In the United States, Thanksgiving is just around the chronological corner.
Those who have sat around a Thanksgiving table know that at some point, someone will clink-clink-clink a glass, look warmly around the room and ask, “Alright everyone! Shall we go around and say something we’re grateful for?” Perhaps you are that someone.
Confession time. I am not that person. I am the person who hears this invitation, sucks in my breath, and thinks something like. “Ok. Here we go.”
It’s not that I object to ritual, just ask my espresso machine or yoga mat. And it’s not that I have a problem with gratitude. I LOVE gratitude. It’s just that I’ve never become very skilled at gratitude on-demand.
I can certainly think of things I know I should feel grateful for, or that I did feel grateful for, but when I put pressure on myself to feel grateful, I usually get gratitude’s cranky cousin, resentment.
I just reread what I wrote several times and am debating whether to share all this. I’m not very proud of this contracted aspect of my character. I have everything in the world to be grateful for, what is wrong with me that I’m not always appreciative?
And there it is. That’s the voice that plays in my head at the Thanksgiving Day table. It’s not wrong, but it’s also not helpful. The more it reprimands, the smaller I feel.
So I will publish this post, because I can’t be the only one who struggles with accessing gratitude and then shames myself for not feeling grateful. And though I sometimes like to think I’m a special flower, two decades of sharing my inner world has taught me that if I’m experiencing something, there are others who experience it too. If you are that someone, know you are not alone! And if there’s no one out there who gets what I’m talking about, then I guess I am a special flower after all!
So what do we do about resentment when it arises?
Some people, either naturally or with practice can simply notice the resentment, drop it, and then genuinely restore or cultivate a feeling of gratitude.
What’s more common, though, is to paste a pretend grateful facade over a resentful heart and deep down feel even more resentful. I think this is what has caused me the most suffering at times like Thanksgiving: Knowing I’m about to get fake, and feeling like the only ungrateful fraud at the table.
Luckily, there is another way. While I haven’t practiced gratitude so much, I have practiced something else fiercely, and that is acceptance. Acceptance of myself, of what is, of others, my outer world, and most often, my inner world. While I’m by no means a master, acceptance is my go-to practice when I start to spiral down.
– Can I accept myself even though I feel resentment?
– Can I accept the presence of resentment itself?
– Rather than try to push it away or deny that it’s here, can I get to know it?
– Can I allow any shame I feel? Can I allow the pressure to feel something other than what I do feel?
– Can I allow wanting-to-feel-different? Can I accept myself even as uncomfortable as I am?
– If you were at my Than ksgiving table and you saw me suddenly get quiet, you might correctly guess this is the monologue playing inside me.
In conclusion, if you already feel grateful this week, congratulations! Go with that. Enjoy your pie.
But if gratitude ever seems out of reach, I offer acceptance as an alternative. I’ve found it to be a lower-hanging fruit, and even a kind of checkmate. Because, if there’s ever a time I can’t accept my resentment, I can usually accept that I can’t accept it. With that, I begin to make peace, and come back into connection.
I recorded an 8 minute meditation, Feeling Resentful.I hope you find it supportive!
Depending on your circumstances, here are other explorations that might be helpful:
– Resentment in Relationships
– Feeling Left Out
– And more…
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