It’s Thanksgiving. A time to be thankful for all we have.
Family. Friends. Food on the table.
We express gratitude for what means the most to us – our health and happiness and the bounty of beauty in our lives.
But what about the bad stuff?
Wait, what? Why would we be thankful for the bad stuff? Shouldn’t we be avoiding the bad stuff?
Sure. How’s avoiding the bad stuff going? Still finding it still finds you?
What if we found the GOOD in the BAD? And were then grateful for that GOOD (that’s in the BAD)?
Some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned have come from really bad – even painful – experiences. And for that I’m thankful. You should be too.
Here are Six Unlikely Things to be Thankful For in no particular order because each is – in its own way – sucky.
- Bad Bosses – Does your boss operate with integrity and empathy, improve your work and help your career trajectory? Or does your boss belittle and demean or avoid and undercut or yell and micromanage or even steal? If so, congratulations! Be thankful for someone so awful, he or she has provided the example of who you don’t want to be. Ditto insufferable, credit-stealing co-workers and needy, narcissistic friends. As painful as their unbearable impact can be, unbeknownst to them, they inspire us to be better. To all of you awful people, thank you!
- A Breakup – Lost a love? A long-time friend? A job or hope or dream? It hurts. But sometimes our lives are enhanced not by what we add to it but by what we take away. Hit the delete key and fill the space created by that loss with a new connection, a positive force or long-time goal. Don’t bemoan what’s gone but be thankful for the chance to look forward to what comes next. After all, you can’t start a new chapter if you keep re-reading the old one.
- Envy – Pay attention to what you pay attention to. If you notice yourself feeling jealous of a friend or colleague, consider why. What do they have that are you missing? Why does it bother you? If you want it, go get it! I saw in myself a pattern the last few years. Each time I heard about someone who published a book, I turned a little green. And then I felt bad because why would I begrudge someone the result of their hard work? A little envy helped point out to me what I longed for. Publishing a book had been a long-time goal of mine but I wasn’t taking the necessary steps to meet that goal. Be thankful for the clues that give us clarity and the drive and determination to go after it. Make your life not one of envy but one worthy of emulation.
- Crazy Busy Days – The water heater dies before your extended family arrives. Your youngest throws a fit about putting on socks and the cat hurls up a hairball on the just-cleaned carpet when you are already 10 minutes late getting out the door. You daughter gets sick on the day you are double-booked with meetings and you can’t seem to find that permission slip that was due 12 days ago or recall if you paid your cellphone bill on time. Oh, and your pants no longer fit. And you ate cheese for dinner. Just cheese. In the midst of these Crazy Busy Days and your Disorganized Mess of a Life you may be ready to throw your hands up and say “no mas!” before pouring a round of margaritas. Instead, say thanks. Your Crazy, Busy life is abundant. And never boring. Appreciate the hurry and the mess. Take a step back and a deep breath and admire all you have. Edit what’s not working for you. Your life is so full it is overflowing with Enoughness. And it’s all yours.
- Aches & Pains – Who likes splitting headaches, a general sense of fatigue and a jumpy stomach that has you running to the bathroom? No one! But random ailments are your body’s way of saying it needs more attention from you. So pay attention and respond accordingly. Sometimes the clues are small and oddly odd. I stayed quiet through a series of disagreements at work in which I felt I was being treated disrespectfully until I threw my back out while emptying the dishwasher (!). I couldn’t straighten up for days. While working from home (prone on the hardwood floor), I decided to speak up about how I’d been treated. And you know what happened? My back pain eased. I’m a realist, but even I could see the symbolism of not standing up for myself and throwing my back out. And I got better and learned to stand tall, literally and figuratively. Be grateful for the signs your body is sending and work to ease them. Get your brain aligned with your heart and your gut. They’ll be thankful. You will be too.
- Boredom – Don’t have much to speak of? Staying in again? Talk to that Crazy Busy person with that Disorganized Mess of a Life and agree to switch places if you’re so inclined. There’s something to be said for a boring existence, for even those moments of loneliness that leave you longing. A boring life may be devoid of excitement but you know what else it lacks? Uninvited drama. So what that no one is texting or tagging you. Neither is your doctor calling with a diagnosis or a family member broadcasting your falling out on social media. Relish the quiet. And when it gets too quiet, fill your life with the noise of your choice. And be grateful for the opportunity to do so.
There is good in the bad. And sometimes bad in the good, like eating until a gut-ache at Thanksgiving. You will be stuffed after three plates of stuffing. Here’s your reminder to stop at two.
And here’s to bad bosses and boredom and bathroom runs and being envious and breakups.
Here’s to being grateful for it all.
How about you? What are the unlikely things you appreciate? Say a little thanks on Thanksgiving.
Valerie Gordon is a former award-winning television producer and now the founder and owner of Commander-in-She, a career and communication strategy firm. See the presentations and workshops she offers to help women with the skills and tools necessary to ascend the leadership ladder. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.