Wistful Gratitude


This time of year, there are lots of posts about gratitude. Some of them leave me feeling ashamed. Like I’m not grateful enough or need to stop feeling anything other than selfless gratitude. It’s possible that’s true. But I’m pushing back against any notion of ‘not enough’ these days. I don’t buy it. Maybe it’s resistance to all the ways in which we’re trying to police each other’s behavior. Maybe it’s my hard-wired nature to resist anything that isn’t my idea. Regardless of the reason, I’d like to talk about the kind of gratitude I am feeling this year. It feels like wistful gratitude. Grateful but sad; longing for something out of reach.

The Global

The pandemic seemed to be abating. And now it’s not in many parts of the country and world. A client in Brussels, Belgium told me yesterday that many places are going back into lockdown for a few weeks. The divisions around the vaccine are disheartening, confusing, and infuriating. Vacations which have just now been planned again are in danger of having to be cancelled. This means I will spend more time at home. It’s a form of permission to engage in self-care I sometimes need. Very grateful for that. Wistfully grateful.

The Community

The political climate has affected our daily lives more than it ever has in my memory. Divisions are not new, of course. But communities have thrived with a different standard of what’s acceptable behavior. Those standards have broken down. There’s a permission that’s been given to stand up for intolerance, hate, and all the ‘isms’ and ‘phobias’ that is alarming. It has divided communities and families who previously were able to stand on their common ground. Parts of my own family have not escaped these divisions. The only thing I can find to be grateful for in this is at least I know where I stand. I’ll take that any day over someone pretending to tolerate me while secretly not accepting me for who I am. But losing part of our support system is a wistful gratitude, to be sure.

The Very Personal

The first anniversary of my mother’s passing is approaching. What a complicated relationship that was. For the final four years of her life, she and my dad lived in a little carriage house across the driveway from us. They ate dinner with us most nights. My wife and kids participated in her daily care along with me and my dad. We had a front row seat to her rapid, roller coaster decline. It was the most difficult four years of my life. And I wouldn’t trade them for anything. But this is a deeply wistful gratitude. One that is often accompanied by tears.

As we go into the week of U.S. Thanksgiving, may you be honest with your gratitude. And reaching for the Kleenex and a quiet space when it overcomes you. I’ll be doing the same. Just know that you’re not alone. Feeling gratitude comes in many complicated and sometimes wistful forms.

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