Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I have legs. I don't have ebola. I'm alive.

Gratefulness doesn't come easily to me.

I read this article that said that people who are beginning to meditate should take two minutes at the end of each session to think about how they're grateful for the mediation itself. I guess it reinforces the habit, makes you more aware of the purpose of what you're doing, and therefore more likely to continue. I suppose you're supposed to say "I'm grateful for this serenity, and all the things it will do for me, for my perspectice, and for the people in my life. I'm grateful for the silence, and my ability to quiet my mind. I am greatful for the chance to reconnect with the universe."

Or some horse shit like that.

I understand the theory behind mediation, and I understand the theory behind gratefulness. Modern literature of the Happiness Psychology Movement-- capitalized for no real reason, this is not an official name at all, just what I'm calling the last decade's trend towards researching the science of happiness- says over and over again that both are pillars of a truly happy life. You have to mediate to calm your mind. You have to be grateful for what you have, because it's very hard to be a pathetic, self-pitying egotist when you're busy filling your heart with gratitude for everything; for life itself.

Except that I AM a pathetic, self-pitying egotist. Much less abashedly so than I should be. And it's hard to have a heart full of gratitude for life itself when I'm more or less fo the mindset that life itself kind of sucks.

And there you have it. It's a chicken and egg thing. If I'm not happy, how can I be grateful? If I can't be grateful, how am I supposed to get to happy?

Except that this mindset totally misses the point. The idea is to practice gratefulness as a means to get to happy. Force yourself to acknowledge the things you are grateful for, to force out those immature, self-defeating feelings. You're better than that! You're humble, and at one with existence itself!


As many as my fellow east-coast cynics would agree with me, this feels like super unnnatural new-age shit. Great, I'm alive. I have legs-- I can walk. I don't have ebola. Yet.

The problem is that, logically, I've never really been on board with this "Be glad you have it as good as you do" rhetoric. Yes, there is food on my plate. Yes, there are people starving elsewhere. Dying painfully. Wrongully accused. Yes, it's good that I'm not any of them.

But part of me has always believed-- and is, to an extent, vindicated by research-- that one's level of happiness is more or less independent of these other circumstances. Just check the internet. Look up all the stories about the brave, happy young women who ultimately died of some terrible disease. Read their friends testimonials that they "never let the sickness get the best of them" and how they were "bright and sunny even to their dying day." (Keep in mind, I'm not quoting anyone here. I'm quoting everyone. If I have to read this exact thing one more time...)

Don't get me wrong. I'm grateful I don't have cancer (If I don't. A Cynic like me is never sure.) And I think if I did get cancer, I'd be miserable.

But I'm not certain I'd be more miserable than I am on a day-to-day basis. I think it would just feel like I'd been training really hard for some kind of fucked-up marathon all of my life, and now it was the day of the big race.

So, preparedness? I guess that's something to be grateful for?

There's this scene in "When Harry Met Sally" where Harry claims that, being a fundamentally less happy person than Sally (though I'm not sure he really proves to be, as the movie progresses), he'll be more prepared than she will when things go really wrong. I think he means on a global level: some unavoidable doomsday.

Personally, I think that's really shitty justification for letting yourself be an unhappy person. Who the hell cares how you'll feel in the moments before the apocalypse? Live your life.

But I think there are strengths that come from being someone who is unhappy: I spend a lot of time trying to convince Dan -- my almost compulsively happy fiancé (of sorts)-- of this idea; that being someone who is often unhappy is not necessarily inferior to being someone who is happy nearly all of the time.

I don't think he buys it, and this adds to my unhappiness, and the general struggle of our relationship. But it's true, isn't it? Being someone with a much fuller range of emotions allows me to empathize more deeply with the people around me. Suffering alongside another person is the surest way, in my opinion, to cement a really deep bond. That's why I've been blessed (oh! Gratitude!) with so many deep, meaningful relationships in my life. Friendships which I would not sacrifice for anything in the world. Love for others that has outlasted any semblance of a real relationship-- and yes, I get that that can easily be seen as a weakness.

But I am grateful that I still love the people who probably do not love me anymore. I am grateful that the love that I have known has proven to be unconditional. If somewhat creepy.

And I am very grateful that blogger has long since implemented an autosave system that saved this for me when I accidentally close it out just now, switching tabs to google to try to find something to help me remember the word "unconditional." The thing about writing again is that it REALLY brings out that THING that happens when I can't think of a word. Ugh.

So. Gratefulness doesn't come easy to me. But apparently I can find my way to it if I write long enough-- even if it is slightly more than a printed page.

Day 2, then. (Oh, I'm counting last night as Day 1, even though I posted after midnight. Fuck off, they're my rules.)

On with it.