This Thanksgiving, in the modern era of #grateful, I have been thinking about the grittier side of gratitude, the gratitude deeper and muddier than the type we display on Instagram or Facebook. This year I’m shouldering past the glossy gratitude for a beautiful vacation or for our children winning a soccer tournament, to the lumpier gratitude we may find in the dustier corners of our lives that look less airbrushed and feel less successful. After a long fall of highs and lows in my household, I have been asking myself the same question over and over: How do we take the more uncomfortable lessons that we are learning on a daily basis and find the coarser, more disheveled gratitude buried deep inside those experiences? So I have turned my attention to the top ten things about my family for which I am grateful this year that will never make it into our family albums or onto my Instagram posts.
- I am grateful for the times my children missed a shot on a wide open goal.
- I am grateful for the times I shouted at my children at the dinner table.
- I am grateful for the awards my children did not win.
- I am grateful for the times I didn’t listen closely to what my child was saying.
- I am grateful for the drawings my children crumpled up and threw out.
- I am grateful for the mornings I forgot to buy more bagels.
- I am grateful for the times my children were not in the starting line-up.
- I am grateful for the after-school activities for which I forgot to register.
- I am grateful for the (occasional) C+ grades my children received.
- I am grateful for the schools to which my children were not accepted.
In each of these experiences my children and I had to face the disappointment of letting ourselves and each other down. We had to manage the feelings that come with the pain when our realities do not match our expectations. We had to recognize that we are imperfect, we are less talented than another, we are fallible, we didn’t work hard enough, we were rude, we were mistaken, we were unkind, we were thoughtless. I don’t relish dashed hopes and broken hearts for their own sakes, but from those low points, where things feel unlikely and arduous, I do savor the opportunity to begin anew. I am grateful for the gift of being able to wake up the next morning and start over, to take the next, first step. I am grateful for the chance to work harder, to apologize, to take another shot, to manage a tough situation, to dry tears, to take a fresh piece a paper and start a new drawing. My gratitude this year stems not only from all that we have, but also rises from the ashes of our failures, sooty and gray, providing my family and I the knowledge it is within our power to change the course of our narrative, as imperfect as it may be. Make your own list of messy gratitudes, share it at your Thanksgiving tables, read it to your kids, read it to your partner, because I am beginning to learn that it is in the honesty of disappointment that we can find the deepest of gratitude.