Gratitude for a Bad Experience

I awoke this morning angry at (and terrified by) all the obligations that I feel this week. The requests people make of me that they do not even realize are unreasonable and that I cannot tell them are unreasonable because, to them, they make perfect sense. They just do not realize how tenuous my hold is over my ability to keep things together.

Everyone – even I – see only a piece of the big picture, our tiny little step in the dance of life. We see only what we are being tasked to do, not it’s impact on the bigger picture, the people that it impacts. Sometimes we get wrapped up in considering all that is expected of us; feeling afraid that we cannot achieve it all; and so we feel angry.

I awoke angry and in pain, suffering from my own rage. A suffering that was not alleviated by my morning meditation, and was only inflamed by yoga, which is a struggle for me right now. I am still regaining the strength that I lost when my hand and then my ankle were injured last year, and I feel that I am plodding through my practice, comparing my inability to do things now with my (possibly imagined) ability to do things previously, recognizing that this is an unhelpful observation, and then feeling even more impatience and anger with myself for being so darned attached to those negative emotions. And knowing that all I can do is meditate and practice yoga until it becomes easier again. And worrying because every time I practice it feels harder instead of easier.

Not wanting to spend my day in such a dark place, I did another meditation when I returned home. Searching my app, I could not find for a meditation against anger and attachment, but I did find one on gratitude and loving kindness. On the principle that one should focus on what one wants more of, I chose that one.

This guided meditation encouraged me to become aware of the things others have done that have benefited me, even if they did not mean them to, especially if they did not mean them to. At one point, the instruction was to consider an object in the room and trace it back through each of the people who had a hand in bringing that object to the room – the person who sold it to me, the person who unpacked it in the store and put it on the shelf, the person who delivered it to the store, the person who put it on the truck, etc. All those people took actions that benefited me, although they were never aware of my existence.

Another instruction was to consider the people who had taken actions against us that we did not enjoy, actions that then enabled us to achieve something. Perhaps someone who told you something was impossible so you determined to prove them wrong – and did! We were also encouraged to reflect on the experiences that we did not enjoy and how we grew from them.

And I thought about when I was a debutante – a shameful secret I don’t often share. It was a horrible experience, mainly because I did not choose to be a debutante. The children who were in this social circle had all grown up together, had all attended cotillion together, gone to school together. Even my cousin, the reb deb, was part of their social circle. I was not. My grandmother knew their grandmothers; and my mother and my father’s sisters had debuted with their mothers. But my parents had turned their backs on that life when they married, and had moved to the West Coast where I had grown up, and dropped their former social acquaintances and refused to participate in Junior League and all its ilk. I had never met these children before, had never attended parties like these before. They took money for granted, had always had it, had always taken for granted the lifestyle it enabled them to have. My family had struggled – one of the challenges of rejecting social groups – and I had never been exposed to these things that they had grown up with. I lacked the social skills required to survive in this environment. My parents were both shy, they both avoided any kind of membership or group activity; they didn’t participate in team sports. And they trained us to be the same way.

So, as I meditated, I thought of that horrible experience. And I considered what I had learned from it.

From this experience, I developed a disinterest in “important people” and big money. I am genuinely not impressed by them. I’m not interested in awards shows; or speeches by winners of sporting events. And, most of all, I don’t feel a yearning to attain that lifestyle. I didn’t turn into a bridezilla for my wedding – I just wanted a big party where all our guests could have a good time, without pomp and décor. And I feel sorry for women I know who are always chasing a lifestyle – and the money to achieve that lifestyle –  and chasing the men who have the money they hope will give them that lifestyle.

I may have many things that I yearn for in my life – I am not perfect, after all – but I have learned from experience that participating in a life of wealth and opulence and pageant does not bring happiness.

For this am I grateful.

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