After the blessing was said and we sat down to our festive holiday meal on Thursday, my grandmother asked us all to share something we are thankful for, but this year, there was a caveat: something we’re thankful for that we don’t normally think about in terms of gratitude.
As we went around the table, the answers my family shared were fascinating. My husband, an artist and designer, said he was thankful that God gave us the ability to create. My dad, who works in medicine, said he appreciated the fact that we can distinguish and enjoy different flavors. My mom, a preschool teacher, said she loves the fact that as humans, we have the ability to learn and develop.
The holiday is over, so you may be wondering why I’m writing a post about thanks today. To be honest, it’s partly because I was spending time being unplugged over this holiday and partly because even though it’s great to have an excuse to stop and think about all you’re thankful for, all the normal, ordinary things we take for granted, we should be thinking about thankfulness more than just on designated federal holidays.
But let’s be honest. Even though it shouldn’t be, being thankful is sometimes really, inexplicably hard. It’s been an interesting journey for me, the last year or so. It was about a year ago that I decided it was time to launch a new blog: This blog. Little Red Suit, my feet-first plunge into blogging, had become much more of a success than I’d even imagined it could. I was building relationships with great bloggers, getting some incredible opportunities, and things just seemed to align.
At that time, I was getting ready to start on my capstone master’s project and finish up my degree, and I was ready to embark on a more defined niche that tied more closely to my career and studies. I was feeling crowded in by a blog name that didn’t really reflect what I wanted to write about, so I spent a lot of time soul-searching, talking to successful people I trust and respect, and planning my launch into something new. I was excited and ready for the inspiration and drive I trusted new would help me find.
In the meantime, a lot of life happened. I got promoted at work. Only months after we learned of his battle with cancer, my grandfather passed away. I doubled the hours I spent volunteering with our church. I was in the middle of planning a wedding and trying to figure out what the heck I was going to do about branding myself in my writing life and in my real life. Things kept changing at work. Then I got married and parts of my life changed completely.
Flash back to now, and it’s hard to explain how I am feeling. I realize that most of these are things I can find ways to appreciate. Even my grandfather’s passing led to moments of needed reflection. When I stop to think, of course, I am thankful about my life. That’s why we stop to think. Because we need to. Because it’s important.
This is probably one reason it’s hard for me to face the fact that instead of gratitude, when I don’t stop to think about it, what I feel impulsively when I look at the past year is usually a lot of guilt. About things I didn’t do or should have done or could have accomplished. Or sometimes, even fear – that I won’t move forward or won’t get far enough or I’ll get so busy again I forget to look life in the face every day before it passes me by.
So today, I’m writing this, because it’s what I need to say.
Even though it feels dangerous.
It’s hard to open yourself up to this kind of vulnerability, even just with yourself. But I’m tired of letting fear and doubt and guilt rob me of my focus, of my passion, of my time. So there. I said it. It’s out.
Here’s the weird part: As the year comes to an end, I think that probably, I am not alone in feeling this way.
The other day, a pal of mine Twittered that he feels like he’s become a serial starter, afraid of that awful word “finish.” I thought about the thirty or eighty – I’ve lost count – untouched drafts in my blog folder and thought, exactly. What is the deal with that?
Of course I know the answer. Guy Kawasaki said it incredibly well when he admonished us: “Don’t Worry, Be Crappy.”
Another friend said this to me in passing the other day, and it really hit home: “Investing time in failure is better than investing time in fear of failure.” I liked that one so much I printed it out and hung on my wall.
So here’s what I know, pithy quotes and inspirational aphorisms aside: it’s really easy to let fear and doubt and guilt rob you of the thankfulness and hope that belong to you. I don’t know why, but it’s true. But also, here’s another thing I know. Today and any day, it’s better to reject guilt and move past inaction.
Choose thankfulness and action instead. It’s up to you to choose them. And they are what you deserve.