what gratitude is not

LOVE, relationships

This is why I thought I was a horrible, ungrateful person for the entire 2016: I could not be grateful for some people I thought I ought to. I tried so hard to be grateful, despite the boundary issues we were having. I wrote pages of the ways they are good and deserve to be appreciated. I thought gratitude was the way to a better relationship. None of it worked and I ended up with that rotten story that I must just be a horrible, ungrateful person.

A lot of pain and months later, I can clearly see that only working on boundaries changed anything at all, not gratitude.

And I’ve been wrong about gratitude.

In that 4-minute video of Brene Brown in my last post, she says every night at the dinner table, her family takes turn to say what they’re grateful for that day. The kids may say something like they’re grateful for bugs, or the bedroom wall between them. Elizabeth Gilbert writes down her happiest moment every day. She said it can be “Somebody hands you a cup of coffee. You finally get to take off your shoes. It stops raining.” These are the practices that make these people joyful.

It seems obvious now but I’m thrilled to learn it: that a gratitude practice is not required to be in an area that you struggle. Gratitude and happiness are not asking you to be happy and grateful for the things you can’t be happy and grateful about. This is about focusing on the things and people that you are grateful and happy about.

So, if you were finding it hard to be grateful about something, like I was, then let’s just find something else to be grateful for 🙂

By the way, I enjoyed this article called 5 Ways Gratitude Can Backfire because I can relate to ALL 5 of them. Have a read and see what else Gratitude is not. http://berkeleysciencereview.com/5-ways-gratitude-can-backfire/

what is gratitude?

LOVE, relationships

The more I think about gratitude, which people talk about a lot, especially over the past few weeks when they reflected on the end of the year, the more resistance I realize I have about it. Come to think of it, it feels very vulnerable to feel gratitude. It can feel like you’re giving your power and control away. It can be uncomfortably humbling to realize how your life and wellbeing is like a joint-effort by your family and friends. Bus drivers, builders, doctors and everybody also contribute. We are so intricately connected and the list of people and things we can be grateful for are endless.

Being grateful feels like surrender. The more I say I’m grateful for something, even just in my own head, the more I feel like I’m falling back on thin air – except it’s not thin air but something much more mysterious, because you are supported, at least for now. And you’re unsure if you can believe that this rainbow colored mysterious air will continue to support you or not. I feel elated at the prospect of it propping me up forever as much as I feel scared and that I might decide to jump off it any second, in case it disappears.

I struggled, in my own words, with feeling grateful for some people in my life – family, in-laws. In this video below, Dr. Brene Brown talks about Practising Gratitude, which is not like having an “attitude for gratitude or feeling grateful”. People who are joyful because they practice gratitude have, actually, a tangible practice such as a journal or saying what they’re grateful for every day at a certain time. So I’ll try to forget about feeling grateful and adopt a gratitude practice.

But I have still many questions.
Anybody feels the same?

 

thank you and goodbye 2016

LOVE, relationships
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The quiet cold of winter is perfect for reflection and healing. (photo credit to me; it is Mt. St. Helens in WA)

At the beginning of 2016 I had a goal: to be grateful and loving towards my in-laws. On one hand, they’ve done so much for me that I feel very guilty and like I’m a terrible person to not feel grateful. On the other hand, they do things that bother so much that most of the time all I can feel towards them is anger and resentment. In spite of my new year resolution, things got a lot worse before they returned, only recently, to some stability.

External circumstances have not changed, but I’d like to say that I have. I learned a new practice this year, and all the conflicts and fights I’ve had with them have at least shaken the foundations for all of us. It is my observation mixed with hope that we are now open to learning to approach each other differently, with more respect and boundaries.

The new thing* I did that helped me through the turbulent year was this: I acknowledge my emotions as valid and I try to spend time in the discomfort of my emotions. For example, it used to be that if I’m mad at someone, the first thing I did was to give them the benefit of the doubt, try to justify their actions, and then end up telling myself off as being “too sensitive”, “too private”, “too thin-skinned”, “think too much”, “so ungrateful”. The same goes for people asking me and persuading me to do something I don’t really want. I’ve tried so hard to be good most of my life that I forgot that my anger and my wishes are valid too.

Writing is a good tool for replaying, remembering and reviewing an incident. I find that I could pinpoint the comment or action that caused things to go south. I write and re-write for long enough and I can see what I did or didn’t do that made things worse for me or for others. Then I can brainstorm possible alternatives. This process takes time and can be very uncomfortable, especially when you realize you have responsibility over the incident, and that you weren’t being your best self either. But through it, you stop taking all the blame, you stop blaming it all on the other person, and you end up feeling like you know what can be done about it. Not that the relationship becomes a smooth sail right away, because we can get overpowered by emotions and feed off negative energy from each other, but regaining the sense of responsibility and authorship of how you behave is empowering and allows you to go on.

Now at the end of the year, I’ll allow myself to make a few good comments about my in-laws. I can see that they give me chances. After every fight we have, they always act and talk normally with me the next day, as I do with them. We don’t do that thing where people don’t speak to each other for days after they fight. They have, regardless of the crass ways I communicated myself and tried to set boundaries, made efforts to change and be more sensitive to me.

This likely will continue to be a difficult relationship, and this year I will no longer demand myself the big task of being grateful and loving towards them. I will continue to work on setting boundaries and speaking up. For them, I ask myself to acknowledge the ways in which they help me, and say thank you when it’s due.

*That new thing that I started doing is basically the Rising Strong process, as I was reading about it at the beginning of the year. See Dr. Brene Brown’s book, Rising Strong.

Day 10: the courage and disclipline to nap

14 Days of Love, BEING A MOM, relationships

pexels-photo-165752-nap

Lately I’ve been letting my husband help more with baby duty. He’s always offered but I would try to cope alone as much as I could. I had a lot of help from family during my first month of being a mom. The help would come when I needed to eat or wash, or when my arms are about to fall off. Yet, when my baby is whisked out of my room, the first thing I often did was cry and wish my baby back. Oh why do I have be hungry! Why can’t my arms and back be made of steel! Why do I need sleep! Why did I want to brush my teeth? Motherhood for me demands probably the most self-care I ever needed to date, yet it also gave me this baby who is the only one I want to think and care about.

As months go by, the initial panic and overwhelm calms down, though the workload doesn’t, and we start to feel overworked and under-appreciated by each other. Finally I see how sometimes I start a fight with my husband not really because of anything so important it has to be discussed at the time, but because I’d waited days for my own nap time that never happened and the backlog of things I yet have to do, or could do. Under more favorable circumstances I might not have gotten hooked on that one tiny thing, a choice of word or a certain tone of voice. I may be steady enough to steer my own ship than be carried away by the currents of thoughts and emotions.

Such more favorable circumstances as “being well-rested enough” don’t come by easily. It can only come by if I let my husband – not help – but do his share. I’m still practising not to jump out of the bed to do something when it’s finally my nap time.

To be honest I think it’s to do with the fear of being “lazy” and “not-done”. People praise productivity and efficiency and I know I’m unskilled at either. People are impressed by those of us who gets a ton of things done. I’ve never heard anyone gush about how someone has such wisdom, confidence and freedom that they can resist the voices of society, insist on listening to their body and shove the world to one side so they can take a nap. They have so much optimism and faith in the world that it’s not going to stop spinning just because they have allowed themselves to lie down and check out for half an hour.

Day 8 – nice girls evolve

14 Days of Love, LOVE, relationships

fire

Husbands, partners and parents of Nice Girls ask yourselves: Will you still love her when she isn’t so “nice”?

Nice as in she agrees with most things, she smiles, she says “I don’t mind” and “It’s okay” a lot, she rarely gets mad and when she does you probably find it funny than serious, and she doesn’t really stay mad. She’s not mean, she’s not pushy, she’s not very critical, she’ll go with the flow.

But maybe one day she’ll get tired of it, tired of being nice. Because being nice sometimes meant she was not heard or that she was not taken seriously. Because being nice, agreeing and following what you like, left her own want and needs unattended. So maybe one day she no longer tries to be nice. She no longer hides all her anger, she says “No”, she becomes more vocal, assertive, adamant. And she asks you to listen. Listen and respond and act, not just to hear and let it out the other ear. Being honest and real with herself and with you becomes more important than being “nice”.

Will you be like “Wow. This is not you. I’ve never seen you like this. This is disturbing. I don’t know how to deal with this new you.”?

Or will you tell yourself: “This is her too. This is very different so this must be serious. I’ve got to really pay attention now.”

And can I ask you husbands, partners and parents, because you are the closest ones, to Let her be. Let her be mad, let her be sad, let her be loud, let her let her feelings out.

Will you still love her when she becomes more of herself? Will you still love her when she grows in mind, strength and confidence? Will you still love her now she doesn’t always seem so “nice”?

back fat and relationships

body image, LOVE, relationships

couple-1432912-1279x1513FreeImages.com/Helmut Gervert

In Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly, there’s a section titled “It’s not about the back fat: men, women, sex and body image”. Brene interviews a group of college students, young men and women. A young woman is fired up about how men make women feel like she was never pretty, sexy or skinny enough. A young man makes the “never good enough” case against women too. A woman went on to say,

“It’s not easy to have sex and keep your stomach sucked in. How can we get into it when we’re worried about our back fat?” Then one man, “slammed his hand down on his desk and shouted, ‘It’s not about the back fat! You’re worried about it. We’re not. We don’t give a shit!’”

I don’t know how many women who haven’t read the book could even guess what this man was about to say. Would he say, sex is a pleasurable experience and a woman should just let herself go and enjoy the moment? Or possibly something sentimental like, when a man loves you he doesn’t care about your back or belly fat?

Instead, the man “took a couple of deep breaths and said, “Stop making up all of this stuff about what we’re thinking! What we’re really thinking is ‘Do you love me? Do you care about me? Do you want me? Am I important to you? Am I good enough?’ That’s what we’re thinking. When it comes to sex, it feels like our life is on the line, and you’re worried about that crap?”

We are making it up. We are worrying about crap.

I think women ask the same questions as the man too, it’s just that we reflexively associate being loved, cared about, wanted, important and good enough to a man is to look sexier, prettier and skinnier. If that is true, all those beautiful movie stars and models will always have a loving partner and never suffer from heartbreak.

If we just look around us, it’s easy enough to see that our looks is not the prerequisite or the key to being in a loving relationship. Of all the partners and wives out there, like our mother, aunts, sisters, friends – they all have their own unique combination of shapes and sizes. Their partners love them and we love them because they are kind, caring, loving, funny, brave, supportive, patient, feisty, warm, smart and all the things that they are and do that make them shine from the inside. That’s what matters.