It’s the time of year where our facebook feeds are inevitably clogged with things that people are grateful for. In between “grateful for my dog” and “yay fuzzy socks!” posts, I have come to realize that this year I have gotten a more intimate understanding of gratitude.
I think there is a general “kumbaya” type misconception that all things gratitude should make you feel warm and lovely inside. Truthfully, instances that can make someone ultimately thankful come in many different packages. It can be a human’s tendency to not see the value of the darker side of things. I mean if dark did not exist, then that means neither would light. If you think about it, inside of the darkness we’ve all found something that we treasure at one time or another.
My intimacy with being thankful came suddenly this morning as in less than 12 hours ago. I realized that I must be thankful for the bad things that have happened to me personally and around me. Here recently I have realized that I have been carrying around a deep and unrealized amount of self-hatred. This is not an easy thing to come to understand about oneself. Ever the soul searcher/masochist that I am, I decided to dig into it. Why in God’s name would I hate myself? I’m a kick ass bitch after all. Where is this coming from?
Further analysis revealed that for most of my life, I have gained my self-worth through helping people. While the intent is good, this is not a good way to be. This means that you will run yourself ragged, you will be taken advantage of, you run the risk of growing angry and bitter, and are on the fast track to making yourself very emotionally and physically sick. There is always someone that needs help. That will never change. But some people only needed my help so that they can continue along their destructive path. This is called enabling; and lack of self-worth, dependency, and enabling are interlinked.
On the other hand those that seek the help and do whatever they can with their current skill set and understanding while simultaneously learning from you and the resources that you place in their path to expand same…those…those are the people that you continue to help. That sort of engagement is what is soul nourishing for both parties and becomes a mutually beneficial experience. The enabling/co-dependent scenario is like trying to run a marathon with both legs bound together and one arm behind your back. You may be able to carry on for a while with sheer determination and ingenuity, but eventually you will hurt yourself.
Knowing that I had given a helping hand to mostly those that I should have moved away from faster grounded me into a sort of pitty party for myself. Why oh why did I forsake my real friends to hang out with a seedy bunch that one time? Why oh why did I not glance at the guy with ambition and a Toyota Camry for the reaaalllly bad boy with a motorcycle? Why oh why did I drive that guy to rehab instead of working on my business plans? Maybe some of these people were changed in some way by me. Maybe someone became brave because of me. Or maybe this is an arrogant way of avoiding the vulnerability I feel for placing myself below my standards.
The other thing that I realized while finally dispelling my self-hatred is that all of the above was my choice. I chose to run after people that took advantage of me. I chose to extend olive branches to assholes. I chose to place myself and those that have always loved and supported me behind those that hated me in an attempt to chase their approval. In the end, I only hurt myself. But I am thankful. It may have been the hard way around in learning, but it sure was a fucking ride of a lifetime. It’s also one that I don’t intend to experience ever again.
I now know the difference between helping people, and actually hurting them. Discernment is something that takes time to develop, and I may have gleaned mine through hands on experience, but I still got the understanding nonetheless. Helping those that truly have nowhere to turn is always our job and it really isn’t our place to judge how or why they got there. How you help however is your choice…and only yours. How you allow the experience to interplay into your life is entirely up to you.
When I see people with such horrid opinions about the refugee crisis, I have to ask myself; did they help too many alcoholics? Where they ever burned by too many relationships with irresponsible dudes? What happened to this fellow human being to make them hate people so much? Or judge? Why are they so deliberately blind to downright facts in favor of lazy slanted media? Then I realize that we’ve all been taken advantage of in life. I don’t think one human alive has escaped the experience of resentment from our kindness being either brushed off or over extended. This has made us closed off to the point that not even a crisis can stir us into much action.
It’s sad to me that we live in an age where we can watch Paris be attacked and it’s just another day. We’ve allowed ourselves to become desensitized, dispassionate, and plain numbed out. If my generation, the last of which knows what the outdoors looks like, is this way then I have to wonder about the generations behind us. They obviously need an example of how to act, because letting them get their social and emotional conditioning from the Kardashians is atrocious. Therefore it is to us to understand that when bad things and bad people happen, we can look deeper and see plenty to be thankful for. When I think of the attacks on Paris, only one thing comes to mind. It isn’t politics, international law, or anything that a politician said. It is how gentlemen by the name of Antoine Leiris chose to respond to the terrorists after losing his wife in the attack;
On Friday night, you stole away the life of an exceptional being. The love of my life, the mother of my son. But you will not have my hatred…
You cannot have my hatred. He goes on to explain that he knows their intention is to crumple the human race into fear and vitrol so that they can instill their conformist agenda…and he isn’t going to fall for it. This was a bad worldly thing that has happened, but I am thankful for Antoine for teaching me such a valuable lesson. I have a choice. I can’t pretend, and probably neither can he, that some of these choices before us are easy, but the great ones never are.
We can look deeper at any given moment and I have chosen to use this weird self hatred that I’ve gained from going too far out of my way for the wrong people as an opportunity to grow my awareness. Though I may kick myself and want some do-overs, I needed every single one of those experiences to understand some things. I am that person that will drive you to rehab. I will sit and talk to you about organizing your life and help you find resources. I understand now that it isn’t my job to go through the program or work those resources for them. How would I have learned that before the “bad” times and people? Now with the world in such a time of reorganization, I can see that all of those instances were just me fine tuning my helping skills among other understandings about life. Helping people that actually want the help is going to be a refreshing experience. I’m ready for that now. But I wouldn’t have been if it weren’t for the “bad”. This is why I am thankful this year.