Author: G. Jefferies
Welcome to my week five musings on Niki Lopez’s kindness challenge. I’ve decided to focus on gratitude and what it means in my world. To wit you are now embarking, as I, in a journey upon the empty page as it fills with whatever. I am, however, grateful for your presence.
I have puzzled the word gratitude and the implications of what it means in a personal sense. Obviously it’s a thank you, but in life I’ve found two types of people. Those that give freely and those that give with expectation. The above quote distilled this quite suddenly whilst pondering through memories, conversations and blog comments. Call it an epiphany, if you like, because, in truth, I’ve never really given a great deal of thought into the meaning of the word in question. Terrible that, isn’t it?
Giving freely with no attached obligation is my raison d’être; I just fail to see how anything can be deemed a kindness if, by return, you expect something back. The very word ‘expect’ disempowers the action, lessens it’s worth and even invalidates the kindness. I’ve seen it in public houses; the I buy you a drink, if you buy me a drink mentality. People look at me daft if I say ‘I bought that because I wanted to.’ On Twitter it’s the follow me follow you back mantra on profiles everywhere; I’ll be useful to you if you’ll be useful to me.
How often do you see people not feeling obligated to return a favour? I can only conclude that people in general expect be indebted to the person giving; a form of social programming. Obviously this is how the world of commerce and trade works, the day job as it were, but is this how we should lead our lives? Even at work people are people, so the concept of kindness should not be put on hold until home time.
So, two types of people; the givers and the obligators. Something neatly orated by the chap in the quote below.
To sum it up; if you perform a kindness expecting one in return then maybe you’ve not quite mastered what it’s all about. Gratitude is unsolicited, but as Buddha says wise people express their appreciation and gratitude of the kindness by willingly returning one or spreading it elsewhere. Not because it is obligated, but because they actually want to; huge difference.
The one phrase that might well ring true in many people’s ears (especially parents…say no more) is…
‘You never do anything for me!’
Consider; does that phrase require more thought? Should we, by default, expect people to do things for us first, or should we lead by example and take the initiative? I find this challenging as a concept for reasons tackled in previous posts (no need to re-read, just linking them to remind me this is week five already!)
When the kindness gets taken for granted there is an inevitable attrition of mindset. The kindness becomes a chore without redress. According to Buddha in the quote above that’s flawed thinking.
Seems Confucius agrees. So, what’s the answer?
I think for me it lies partly in self gratitude. Things in life that I’m truly appreciative of. The ones that alter perceptions, affect self esteem and state of mind. Happy in self, freer in giving out kindness and less likely to feel taken for granted. Part of re-dressing the balance discussed in a previous post; except that was more focussed on balancing chores with self kindness as a pleasurable none chore activity. Something tangible for oneself. Here I’m considering my take on things I should be grateful for.
Self gratitude; things to be thankful for that are, and I’ve certainly realised this week, taken for granted as per The Habituation Loop. Except this is me taking things for granted and not showing gratitude for them.
Family is, perhaps, the obvious one. They live with you, talk, argue, entertain, laugh, cry and more. Yet, often I wake up and the day moves on, rolling into weeks and years, but how often do I step back and smile because thet are there; notice the nuances of spirit all around?
The last two weeks has had me reflecting on this greatly. My eldest is taking his exams. Sixteen, potentially two more years and he may be leaving home. How did that happen so suddenly? The toddler become adult, end of all those school years inside a few weeks of stress and, for me, legion school runs as days cut short turn two into four. One set for exam boy and the other for his brother who is two years behind in schooling terms. It reminds me of the scene in The Holy Grail where Lancelot is assaulting a castle with two guards at the gate. They puzzle for ages over a running man forever in the distance. The scene rolls on with him not getting any closer and then cuts to ‘Aha!’ as he leaps forth and slays them. That time and relativity thing I’ve mentioned many times.
This week I have dwelt on the passage of his years and sought gratitude for all the moments I’ve enjoyed, even the angst. The whole package. I am a better person for being a parent…never thought I’d be saying that! So, family is the one thing to always be grateful for. Enjoy it while you still can; once it’s gone then, well, it’s gone.
The same is true of friends. Often taken for granted until the moment a game changer occurs and they are not. I’ve lost two ‘life’ friends from school, one to cancer and one to, well, that’s not one for here…to quote Harry Potter, ‘It’s complicated.’
The page here becomes harder to write. I will therefore self indulge with reminiscent nostalgia by referring to two older posts, or memoirs, where I explore two points in time with the deceased school friend. I will merely refer the reader to their locations. Some I know have already read them but new bloggers may, or may not, like to reflect on them…pure nostalgia on my behalf. The message from me is that I look back in gratitude for them…did I have gratitude during the living moments? I think not. Those days were taken for granted, never ending and halcyon days of long standing. When they ended it was traumatic. Something I have realised this week. Never, ever take family or friends for granted.
Speaking of family, I once had parents too. Taken for granted until the day my mother was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND). For those unfamiliar with this think Stephen Hawking, notable exception; most wither, locked in and destined to survive maybe two years. That was some time ago now but the fallout affected my father badly. Depression and a spiral into emptiness that cost him his days upon the earth not many years after. Alas I was not near enough to witness the end of either. But taken for granted is still the prompt in this. I was lax, make certain you are not.
I leave you with an exert from my book. Again this was posted some time ago but the inspiration for this scene is, perhaps, now explained. It is about my protagonist Rose, witnessing the end of her father; it resonates with my thoughts on taken for granted…write what you know…
This version is not the final proof…just saying!
This post is very self reflecting towards the end. It asks not for sympathy or condolence but is more a plea to those reading to not miss moments of family and friends. More importantly this weeks challenge has been tough, very tough. Looking back and realising gratitude has been absent until it is too late.
The default mind, unmindful and negligent.
I bid you all a pleasant week; be mindful, kind and grateful.
© G Jefferies and Fictionisfood, 2016. All rights reserved.