“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one…just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald
( The quote isn’t for you. It’s for me. This article is also for me, but you are free to come along for the ride. )
One of the things that I’m learning to practice is gratitude. For me, I’ve always been made acutely aware of my privilege in life. At school, and in my early teen years, most of the people I was friends with came from a background that was significantly different than mine, and this distinction is an aspect of my experiences with other people that have shaped the way I feel about day to day life. I think this knowledge of my own privilege has a tendency to make me feel guilt/shame, and in my daily interactions with service people, I tend to feel bad that I rarely feel gratitude for my life in general. It’s also made me a bit wary of talking about my “problems”, as with certain company, it just feels that it’s going to come across in a certain way, from their perspective. I’ve certainly felt shameful and a certain contemptuous envy on occasion, for the comforts of my life, and when it happens I certainly feel a deep sense of shame. I’m aware that envy is a small price to pay for having comforts in life. But while my life isn’t based on a need to live from hand to mouth, the abstraction of the so called “problems” of my life tends to make the experience of my life very lonely.
it isn’t really that healthy to feel shame about the way I am, and I’ve been learning to practice gratitude for two reasons. One, as a better reflex to the same I feel, and two, to have better mental health. I’ve been perusing through some articles on gratitude, and it does seem to help in this regard.
It’s definitely a challenge for myself, to try and reverse the momentum of unhappiness by trying to think of things to be grateful for- it seems eerily close to the perversity of hollow advice such as “Think Positive!” etc etc, that makes me want to kick the teeth of whoever’s dispensing of such a pithy and thoughtless set of words, and I think the reflex is to think of gratitude and it’s practice as something that’s simply not going to work.
I’ve been trying to explore, on my own, the concept of gratitude, and the reason why, on a very basal level, it doesn’t feel instinctually right to use as a coping tool for me to use. Perhaps it’s because the concept of gratitude can imply a sense of feeling that I “should” feel gratitude. i.e, that gratitude is something that I should feel, and if I don’t feel gratitude, then something is wrong with me. At this current point in time, I’m trying to think of gratitude as the aspects of my circumstances that I can interpret as positive- eg. “spending time with my family, watching a good movie, having a good conversation” and simply take stock of these things, regardless of how I might feel for those things at the present time. I think it’s very similar to the concept of “equanimity”, which is both a philosophical concept and the title of an awesome special by Dave Chappelle. I’ll rather not get into tiresome semantics, so I’ll just say that if its a tool that I can use to bring me a better peace of mind, it is worth exploring.
I often spend a great deal of time within myself, and I become more aware of the fact that I do this when I’m around other people- it’s incredibly easy for me to feel disengaged, for me to want to carry on a conversation in my head instead of with the people around me. Ironically enough, a great deal of thinking has to be done for me to figure out whether or not this is a good/bad thing, or the reason why this has a tendency to happen, but I think the practice of gratitude, while requiring a certain distance and internal examination, might actually help me be able to make a conscious choice to spend less time inside my head, when I’m around other people.
That’s really all for now. As for what goes on inside my head, the very idea of disclosure brings about its own set of entangled emotions. That’s an interesting conversation, one that I hope to have with someone in the future. ( Probably with my therapist )
Stray Thoughts on human loneliness