The Dark Side of Gratitude

On gratitude, grief, and grumpiness

With thanksgiving rapidly approaching, I see the #grateful and #gratitude hashtags making their rounds and I have to confess: I have very mixed feelings. It’s not that gratitude isn’t important, it’s just that I see it enforced in a toxic way around this time of year as though it’s possible to dispel grief with gratitude or even that it’s possible to cover a multitude of sins with gratitude. 

A holiday that came about after indigenous people helped save the starving colonists who then turned around and stole the land and killed off the very people who had helped them is complicated to put it mildly. Focusing on gratitude and family and warm fuzzies doesn’t erase the past. 

Focusing on gratitude with an exclusion of grief feels wrong after almost two years of a global pandemic that has changed so much, stolen so much, caused so many chairs to be empty this week. 

And for me personally, trying to be grateful in the midst of yet another weird health diagnosis1 that is proving exhausting to get my head around and figure out what changes to make makes gratitude complicated. I have previously said I was grateful that with the other issues I have been working to get better management of over the last 15 years, at least I didn’t have anything that could cause an anaphylactic allergic reaction. I thought with my pre-existing anxiety issues that would be overwhelming. Last week, I filled a prescription for an epi-pen that I then had to learn to use and will need to carry with me indefinitely. 

I also received a “normal” mammogram screening in the same week, so I can be grateful for that at the same time as acknowledging that I am anxious and overwhelmed about navigating this new allergy. 

I can be grateful for a diagnosis and still angry that I had to fight for it and it came at the cost of another doctor not believing me until the blood work came back, and even though I have questions about things, I’m having to wait and navigate this on my own for the next few weeks while I wait for an appointment with a new allergist because I don’t trust the original one after he belittled me even though my hunch about what was wrong turned out to be spot on. 

I’m not saying all gratitude is bad: it’s just complicated. And when people try to tell you to just be grateful or focus on the positives, it’s a form of toxic positivity and erasure of trauma both past and ongoing. 

And as far as I’m concerned, they can take their fake gratitude and well, you know. 

**Disclaimer: I may have been overly influenced in this post by re-watching Ted Lasso this week as I recovered from this series of allergic reactions, and while I should probably be more inspired by Ted himself, I confess the character I want to be more like is Roy Kent so I can swear more, and just growl at people. But I don’t have the facial hair to pull that off, so….)**

We humans are complicated, and anyone that focuses only on gratitude or only on positivity isn’t honoring this brutally beautiful world we navigate on a daily basis. So this week my gratitude will be mixed with being disgruntled and grumpy and grieving, and it will be messy and expansive and beautiful. There’s just no way to separate all of that out. 

So I wish you some days off, some rest, and permission (if you needed it) to embrace the dark side of gratitude this week. 

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I realize not all of you may observe, but it is the 58th anniversary of the first episode of Doctor Who, and so for those who celebrate, I wish you a very timey-wimey, fantasticly brilliant holiday.


Book News: Inward Apocalypse

I’m excited to announce that as of October 13th, I’m under contract with Resource Publications an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers for my book Inward Apocalypse: Uncovering a Faith for the Common Good to be released late next summer or early fall.

Stay tuned right here for more details on the launch and how you can join the launch team!


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1

For those that don’t follow me on Facebook or didn’t see, I now have the Alpha-gal allergy to mammalian meat and products derived from that which is many more than you think. The allergy comes from being bitten by certain Lone Star ticks. As much as 15% of the population of Tennessee is positive for Alpha-gal Ige on a blood test, but not everyone is reactive. I began reacting around early October and it took me a few rounds to figure it out. Fortunately, as I began logging all my food in January of this year, I was able to spot the correlation and request a blood test.