the both/and of gratitude post-Thanksgiving

Updated: Dec 3, 2018

Thanksgiving flat lay on table with "thankful" written on a tag

How many times have you expressed gratitude about something, then complained about that same thing a day, week, or month later?

*Slowly raises my own hand*

I recently started working part-time as a Nanny (how that came to be I will share at a later time). The family that I work for has a dog that I walk twice a day on the days that I work. When I first started working, I was happy that the job required me to get outside for a walk several times a week. I was pumped to get my 10,000+ steps in and close my move and exercise rings on my Apple Watch.

But I found my inner thoughts on the Monday following Thanksgiving, looking more like complaints than gratefulness because I was outside in the cold walking their dog as snow flakes fell from above. I realized how quickly we make the shift from feeling excited or grateful about something to complaining about that same thing not long after. A similar thing happens with Black Friday shopping when people gather around the Thanksgiving table and share all the things they are grateful for having, then participate in what I have believed is the erasure of the gratitude they expressed just the day prior.

But can I really judge?

The excitement I expressed over my previous job when I first started, looked more like apathy, frustration, and burn out 9 months later. The delight I initially felt when I moved to Georgia turned into "Get me out of here NOW!” The joy of being able to see family for Thanksgiving and Christmas is coupled with, “but I’m tired of driving and being on the road during the holidays.” My appreciation for being able to see is overshadowed by irritation on the days my eye disorder brings me pain and discomfort and I have to visit CVS to pay $200+ for a 5mL bottle of steroid eye drops.

Like happiness, gratitude is also fleeting and can be dependent upon circumstances.

Oftentimes, any expression of dislike or negativity about something is usually deemed as ungratefulness by others. We're told we need to shift our perspective and just be positive. But is it healthy or realistic to dismiss our “negative” feelings, to not think about or voice our dislikes, and be positive ALL of the time?

I don’t think so and I’m realizing that the ‘both/and’ concept can come into play here.

I can be both grateful that I can travel and spend time with family during the holidays and dislike the 6 - 8 hour drive it takes to get there. I can be both grateful to get outside for a 20 minute walk and be uncomfortable when doing so in the cold, snow, or rain. I am both grateful that I have the money to pay for my eye drops and I also hate that I have a rare and incurable disorder for which treatment is expensive.

So on and so forth.

I think we should be both mindful about our expression of gratitude and a complaint in the same breath, and also acknowledge that we cannot and do not experience ‘positive’ feelings about a particular thing all of the time.

I am learning that multiple things, even when seemingly contradictory to one another, can be true at the same time. One does not necessarily have to negate the other.

Is there anything you said you were grateful for at the Thanksgiving dinner table and then complained about shortly after?

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash


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