I share a life-lesson each weekday. It helps me make sure every day counts. Hopefully, it helps you, too. Here is today’s lesson…
I make enough money to afford a nice apartment on Tampa Bay. I do not live in a place where I wonder where the next meal is coming from or where there are boys holding machine guns on street corners. I have access to clean water. I drive a decent car. I have very little debt and a job I enjoy. I am fairly good-looking and I have friends and family who care about me. I can go on but you get the point. On whole, life is pretty good for me.
There are times, though, when I forget all those things, or they do not matter in the moment. Like when I stub my toe. All those wonderful things briefly go out the window and I think only of the pain in my foot feel anger because of my clumsiness.
Or when my cat barfs on the carpet in the middle of the night. I forget how lucky I am and become irrationally mad at the cat for bringing some sort of injustice to my life. Or when something legitimately disturbing happens like a job loss or the death of a friend or the end of a relationship–all these problems pale by comparison to the challenges faced every day by other people with less fortunate circumstances (think children in third world countries, slaves, or prisoners of war–they wish they had something as easy to handle as a broken heart).
“Count your blessings” I am told, is sage advice. When we feel life is unfair, this adage reminds us to take stock of all the things we have going for us and be grateful.
I am not a fan of that advice, though. The problem is, when I feel frustrated or angry and I pause to “count my blessings”–sure, I recognize I live a charmed life–but counting my blessings makes me feel like an ingrate at that moment. I do not want to feel petty or ungrateful on top of feeling mad or irritated.
“Count your blessings” might be fine advice when things are going well but when you are feeling hurt or slighted, counting your blessings can make you feel worse.
I will try these three alternatives instead:
1. Recognize and embrace change. “Life is fleeting” is also sage advice. That means nothing good lasts forever but it also means nothing bad lasts forever. Accept the situation for what it is and accept it is not the permanent way of things.
2. Feel it. Maybe the thing that bothers me most about the idea of counting your blessings is that it invalidates your feelings. I don’t know about you, but I can not keep my emotions buried. I can turn the volume on them down but if I try to ignore them altogether it just creates a ticking time bomb. Those emotions will explode out of me at some point and it won’t be pretty. Instead, I want to feel angry when I feel angry. I want to dive into it, let it simmer, and acknowledge that it is how I feel in that moment. There is nothing wrong with feeling angry, hurt, or frustrated with the world. It is just how you feel in the moment (see point one–the moment will be gone soon enough). I should make a caveat here that you feeling angry is not license to exercise your feelings upon others. Feel angry. Don’t act angry.
3. Be willing to move on. Building off the first two points–things change and it is okay to feel feelings–I must also recognize the choice is mine to let go of those feelings when I am ready. For me, that usually does not take long because I am willing to let go and move on. Maybe not in that moment but I am willing to be moved, to change, to alter course. I do not like feeling angry, guilty, petty, sad, depressed, etc. I know, though, that I will feel those things at times. I do not, however, have to let them take the wheel and steer my life. That is up to me. I can give them control for a few minutes while I coast along, but I know, like juvenile drivers, they will crash us if I don’t take the wheel back. It is okay to let them practice driving so they learn to act responsibly but I am the only one licensed to behind the wheel. They can back-seat drive all they want.
To my knowledge, there is no cure for the injustices of life, no matter how great or small. Counting your blessings while dealing with one of those injustices, though, might only make you feel worse. Instead, recognize things change, your feelings are your feelings, and be willing to move on.
If you still want to count your blessings, go ahead, but maybe wait until you feel blessed to do so.