for more than twelve years now. When the mood strikes me I write down all that I am grateful for: a pretty sunset, a day without the kind of unexpected bills that threaten to cripple me, a kind word, food that made me swoon, my little boy, a tidy room, a haircut I inflicted upon myself without disaster, this little house, BrocanteHome, Russell Brand (Ha ha!), friends, hugs, tears.
It is in fact probably the most telling of my journals, a barometer of mood and emotion I trust to tell exactly how it was.
But here’s the thing: I have been grateful for the SAME THINGS for twelve years. I have been so busy been grateful that my little world hasn’t come to a grinding halt or left me buried under the detrius of my inate ability to self-destruct that I have forgotten that in order for life to progress, in order to reach our full potential as human beings we have to ask for more. Of ourselves. Of the universe. Of life in general.
As I get older I am beginning to accept that the universe moves in peculiar ways. Ways I will never understand but ways that ultimately present me with a situation I will embrace or perhaps just come to terms with. I am grateful that I am able to move through each day without the kind of regret or bitterness I see casting shadows over other peoples lives, grateful that I can exist in moments that weren’t in the plan and yet still feel like dancing, and more than that, that regardless of everything, I am still capable of  accepting of what went yesterday, being grateful for today and desperately, desperately hopeful for tomorrow.
I don’t think I am saying that life hasn’t served me well. All the tiny joys add up to a deep-rooted sense of contentment I am proud of. I think what I am saying is that life is short and it is all very well ambling through a life that presents no challenges, accepting what is offered and hiding under a cosy quilt when the pain gets too much but carry on this way and in another twelve years I will be fifty and still feeling grateful that I didn’t burn the casserole. That the chamelia has bloomed again, and there is enough money in the gas meter to see me through another night.
That scrape through the silky surface of contentment and what you will find is a woman who bought into the platitudes she sold herself. The my time will come’s. The I don’t deserve it’s and the god forsaken, maybe tomorrows.
I think what I am really saying is that gratitude isn’t enough. That gratitude, dear darling gratitude, needs a plan. That it isn’t enough to sit back and let life take it’s course, and offer smidgens of thanks because something inside you suspects you aren’t worthy of anything more: that it is in fact this very attitude, this belief that gratitude is enough to manifest all your hearts desires, this arrogance, that is holding you back. And that even more than that: at every corner we are wimping out. Too afraid to truly question whether we are happy to tolerate the staus quo because the thought of what could be if we dared to dream scares the living daylight’s out of us! That what we actually have to do is embrace Marianne Williamson’s Everyday Grace:
My deepest fear is not that I am inadequate
My deepest fear is that I am powerful beyond all measure
It is my light, not my dark that frightens me
I ask myself, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually who am I not to be? I am a child of God. My playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around me.
I am meant to shine as children do…
Because there is so much to be learned from those few lines. You see children don’t accept the status quo. Yes they are content when their immediate needs are met, but otherwise they are constantly questioning things, always trying to learn more, demanding what they want and never resting until they get it. Children shine because they haven’t learned to numb their desires with gratitude for what already exists. Children shine because their intrinsic need for more drives them until life see’s fit to stamp all over ambition, and in the end only the strongest survive with their will intact to fight for who they know they can be.
I won’t be giving up my Gratitude Journal. It is a tool for self-realisation I have long appreciated. But I want to SHINE. I want to strive for shininess and instead of being grateful for all the little platitudes I sprinkle before me on my journey towards it, I want to teach myself to offer gratitude for that which I have achieved. Those moments when I abandon playing small, and finally start striving for something more…
Look lively Sweetheart: I am on the road to brilliance and fabulosity. Who knows where it could take me!

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