A friend of mine, let’s call her Lily, cries easily – tears of joy and sadness – and, like me, is moved by acts of kindness. We are the ones weeping during Lord Of The Rings because the Hobbits are just such sweet friends; or applauding the teen helping an elderly lady with her bags (even if he shouts “freaks!” at us).
But I have something Lily doesn’t: a protective layer of cynicism. It makes me resistant to manufactured sweetness and made-up concepts (unlike Lily, who happily sends me slideshows of flowers overlaid with a fake inspirational quote: “get up offa that thing” – Gandhi). I don’t know how empaths like Lily function. It must be exhausting, feeling all the time.
Lily has been telling me to “develop a gratitude routine” to negate pandemic stress, where I write down what I am grateful for (family, friends). But whenever I start, my cynicism kicks in, pointing out that gratitude for family won’t stop you worrying for them.
But then Lily got creative. “My lists were looking samey,” she explained. “So now, I also include things I am grateful I don’t have, and that didn’t happen.” Such as, being grateful to not get hit by a bus, or that the washing machine hasn’t conked out.
It’s actually quite a fun exercise when you get going. “Lils, you must be grateful your virtual date wasn’t a giant lizard in a suit,” I suggest. “Or that Gandhi hasn’t sued you for misrepresentation.”
Gratitude is not that simple. Sometimes it takes work, patience – even imagination – and I am still finding a way to balance it with my inner cynic.
Grateful for laughter in adversity, I decide to start a new list. I write, “Top bants with top pals, as Gandhi would say.”