⚒️ The Challenge of Gratitude

Since I first read it, over 20 years ago, my favorite poem has been “Harlem” by Langston Hughes:

“What happens to a dream deferred?

      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?

      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Today I found out he has another poem by the same name:

“So we stand here
On the edge of hell
In Harlem
And look out on the world
And wonder
What we’re gonna do
In the face of what
We remember.”

Langston Hughes, “Harlem” from The Collected Works of Langston Hughes. Copyright © 2002 by Langston Hughes. poetryfoundation.org/poems/46548/harlem

I’ve been struggling to be grateful, my whole life. I’m a thoughtful person, I’ve become significantly more aware and more mindful in recent years, but not significantly more grateful. I’ve been told that the benefits of gratitude are more happiness, I know people enjoy being around grateful people, yet it’s not an easy or natural thing for me.

I’ve been struggling to be grateful, my whole life. I’m a thoughtful person, I’ve become significantly more aware and more mindful in recent years, but not significantly more grateful. I’ve been told that the benefits of gratitude are more happiness, I know people enjoy being around grateful people, yet it’s not an easy or natural thing for me.

It’s not something that I’ve never done or known, but it’s really strained when I try. Spontaneous gratitude happens for me, gratitude at the light of the dawn, the soft sway of bamboo in the wind, a cup of coffee gone right, the smile of my baby son, yet forced or expected gratitude is no easier than a dental visit for me.

It’s so hard that I wonder if it’s just not part of who I am?

I’m not sure if it’s because I didn’t have a typical mother-daughter relationship or not. My mom suffered heavy postpartum depression, so she didn’t want to be close to me, she didn’t enjoy feeding me, didn’t enjoy life around me, my dad was also suffering, suffering from depression and anxiety, overworking and a failing marriage. The moments I can remember my parents being happy in an honest way when I was growing up are extremely few. My mother later left my life and my father has become happy since owning dogs, both of which are good things for me, but I wonder if I didn’t learn gratitude because I didn’t see it?

My daughter is sleeping in the corner right now, at this moment I am grateful for her, but when she wakes up and demands many things she knows I will not give her (sugar cereal for breakfast, when we always eat oatmeal, toys she wants when she just got six new toys last night at the big music festival, attention when her brother needs to be fed and she already ate and was cuddled) I know it will be hard for me to be grateful to her at those times.

When I am multitasking I get angry, I get frustrated when two or three people talk to me at once, but now that I have two kids and am living with my dad and sister I am multitasking and multiple people are talking at once to me all day long. Except for dawn, for a few hours I am alone, then my son wakes up and that’s just fine, then my daughter wakes up and for a few minutes I’m fine, then the day is a downward spiral of me serving her, myself and the baby, my family vying for attention in their own ways and it’s completely overwhelming for me, I get more and more impatient and tired and more and more rude as the day goes on, until night when I am bitter and exhausted.

I’m taking a parenting class about being respectful, I’m doing a personal challenge to try to be more grateful and reading a book, “Only Love Today,” to try to slow down and expect less of myself, but so far no mental reframing, no perspective shift, no change in me has been able to resolve the fact that people want more than me every day than I am comfortable giving and that I hate multiple people talking at once.

I don’t want to ignore my daughter, I don’t want to be rude to her, I don’t want her to think her words and questions don’t matter, but I will not enjoy a life where she screams over anyone else talking to be heard constantly, I will not enjoy a life where she gets to spend all my mental energy and time having my answer her “why” questions whenever she feels like it without really listening or trying to remember what I tell her. I wish I could tell my family to stop talking when they hear other people are already talking, but I feel like I can’t phrase it in a way that wouldn’t offend them and even if I did they don’t take suggestions from me about how to live.

I guess I can stop talking over people myself, I guess I can write my daughters questions down in a notebook and have a time I will answer them, I guess I can tell my family “I feel overwhelmed” when they talk at the same time, I guess I can ask for help teaching my daughter to stop interrupting before I get so mad at her I want to punish her for it.

So, I’ve been failing to be sincerely grateful a lot during this gratitude challenge, but I wanted to keep going as non-judgementally as I can and gather information about myself.

To me, gratitude is a feeling (it can also be an act) and feelings are not easy to turn on and off like a switch. It’s also similar to love for me, most of the people I have been grateful towards I have loved as well.

One problem I have is that I have no words for gratitude, the ones that English has “thank you,” have been required for me to say as standard social interaction (when I didn’t mean them), all my childhood. Now that I’m an adult it’s up to me, I could stop saying thank you, but it would be hard.

I think I will try to stop saying thank you when I don’t mean it. Or I will start looking for another way to say it when I really mean thank you.

I have the words in Japanese, 有り難い arigatai (life is hard/thanks for making “the difficult thing I asked you to do” happen), ありがとう arigatoo (thank you), どうもありがとう domo arigatoo (really, thank you), ありがとうございます, domo arigatoo gonzaimasu (really, thank you so much).

I have the words in Chinese too, 感谢 gǎn xiè (real gratitude) and 谢谢 xiè xie (for common thanks).

But in English, the power of gratitude has been lost for me by thousands of forced thank yous given and received with no meaning.

So I haven’t found gratitude much in this gratitude challenge, but I’ve found curiosity and forgiveness.

My dad, for example, I’m unable to be very grateful for him, even though he often supported me in my life financially and physically, and I would mentally/logically expect myself to feel grateful towards him, I can’t force my feelings to be that way. But I was able to forgive him for not being the perfect dad, for being too depressed to come out of his shell and nurture me emotionally. I was able to be curious about why he is depressed and what that was like for him. He was more open with me about his childhood this year than ever before, he hated his dad, who hated his dad, so even though I don’t hate my dad, I can start to see why he didn’t have a role model of a father being open with his kids, because his father was not very close to him and my grandfather (who is 100 now) had a horrible relationship with his mom’s husband and possibly didn’t know his own father.

I know we don’t always copy what we see, sometimes we overcome the past, but it seems like because my grandfather was so distant from a father, my father was as well and I as well. But things are starting to change for the better this year.

So I mention this just as an investigation of a possible reason that I’m struggling so much to be grateful, just because I wasn’t exposed to gratitude growing up in my particular family. Even though they tried to force us, and succeeded in forcing us, to say thank you, without showing true feelings of gratitude, I didn’t learn that aspect of humanity until much later in life.

Perhaps someday I will be better at being grateful or perhaps it’s not something that will ever be my forte, but I’m giving it a chance for a month and seeing what the journey tells me about myself.

I’ve been struggling to be grateful, my whole life. I’m a thoughtful person, I’ve become significantly more aware and more mindful in recent years, but not significantly more grateful. I’ve been told that the benefits of gratitude are more happiness, I know people enjoy being around grateful people, yet it’s not an easy or natural thing for me.

It’s not something that I’ve never done or known, but it’s really strained when I try. Spontaneous gratitude happens for me, gratitude at the light of the dawn, the soft sway of bamboo in the wind, a cup of coffee gone right, the smile of my baby son, yet forced or expected gratitude is no easier than a dental visit for me.

It’s so hard that I wonder if it’s just not part of who I am?

I’m not sure if it’s because I didn’t have a typical mother daughter relationship or not. My mom suffered heavy post partum depression, so she didn’t want to be close to me, she didn’t enjoy feeding me, didn’t enjoy life around me, my dad was also suffering, suffering from depression and anxiety, over working and a failing marriage. The moments I can remember my parents being happy in an honest way when I was growing up are extreemly few. My mother later left my life and my father has become happy since owning dogs, both of which are good things for me, but I wonder if I didn’t learn gratitude because I didn’t see it?

My daughter is sleeping in the corner right now, at this moment I am grateful for her, but when she wakes up and demands many things she knows I will not give her (sugar cereal for breakfast, when we always eat oatmeal, toys she wants when she just got six new toys last night at the big music festival, attention when her brother needs to be fed and she already ate and was cuddled) I know it will be hard for me to be grateful to her at those times.

When I am multitasking I get angry, I get frustrated when two or three people talk to me at once, but now that I have two kids and am living with my dad and sister I am multitasking and multiple people are talking at once to me all day long. Except dawn. For a few hours I am alone, then my son wakes up and that’s just fine, then my daughter wakes up and for a few minutes I’m fine, then the day is a downward spiral of me serving her, myself and the baby, my family vying for attention in their own ways and it’s completely overwhleming for me, I get more and more impatient and tired and more and more rude as the day goes on, until night when I am bitter and exausted.

I’m taking a parenting class about being respectful, I’m doing a personal challenge to try to be more grateful and reading a book, “Only Love Today,” to try to slow down and expect less of myself, but so far no mental reframing, no perspective shift, no change in me has been able to resolve the fact that people want more than me everyday than I am comfortable giving and that I hate multiple people talking at once.

I don’t want to ignore my daughter, I don’t want to be rude to her, I don’t want her to think her words and questions don’t matter, but I will not enjoy a life where she screams over anyone else talking to be heard constantly, I will not enjoy a life where she gets to spend all my mental energy and time having my answer her “why” questions whenever she feels like it without really listening or trying to remember what I tell her. I wish I could tell my family to stop talking when they hear other people are already talking, but I feel like I can’t phrase it in a way that wouldn’t offend them and even if I did they don’t take suggestions from me about how to live.

I guess I can stop talking over people myself, I guess I can write my daughters questions down in a notebook and have a time I will answer them, I guess I can tell my family “I feel overwhelmed” when they talk at the same time, I guess I can ask for help teaching my daughter to stop interupting before I get so mad at her I want to punish her for it.

So, I’ve been failing to be sincerly grateful a lot during this gratitude challenge, but I wanted to keep going as non-judgementally as I can and gather information about myself.

To me gratitude is a feeling (it can also be an act) and feelings are not easy to turn on and off like a switch. It’s also similar to love for me, most of the people I have been grateful towards I have loved as well.

One problem I have is that I have no words for gratitude, the ones that English has “thank you,” have been required for me to say as standard social interaction, when I didn’t mean them, all my childhood. Now that I’m an adult it’s up to me, I could stop saying thank you, but it would be hard.

I think I will try to stop saying thank you when I don’t mean it. Or I will start looking for another way to say it when I really mean thank you.

I have the words in Japanese, 有り難い arigatai (life is hard/thanks for making “the difficult thing I asked you to do” happen), ありがとう arigatoo (thank you), どうもありがとう domo arigatoo (really, thank you), ありがとうございます, domo arigatoo gonzaimasu (really, thank you so much).

I have the words in Chinese too, 感谢 gǎn xiè (real gratitude) and 谢谢 xiè xie (for common thanks).

But in English, the power of gratitude has been lost for me by thosands of forced thank yous given and recieved with no meaning.

So I haven’t found gratitude much in this gratitude challenge, but I’ve found curiousity and forgiveness.

My dad for example, I’m unable to be very grateful for him, even though he often supported me in my life financially and physically, and I would mentally/logically expect myself to feel grateful towards him, I can’t force my feelings to be that way. But I was able to forgive him for not being the perfect dad, for being too depressed to come out of his shell and nurture me emotionally. I was able to be curious about why he is depressed and what that was like for him. He was more open with me about his childhood this year than every before, he hated his dad, who hated his dad, so even though I don’t hate my dad, I can start to see why he didn’t have a role model of a father being open with his kids, because his father was not very close to him and my grandfather (who is 100 now) had a horrible relationship with his mom’s husband and possible didn’t know his own father.

I know we don’t always copy what we see, sometimes we overcome the past, but it seems like because my grandfather was so distant from a father, my father was as well and I as well. But things are starting to change for the better this year.

So I mention this just as an investigation of a possible reason that I’m struggling so much to be grateful, just because I wasn’t exposed to gratitude growing up in my particular family. Even though they tried to force us, and succeeded in forcing us, to say thank you, without showing true feelings of gratitude, I didn’t learn that aspect of humanity until much later in life.

Perhaps someday I will be better at being grateful or perhaps it’s not something that will ever be my forte, but I’m giving it a chance for a month and seeing what the journey tells me about myself.

Perhaps someday I will be better at being grateful or perhaps it’s not something that will ever be my forte, but I’m giving it a chance for a month and seeing what the journey tells me about myself.
I’m grateful for all the people taking the time to read this. Maybe because I don’t feel pressured to be grateful for you I can be? I know it’s hard to be grateful for my parents, my husband, my sister because I feel an intense pressure that I should and guilt that I can’t yet.

Perhaps someday I will be better at being grateful or perhaps it’s not something that will ever be my forte, but I’m giving it a chance for a month and seeing what the journey tells me about myself.

I’m grateful for all the people taking the time to read this. Maybe because I don’t feel pressured to be greatful for you I can be? I know it’s hard to be grateful for my parents, my husband, my sister because I feel an intense pressure that I should and guilt that I can’t yet.

I’m grateful for Langston Hughes’ “Harlem” (both of them), his words gave me words for my feelings at a time in my life (I think 4th grade, or age 8) when I had never had words for my true feelings before. My family told me to say I feel excited when they spent money on me, instead of dissapointed and invisible, happy for pictures, instead of embarresed and angry, sad when they got divorced instead of happy there would finally be less fighting, they told me how to feel and I tried to follow their advice, but in the end I never could do and be the way that my family and my countries social norms prefered for me to feel. I think it was this poem that caused the idea of trying to be what people told me to be to explode inside my heart. The dream of fitting in so people would like me, eventually exploded. Many years later, the people who matter to me, who I need, who I like, still like me, without me pretending and those who don’t, didn’t even when I pretended.

I’m grateful to the musicians at the hoolaulea music festival last night, I don’t know all their names, but I really appriciate the music. Music is something that has lifted me up when I’ve been the lowest. Words lift me from normal to inspired, but music lifts me up from half dead to alive again. I don’t really know the intentions of the musicans, but it felt like they were trying to give the world some love to make it through another year’s challenges.

I’m grateful for two books. The first is “The Pain of Challenges,” by Steven Turikunkiko. This is a book written by someone who lived during a time of genocide and is an orphan. Sometimes I feel bad that I didn’t have a family with two loving parents, yet it’s very common, I’m not alone and other people get through it and are able to live with hope and gratitude, so it inspires me to keep trying to let go of the past and move towards gratitude little by little. The second book is “How to Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re an Adult: A Path to Authenticity and Awakening” by Ira Israel. I don’t agree completely with either book, but both were helpful in my personal journey of forgiveness and my journey of forgiveness was neccesary in my journey of gratitude.

I’m very grateful for two boggers today. The first is Nomz, the writer who started this gratitude challenge and was the first person to encourage me to challenge myself to boldly celebrate myself, her writing is a constant source of inspiration and surprisingly eloquent and powerful for a “younger writer.” The second is Dr. Jurisharma who wrote a beautiful post about 5 situations when walking away is healthy and helped me grieve in another post about emotional healing where I first heard Rumi’s “What hurts you blesses you. Darkness is your candle,” which has really helped me to allow myself to go through the grieving process when I’m hurt instead of running from it or denying it.

Sometimes I wonder if it matters to write, for me or for readers, and if my time would make a difference somewhere else, I’m still not sure, but since it matters to me that others write, since it makes my life better, maybe it matters for me to write as well, maybe it will make someone’s life better also, maybe mine or maybe someone else’s? Maybe. 🌻

3 thoughts on “⚒️ The Challenge of Gratitude

  1. ebonyandcrows says:

    Thank you for sharing those beautiful poems from Langston Hughes, and also your experiences. I too do not have the best of relationships with my father and I work every day to overcome certain obstacles that has placed in my life.

    Like

  2. Conversations & Self-discovery W/ Nomz says:

    Thank you so much, once again, for being such a constant support and reader of my blog. Secondly, I thank you for your brutal honesty and vulnerability about your life and experiences – by reading your views and experiences, I am able to make sense of my own life and views that I (most of the time) find absurd or I feel bad for feeling / thinking that way.
    I can strongly relate to you finding it hard to be grateful for your siblings and parents, because you feel ‘forced’ to be grateful for them. As I begin my third-week-gratitude-challenge I am grateful for you and this post. Thank you.

    Like

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