As pop songs go, at more than half a generation old, it’s definitely a bit dated. Yet, when I think of the approaching Thanksgiving holiday, the song that comes to mind is from 1998: Alanis Morissette’s Thank U.
From what I know of the song, it’s based on her experience of recovery from traumas in life, the process of learning to forgive, and then reconstructing life freed from the limitations of the past hurts. Among the lyrics from the chorus are these words:
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence
When I was a child, I was taught to give thanks for the blessings I received on Thanksgiving. I remember laying in bed on Thanksgiving Eve, counting on my fingers and toes, all the things that made my life good. While there’s clearly merit in being thankful for good things in life, living in gratitude pushes us to look more deeply than what we can easily see on the surface of things. Authentic gratitude opens us to the ways that every aspect of life provides an opportunity for our growth. It’s easy to be thankful for things that we like. Gratitude for life’s difficulties, the challenges that cause us to work to find solutions when hope grows dim — well, as my mother would say, that’s a bitter pill to swallow.
In the 1980’s, my life was consumed by working with people with HIV/AIDS. More than a few of the people with whom I worked would say things like, “AIDS was the best thing that happened to me.” While they knew that HIV/AIDS was killing them (and in that era, it was killing them because treatments were so primitive), the diagnosis of AIDS caused them to reassess life, relationships, goals and ambitions. The intense reassessment of life led them to develop dimensions of themselves that they had not explored prior to the diagnosis. In the face of what was a horrible death, they found something that enabled them to experience life more fully. For that, they were grateful.
Many of us experience very challenging circumstances. While I don’t wish misfortune on anyone, difficult times cause us to look at our lives differently from the perspectives that are part of the good times. When times are tough, we have the opportunity to use strengths and abilities we may not have realized were available to us. In other words, everything we encounter in life, whether it’s easy or challenging, can be a gift. It is a gift because it provides us with an opportunity to grow more fully and more deeply in our embrace of life’s possibilities.
Alanis Morrisette was able to look back on the terrors of her life, the disillusionment, frailties, and difficult consequences and see them as something for which she could be thankful. These difficulties became opportunities for growth in order to experience something more in life. Such courage and grace exemplified authentic gratitude as expressed in her song.
On this Thanksgiving, I invite you to join me in being thankful for not just the good times in life but also the difficult times that have caused us to be better, more creative, and more resourceful people. Authentic gratitude enables us to say, “Thank you!” to all of life’s circumstances: the ones we enjoy and the ones that challenge us deeply.
(You are welcome to post a comment in thanksgiving for a life circumstance that led to your growth.)
© 2010, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.