Grateful Enough? Thanks!

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Every morning, I try to meditate. I don’t actually meditate every morning, but I’ve read that it helps, so I try.

Part of that meditation is an accounting of the things I’m grateful for, because I’ve read that helps, too. Helps with what, exactly? Well, helps to make me the calm, accepting person I always wanted to be. There’s a whole industry around gratitude journals.

Gratitude is a good thing, right?

Because the opposite of gratitude is entitlement, i.e. “Why should I be grateful? I deserve this!” I worked hard to be sure my daughter never felt that way, and she couldn’t even play with toys she received until she’d written a thank-you note to the sender. I am suspicious of people who don’t write thank-you notes. When I was hiring, it was the people who wrote thank-you emails or, even better, notes, after interviews whom I favored.

But now, the scientists who study such things say that some people aren’t wired to be thankful. The ones who are the most independent feel like being grateful means they owe a debt of gratitude, and they are profoundly uncomfortable with owing anybody anything.

I get that, because I will go to extreme lengths to return a book or a loan. I have not run for office because I can not stand the thought of asking for money. It’s funny, when I did public relations for causes, I could easily ask for support for the good cause, but asking for myself? Just can’t.

Gratitude interventions – like the popular gratitude journals — don’t work for everyone, despite the marketing, according to the psychologists. Not everyone benefits from forcing gratitude.

But gratitude is still important, even if we’re not wired for it. The psychologist in the story about the gratitude research says that he would, “worry that people who are uncomfortable with gratitude and with receiving gifts may be undermining their interpersonal relationships.”

So, how do we balance the importance of gratitude with the need to be independent and strong?

Maybe we ought to share some of that gratitude with ourselves. For example, “I am so grateful to be published, because a lot of talented people are not. But I am also grateful for my own talent and perseverance that led to my being published.”

Maybe the secret is giving credit where it is due, not with arrogance, but not with false modesty either.

Oh, and thank you for reading to the end. I’m grateful.

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Second Base

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While cleaning out old boxes, I came across my middle school diary, or as we called it, “junior high.” I was zipping along reading all about my preteen angst – when were my parents going to let me get a bra…hooray, I got deodorant…I got grownup “nylons” in my Easter basket – when I had to re-read a couple of entries. Apparently I was really thrilled to have been sexually assaulted. And my adult self had forgotten all about it.

The memories flooded back.

Jim D was the bad boy of St. Mary’s Catholic Junior High. Legend had it that one girl sitting in the desk across from him saw him put one thumb up behind the desk, then another, then…ewwww, that third one wasn’t a thumb! No way of knowing whether the story was true, but if you knew Jim D, it seemed true.

Jim D began to notice me by snapping my bra strap. So apparently my parents gave in and bought me a bra right around the time I began to whine about it in my diary. I was thrilled. Sure, it hurt, and it was a little embarrassing to be singled out as one of the few girls who “developed” early, but it meant he was flirting with me in a caveman sort of way!

The diary entry, unusually cryptic for me, bragged that I had “gone to second base” with Jim D. Second base, for those born on another planet, is having a boy’s hands up your shirt.

But here’s what happened.

My friend, Carolyn, and I were at a park with Jim D and his gang. There was chasing, some sort of tag game. And then, Carolyn disappeared and I was on the ground, on my back, being held down by the boys. And Jim D was straddling me, pushing up my blouse and pulling down my junior bra and roughly rubbing my brand new breasts. And the boys stood in a circle around me, watching.

That was all that happened. Maybe Carolyn returned or maybe they got bored or maybe I struggled. I honestly don’t remember.

What I do remember is that I was proud. I spent the night at Carolyn’s house that night and I bragged that I had gone to second base.

Had I read too many rapey romance novels? Was my self-esteem so low that any attention was good attention? Yes and yes.

I don’t have any wise conclusions. It just feels weird to read an old diary and see myself so thrilled with having something done to me that today I would report to the police.

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