Birthdays – namely my own – tend to make me bashful. Much as I like celebrating everyone else’s everythingness, I’m still not comfortable putting my hands in the air and razzle-dazzling my fingers like a cheerleader for my own. Wondering why never felt like a priority until this year, when I found a strange correlation between my desire to be grateful and my desire to not share that gratitude.
Here’s the thing: I’ve always been afraid (ah, there’s that sticky fear word again) of either coming across as bragging, as being a douchebag, or of making others feel bad for my good fortune (which honestly, isn’t any better than anyone else’s – I just choose to dwell on the positive rather than the negative).* This particular fear is also a subset of codependency; it’s the sort of fear that wants to control everyone else’s feelings and take care of them, no matter the cost to me. And frankly, in retrospect, the cost to me has been high: having some people very, very dear to me not feel appreciated.
When someone makes me feel like I am the best thing since foam peanuts, like I’m worth an infinite number of pennies, and when I am aware I am lucky to know someone: I want to say it.
Fear of rubbing it in, holding up a pennants worth of flags and screaming “I’m lucky!” vs. coming across like people I admire and learn from the most don’t matter. Yikes. When I say it like that, it seems pretty obvious. The feelings of those who would feel down regarding the flags – those are my problem. The feelings of those who matter most – well, while those still aren’t my responsibility, they are feelings I care about.
The people I admire most are unabashedly happy most of the time, even when things are not amazing in their lives. And more than that, they are grateful for the goodness. In their spirit, I’d like to propose something a little different than random bursts of extreme thankfulness into my life: I’d like to replace fear with gratitude. In other words, I want to demonstrate that more, rather than bury it inside myself.
I am wildly lucky. There are the little things, like a good job that caters to my talents, which allows me to afford rent in an adorable historic studio that I’m overjoyed to come home to. But there are bigger things: I am loved – not just by myself (which I’m grateful for, too), but by friends and coworkers and family who are not afraid to appreciate me. I’ve had experiences that shaped my worldview, interacted with people who inspire me to try for more, and sometimes have strangers show me a side of myself I never knew was visible – and I’m better for it.**
I’m curious to see how living a more grateful life shifts my outlook on well, anything and everything. Maybe nothing will change. But maybe instead, it will.
* Which I think is vital in dating, too. Like, you can focus on creepy/weird messages in your OkCupid inbox that ask if you want a sensual massage, or you can instead delete those, giggle about them with your girlfriends, and move on to respond who piques your interest). I know all too well how seeing someone tout their happiness can make me feel like I’m the size of an inchworm.
** All this also reminds me of something an ex-boyfriend said once. He was reading birthday cards over my shoulder, and he suddenly goes, “I can’t believe how much your friends like you.” In that moment I was almost ashamed. Imagine that, ashamed to be liked! I don’t want to take being appreciated for granted, but I don’t want to feel ashamed either. There has to be a balance.