Tuesday, October 12, 2010

When giving thanks is really giving reasons to give thanks.

And that was this year's Thanksgiving, here and gone again.

In my first year of university three years ago, I remember going to a friend's apartment for an awkward gathering, awkward because nobody really knew anybody else that well in October of their first year of university. Then in the past two years, I went to another friend's where she hosted scrumptious Thanksgiving dinners for a few friends, two years consecutively. Now that she's graduated, this year, I was invited to another friend's place for a nice chicken dinner, and I baked a cake to bring for dessert. I'm very, very grateful that I've been able to spend all four Thanksgivings of my university life having good food with good company.

It's not hard to count my blessings. I'm thankful for a lot of things, and very often too. Of course, like all people, there are some things I'm sure I take for granted without realizing, but generally, I feel that knowing when to be grateful for what I have is not one of my weaknesses.

But sometimes, I also feel that it's become a sort of ritual thinking for myself. It's like convincing myself that my life is worth living, that there are things I have that some people in this world don't have, that there is some kind of higher value in my quality of life that puts it above the lowest possible.

But I hate it. In counting my blessings, I also unintentionally compare my life to other people's, and whether it's better or worse than whatever I compare it to, it's just as bad. If it is better, I am comforted by the thought that there are people suffering worse things out there. If it is worse, I am bitter about the fact that life is, indeed, unfair and that I have the short end of the stick. Either way, they are horrible thoughts.

I can be thankful-- and I am truly thankful for these things-- for being alive, having a family, having friends, having access to some amount of money, being able to receive an education. Many people have these-- although I suppose that shouldn't be a factor in whether or not I need to be thankful for these things. But on the other hand, if I were to go into a little more detail, I would say that I am alive while constantly struggling with existentialism, that I have a family of a dying mother, an absent father, two caring but elderly grandparents and the rest hovering somewhere between 'acquaintances' and 'strangers'; friends that can only ever be friends at most and can never fill in as family, money that I have access to, yes, but not money that is mine while I continue to sink deeper into debt, and lastly, I only wish I had a higher intelligence so I could receive an education free of charge.

Yes, I've heard the phrase "There are people in this world who don't have even that!" many times, and yes, that is very true. But like a friend said to me before, it's like a person who's lost one arm, and a person who's lost both arms. Yes, the person who has both arms missing is probably in more pain in comparison, but that doesn't cancel out the fact that the person with one arm gone is also in pain.

Well, I had decided long ago that the only reasonable thing to do in any case was to just make the most out of what I have. It doesn't matter if it's unfair, or that some people have much more available to them or were born with advantages and into better circumstances; this is what I have, and that's that, so make do with it. And feeling the frustration of one seeing someone else with clear advantages over oneself, I can only imagine what it must feel to be someone looking at me and feeling the same way. At least I should do what that someone looking at me would wish they could do if they had what I had, which may not be much to me but so much more to that someone else.

This is also one of the reasons why I am personally so against suicide, or abortion, even. So many opportunities at life willfully wasted, while so many people struggle to grasp the same thing but to no avail. It makes me so sad. But that is another matter.

All in all, I think Thanksgiving is generally a wonderful time of the year, despite the fact that people should really get into the habit of giving thanks all the time and not just once a year. I suppose it doesn't have as big of a meaning to me for this reason (which I guess is a good thing?), but it does give an excuse to have dinner parties that create that warm and fuzzy feeling for me as we gather around the dinner table. The challenge for me then, I guess, is to someday be able to give thanks without that other negative side, to be able to count my blessings and truly think of them as blessings in themselves and not in relation to anything else.

I'll work on it.

And in case anyone is wondering, the picture at the top of this entry isn't related to anything mentioned in this post. I just thought it was pretty and decided to include it. Happy belated Thanksgiving!