Navigating 2020 with Gratitude
As 2020 reaches its final stretch, I feel a sense of relief that these trying times will soon (hopefully) be over. When the year started, I had set many goals for myself, some deliberate and some unwritten. This was the year I was to celebrate my college graduation with my family, the year for lining up job offers, the year for pushing past my mental boundaries and becoming a real adult.
Well, some of these goals came to life, but many of them did not. My life is and always will be a work in progress. While I’ve tried to be gentle with myself in measuring my progress, one goal in particular has been on my mind recently; over the past couple of years, I have tried to pay attention to where I am mentally and physically and to foster strong relationships with my surroundings.
Up until recently, I had considered this goal a failure. I had spent the past 8 months social distancing from my closest friends, been unable to personally connect with the public through my restaurant job, lost friends and strangers alike to the all-consuming brutality of death, and recently uprooted myself to move across the country.
Yet even while the buzzword for 2020 seems to be “loss,” I am extremely grateful for the connections I have
gained that continue to hold me tight in their embrace. This is the year that I gazed at a supermoon with my best friend, the year that I shared stories with my mom as we drove through 9 states to get here, the year that I lived with my grandma and learned how much she loves WWE. I still don’t know if this goal can be considered a success, but the lingering feeling of gratitude leads me to be content no matter the outcome.
Gratitude never seems to be the goal. Rather, it’s a side effect. Sometimes we notice it, take time to really let its honeysuckle glow envelop us, and sometimes we don’t. But when we’re building open relationships with our environment and those around us, when we allow ourselves to truly unfurl, receive, and be received with nothing less than absolute grace, there’s no escaping its embrace.
We often think of gratitude as a passive concept equivalent to self-reflection. However, affirming our gratitude requires us to actively find ways to show our appreciation for whom and what we have in our lives; being grateful necessitates acknowledging the good in our lives and doing what we can to propel that goodness forward.
Gratitude is personal, interpersonal, and communal. It is active and still yet a catalyst to action. Practicing gratefulness triggers our brains to release dopamine and serotonin (our feel-good chemicals), lowers our blood pressure, and helps us sleep better at night. Sharing gratitude solidifies our relationships with others and lets those around us know that we appreciate them. Being grateful as community members and as a community ensures that we take care of each other and are creating a society that values and demands justice for even our overlooked neighbors.
To secure a future filled with gratitude and all its benefits, we must ask and acknowledge what we are grateful for now, what our loved ones are grateful for, and what our society is grateful for. How do we check our motivations and interactions and goals to ensure we are left with gratitude? How do we (in every sense of the word) show our gratitude in our daily lives and actions? How do we make sure that future generations regard our current actions with gratitude?
These are tricky questions that require long conversations, and the solutions may very well be a little different for each of us. I encourage you to tackle these conversations within yourselves and your communities and to remember that even through these tough moments, there is no goal but gratitude.