Holding two opposite things in the same head space can be a bit of a challenge for me. I feel so grateful most of the time for the privileges I enjoy. But I can also be caught off-guard by aggravating inconveniences. Does awareness off those annoyances diminish gratitude?
Mask + Glasses=Fog
I was at the optical shop recently picking up new glasses when I complained about them fogging up due to mask wearing. “Do you have any anti-fog cleaner or anything,” I asked the technician who hesitantly offered a product that might give me two fog-free hours. “Ugh! It’s so aggravating!”
Hearing myself, I said, “Actually it’s not that big of a deal. There are people in Cuba without access to food and medicine, so really, this is not an actual problem.” He replied, “Yes, but you are allowed to notice life’s inconveniences and fogged up glasses are certainly that.”
Wow. “You are allowed to notice life’s inconveniences.” What a lovely acknowledgement; what a compassionate response.
The thing is, life can be frustrating and we can notice that without becoming completely self-absorbed. We can be grateful for the privileges we have and also annoyed by, for example, long hold times on important phone calls. It’s just more honest to admit that some things are aggravating, no matter how grateful we are most of the time. And truth is always best.
Frustration or gift? It’s relative.
That doesn’t mean that an attitude of gratitude isn’t a healthy approach to life though. General awareness of the fact that most of us have more conveniences than people in other parts of the world is a good start. For example, our dishwasher has taken leave of its purpose, so we’ve been handwashing the dishes. This is not that big of a deal, except our garbage disposal, in an act of solidarity with its sister appliance, has also ceased to function.
It’s a mess. And it bothered me a great deal in the beginning, but then I thought of our brothers and sisters in La Vallita filling their pots or dishpans using the water pump in the yard. Remembering what they do just to get water inside the house is humbling and knowing that not everyone has indoor plumbing makes me aware that a working faucet is a tremendous blessing.
Cashews for the win
Awareness can really make a person grateful; like when I was serving lunch at a local shelter for women who are homeless. A woman approached my friend & me as we served. We’ve met her before and she always loves our menu; we know her by name. She leaned in and said, eyes shiny with excitement, “I have some great news! Want to hear?” We gave her our full attention and she continued, “An anonymous donor has offered to buy me some dentures!”
She only has three of her own teeth left, she told us, so this gift will absolutely change her life. We expressed our delight at her good news as tears spilled from her eyes. “I can’t believe it!” she said, “I don’t even know the person who is doing this for me!” She looked kind of dreamy as she said, “I can’t wait to eat cashews again!”
Chewing. I’ve got to say, I take that for granted.
The takeaway: it’s okay to be inconvenienced and to be frustrated by that; it’s also right and good to recognize the privileges we enjoy and to be grateful.