April's Gratitude

Another month of daily acknowledgments for that which I am grateful and while I continue to enjoy the practice, it raises questions about such a practice and how I go about it.  

What about those things I am regularly thankful for? 
I could easily spend each day's gratefuls on some clearly identified items (my cats, books, wife, family, friends, work, health, running, access, etc) that come up almost instantly when I think of what I'm thankful for.  In this way, this practice reminds me of prayer--particularly as seen on TV wherein the child is saying, "And God bless mommy, and daddy, and Jimmy, and my dog, and my teacher, and Bobby from down the street...."  Do I avoid the frequency of these or just come up with more items on top of them? I generally set myself to a minimum of three grateful acknowledgments per day, in part because I want this to be a contained practice--not something I slide into doing for hours on end (because there are indeed millions of things to be grateful for).

Do I try to acknowledge as many things as I can identify as being thankful for or just those things that are salient at the moment?  
I wonder about this because there are many days when several things come to mind but I already acknowledged them in the past few days already.  If I acknowledge only that which is salient, it seems like I'm likely to then keep coming back to those which I mostly quickly recall and that is likely to be those that I most frequently acknowledge.  It seems a bit cyclical and reductive.  Each morning, my wife, my cats, and my health come to mind instantly, but I'm adverse to just listing those each day as I feel like it doesn't do the project justice.  

Wordcloud for grateful April
How much attention should I give to new or different things to be grateful for?
I like the idea of finding different things to be grateful for that I don't often take the time to notice or acknowledge.  I've often said that many of us live lives of great joy wherein in millions of things go right that we never really acknowledge, so there should be ample things to be thankful for.  But what happens if I come up short on some mornings.  Am I grasping at something that is not there because my morning brain isn't fully functioning yet or because I'm having trouble to have a larger view of my life?  

What about grateful nots?  
No, that's not a means of tying things but I wonder about negative grateful things.  That is, I'm grateful for something not to have happened.  If I write, "I am grateful for this computer not electrocuting me" does that count?  I suppose I could flip it (and I often try to do so), turning it into: "I'm grateful this computer is functioning."  

What about when being grateful coincides with privilege?
On some level, being grateful is acknowledging privileges that adorn my life and realizing that many may not be available to others.  Having a supporting, respectful, and caring partner is a privilege at the end of the day and is the result of personal choices and systematic factors.  Having a job that I love also had to do with the privileges afforded me of growing up in a middle-class two-parent home in a predominantly white part of the country.  These things are not entirely of my own making--though it is easy to fall prey to that thinking .However, being privileged-aware while also trying to be grateful is tricky waters to navigate.  With each grateful statement, I recognize there are a variety of systematic privileges that contribute to the object of gratitude.  And therefore, being thankful for things that are the result of systematic privileges feels problematic.  For instance, should I be thankful that I've been pulled over once in the last decade if, HYPOTHETICALLY, there are many examples of me not necessarily obeying speed laws or full stops?  While it's something to be grateful for, it is something that reflects a systematic privilege of being a white middle-class male as opposed to nonwhite middle-class men who are disproportionately pulled over while driving. 

Does being grateful also mean obligation?
By acknowledging my gratitude for something, does it then create an obligation in some way?  If I am thankful for my cats, does it mean to make sure to give them more attention that day?  I believe the answer is yes.  If this is something I take the time to personally recognize, then it seems to follow that I need to more publicly acknowledge it.  However, the previous conversation on privilege draws me into considering then what do I do about those things I am grateful for that are tied to systematic privilege.  Ok, the answer seems obvious: do something.  

Sometimes, it is equally obvious what to do but when it comes to addressing systematic privilege, not so much.  I try to keep it in focus and think about the ways in which it informs how I move through the world, keeping it in check as best I can.  But I also recognize how the system itself pushes me to ignore it, to forget it, to say that no, I am solely a product of my own abilities.  So maybe in that regard, acknowledging privilege continues to remind me that it exists and that I need to check it regularly.  However, I hope that ideas and ways of addressing it beyond my own internal struggle will eventually emerge too.  

These are not necessarily questions that I expect readers to answer for me per se.  Rather, these are the questions that arise from this practice.  I believe they are good questions to ponder and help me think more critically about what I am doing and may even raise some interesting food for thought for my readers to consider.  

Previous notes:

What about you?  What kind of questions or thoughts go through your head as you consider being thankful in your life?  

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