This month I’ve noticed a concerted online effort by a number of friends to be thankful. Folks have taken to Twitter and Facebook to share each day something for which they are grateful. It is a really thoughtful exercise as we approach Thanksgiving, a holiday that for many – including yours truly — is more about balancing family, food and football than it is about gratitude. It’s not that we are thankless, horrible people. It’s just that we are so pre-occupied with delivering on all the gifts we should be appreciative of, we forget to be glad for them, save for the moment we finally sit down at our holiday meal, take a deep breath and look around. Then we give thanks, eat and move on. It’s drive-by gratitude at its best. So I applaud those trying to make an effort to take notice and honor the blessings in their lives throughout the month, even if it is in 140 characters or less.
I considered jumping on board the “30 Days of Gratitude” train but somehow couldn’t find the energy for it. While I may not share my appreciation with others, I still realize how very lucky I am for the life I lead each and every day. Shouting it to the Universe felt somewhat redundant to me. However, there is a related area where I do believe I could use some personal work. And lately, in this regard, I have been thinking about turning Thanksgiving on its head.
I am talking here about better managing my First World Problems.
So rather than being mindful about expressing gratitude, I am planning to curb my grievances about all issues unworthy of criticism. As it turns out, this concept, I am told by my kids, is also a full-fledged Internet meme. Check this out:
Entertaining? Indeed. But there is a serious message embedded in the humor. Reminding one another about the FWP nature of our complaints is this generation’s version of “At least you have your health.” We nod in agreement and then go right back to bitching and moaning about the fact that Trader Joe’s was out of their Rosencrunch and Guildenpop caramel corn.
Oh the humanity.
My personal list of First World Problems is long indeed. In recent weeks I have taken to my bed (yes, really) due to stress associated with my job, Chase’s upcoming bar mitzvah, and my lack of ability to manage it all without consuming large amounts of carbs. Shame on me. I am employed. I have a kid who will celebrate a wonderful event and have saved enough money to throw him a terrific party. I have food in my fridge, which is running thanks to the electricity being pumped into my house.
I think Hurricane Sandy was a wakeup call – at least for us East Coasters – to be careful what we complain about. People who went without electricity for a week were mostly quick to preface their experiences with, “but at least I have a home left.” Those whose homes were washed away were also quick to share that “at least we are alive.” All it takes is one horrible event to shift your perspective, wishing that First World Problems were all you had.
The other day I was watching a HuffPo video about a family whose young daughter was diagnosed with early onset schizophrenia. The story was heartbreaking but I was mostly struck by what the father, Michael Schofield who has written a book about his experience, shared at the end of the piece. It was advice to parents who might be going through the same challenges, but it is a stark reminder to us all. He said “any day where the end of the day comes and your family is still alive and in one piece, it’s a good day. Roger that.
I have always said that “sweating the small stuff” is a luxury for which we should be grateful. So this Thanksgiving, perhaps instead of going around the table and sharing what we are thankful for, maybe we might offer one or two examples of complaints we promise never to make again. I’m starting my list today.
Happy Thanksgiving MoB readers. May all of your problems be of a First World nature this holiday season.