Gratitude: grat·i·tude /ˈɡradəˌt(y)o͞od: noun
the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
At first, I was ALL up in Gratitude’s corn flakes.
Yoga was my gateway drug to harder street-grade Gratitude.
My mom had recently stopped living so I was crying (softly) into my pigeon pose. My mindful af yoga instructor invited me to counter my grief with gratitude for having had a mother to grieve for. Stunned by her simple reversal of my misfortune, uncontrollable waves of grief dried up in the face of warm thankfulness for the mom I did manage to keep for 53 years. I was so fucking grateful to be reminded to be grateful. At first.
Here in Los Angeles, one eventually accepts that whenever something new catches on, from skateboarding to Scientology, it’s branded, packaged and road-tested in California first.
So, when Gratitude was unleashed like the latest street drug, I was instantly hooked. What’s not to love about gratitude? Gratitude is free, sets you free, invites you to love who and what you have (for free) and is free to share.
Gratitude came in handy at Christmas. Once the gift carnage was over, Grace realized she did not acquire EVERY single piece of crap she
demanded politely asked for. We reminded her, calmly, tiredly, in wrinkled Santa pajamas, to be grateful for what she did receive, instead of being ornery over what Santa just couldn’t stomach buying. Not even on Black Friday, Cyber Monday or Amazon any fucking day.
Then Gratitude became a pricey vegan cafe where proclaiming ‘I Am Courageous’ gets you a five dollar mug of ethically-harvested coffee to awaken your aliveness, followed by a gently hirsute server who rhetorically murmurs, ‘What you are grateful for?’ while dropping the massive check for your flesh-free brunch. The first time I went to Cafe Gratitude I gratefully paid over a hundred bucks to eat mindfully prepared delicious cruelty-free food. The last time I went to Cafe Gratitude I was mostly grateful Russell Brand was there.
Within a year of that first gentle gratitude adjustment, the free reminder to be thankful had been fully monetized.
If the soul of gratitude is the realization that we already have more than we need, buying crap to remind us and everyone who looks at us that we already have more than we need seems a little like being run over by our own Jet-ski.
Everywhere sprang up Gratitude videos, podcasts, DVDs and HUNDREDS of books, calendars, and Gratitude Counselors available 24/7 for a gratitude infusion on Gratitude Getaways in Ojai. toxic-bloomed into a landfill of Gratitude Products: deforestation-friendly journals, posters, charts rosewood pens, stationery, polished stones and clothing, all packaged in enough plastic to strangle every porpoise, seahorse and tortoise choking in the ocean.
Gratitude went global when gratitude journals, gratitude apps, gratitude therapists, gratitude podcasts, meals, and gratitude giving were available even in Canada.
When gratitude became gospel, I embraced ungratefulness.
When ‘Gratitude Is The Attitude’ became a nagging sequin-infested t-shirt worn by a 8 year old tantrumming hard in the Glendale Galleria Food Court over not getting an iPhone X , I knew the quality portion of gratitude had successfully jumped the shark.
Gratitude is dirty because it’s so versatile.
But gratitude, like all human qualities rooted in smugness, is double-edged. Soon gratitude got worse. The quality of thankfulness totally overdosed on itself when gratitude was weaponized. Gratitude weaponization can be adjusted to any situation or dilemma and is fantastic for gentle shaming.
When my husband would want sex and I preferred sleep, I could gently remind him to be grateful for his libido, someone he COULD have sex with, AND Pornhub on his laptop, in case he needed to rub one out in order for me to practice good sleep hygiene.
Gratitude weaponization involves gratitude groups (are you grateful for that book deal or just gloating?) and a Fox News-loving-relative telling me to be grateful for Trump because now I have a president to complain about.
One date night, I drank and whined about my job. My husband wistfully took my hand and reminded me to be grateful I had a job that enabled me to afford date night and drink fancy wine with which to whine about my job. I replied he should be grateful for a wife who kept her annoying job longer than any of his several thousand jobs. Then, after a spirited debate turned into a gratitude rumble, my husband was grateful to have another room to sleep in that night because I furiously needed my gratitude for him to be refilled, like a very empty gas tank.
My Gratitude soft coup started when I realized gratitude was costing me large. I was paying a therapist to bitterly complain about my shame over all the things I couldn’t gin up gratitude for. Once the well-compensated therapist dropped the g-word, I dropped her. Isolating was the only solution, because everyone we knew was bludgeoning everyone else we knew with well-intended but unwanted gratitude interventions whenever anyone we knew felt like dragging someone in dire need of being dragged.
Soon, our bad attitudes about (in)gratitude attitude landed us in couples counseling where we both vented (at $3.30 per minute) that being reminded to be grateful while airing parenting/budget/marital issues made us both feel simultaneously shamed and unheard. Our therapist gently reminded us that we don’t have to shiv each other with gratitude when things genuinely suck. When she also reminded us she takes Venmo, the gratitude hex was finally broken.
Three months into gratitude recovery, I’m especially grateful that the Gratitude trend is ebbing… because self-compassion is the new gratitude. And self-compassion for This Old Mom excludes forcing others (and myself) into gratefulness when we’d much rather be fighting everyday evils with open-eyed justice, armed with plenty of fierce snark and appropriately applied doses of Resistance.