Today is Thanksgiving Day in America. All across our fair country families will be getting together to eat turkey and mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, to enjoy each other’s company, and to be thankful for the good things in our lives.
Well, in theory at least.
The reality is probably more along the lines of families getting together to drive each other crazy, children screaming and whining about having to eat all of their beans, men disappearing to watch football games, and women buzzing around the kitchen muttering about no one helping them clean up or trying to out-martyr each other.
And you know what? I say go for it!
This Thanksgiving I think we should all take a moment to complain at the top of our voices. I think we should all really let rip and tell people all of the things we can’t stand, disapprove of, or think or are unfair in our lives. Let’s really go for broke and kick up a ruckus.
I’ll go first.
I am really angry that I’m still single at age 37 without any significant relationships to look back on or forward to. I think I’m better than that and that I have a lot of really good things to offer a man. I’m angry that no one has bothered to see me as a potential mate or even a date for dinner. I’m annoyed that so many men that I’ve met are so selfish and can’t be honest about what they really want in life. That goes for non-romantic-interest men too. In fact, I’m pissed off that no one, not even my family, ever seems to be there for me when I really need them. I’m furious that I have to struggle financially, that I have to work two jobs, three if you count writing (which I do) and that no one has offered to help. I’m livid that the closest offer I’ve ever gotten of concrete help from my family is my aunt saying I could maybe, possible, rent a room in her house, but under no circumstances could I bring my cats if I did. I hate that no one ever gets me anything even remotely useful or even in the ballpark of what I want for Christmas but instead fill up my already overcrowded apartment with glorified paperweights because they don’t stop to think about what I really want or need. And I’m frustrated that I haven’t sold thousands of copies of my novel or that I don’t have thousands of Twitter followers, Facebook fans, or Blog subscribers.
Whew! Yeah! That was a rip-roaring bundle of complaints! Grr!
And now I can take a deep breath. Ah! Now I’ve gotten that out there in the world. Now I’ve said it. Now I can let go of it and move on.
Complaining is like vacuuming. Carpets get cluttered up with dirt, dust, and gunk. That’s why every once in a while we have to bring out the big, obnoxious, noisy machine that scares the cats and makes them hide under the bed. We flex our muscles and raise our heart rate as we lug those gigantic machines around to suck up all the clutter. What we’re left with is a nice clean floor that may not be as fresh and new as the day we bought the carpet, but it looks a whole lot better. The room looks bigger. We can breathe a sigh of relief and say “look how much cleaner the whole place seems now!”
Complaining is a necessary part of the process of gratitude. We all have so many things to be grateful for in our lives. No seriously, we do. But it’s so hard, impossible even, to see all of the wonderful things in our lives if we’re clogged up with dirt and unhappiness. Nothing is ever going to be the way any of us want it to. It’s human nature to be dissatisfied with what we have. We all have complaints. As long as you hold those complaints inside, letting them fester and grow and sink into the fiber of the carpet, you’re not going to have room for gratitude of any kind.
You have to let go of the bad before you have space for the good.
So now that I’ve ranted and gnashed my teeth and spit out all the crap that clogs me up when I’m feeling vulnerable I can take a look at the good things in my life, the things I’m thankful for.
I’m thankful that I have a vivid, crazy, lively imagination that has been my closest friend and ally for my entire life. I’m thankful that it has provided me with hours of entertainment, made writing essays for school easier, gotten me out of tight predicaments, and given me wings. I’m thankful that I was taught to go after the things I want in life rather than to sit back and feel sorry for myself for not having them. I’m thankful that I have a few people in my life that I can call the best friends ever. I’m grateful that I have the strength and health to work insanely hard so that I can make ends meet and pay my own way without having to mooch off of anyone. I’m thankful for the recent changes in the publishing industry that have made it possible for me to share my stories with the world without having to venture down a path that I’ve never felt comfortable with. I’m so very thankful that I discovered the wonderful sport of cricket and that I’ve become a part of the cricket scene in Philadelphia, made a name for myself and made so many wonderful new friends. I’m thankful that I can see things other people can’t, and that other people see things that I can’t because it means I’ll always have room to grow. I’m thankful that I can share these words with complete strangers and I hope that good will come into the world in ways I’ll never be aware of because of them.
Ah! That felt good. It’s nice to be reminded of the good side of life. I don’t know if I would have been able to feel so thankful if I hadn’t felt free to honestly express all those negative things that were taking up the brain-space I needed to feel that way.
So give it a try. Dump out all the bad. Rant here in a comment if you want to grouse about something that pisses you off and be heard … but not by the people who you have to live with. And then fill up all that empty space with thankfulness. But get rid of the crud first.