Sunday, January 5, 2020

2020.01.05 Gratitude?

Gratitude is platitude.  This phrase popped into my waning, wandering mind sometime earlier this week on a dreary, drizzly, doomsey, sunless day, the umpteenth in a row. What a horrid thing to think! I berated my ingratitude, platitudinous as it may be. I have attitude.

What am I saying when everyone reminds me in every way possible in church and secular deepest state, and deeper church, that I should be grateful —ALL the time—for my health, my security, family, friends, a beloved husband who isn’t sick and who is still mentally alert, and much fun.

But how silly all this meandering is, I tell myself.  You feel blue? So get up off your arse and DO something that makes a difference. So I do. First, I moan and whine to my beloved who listens and supplies counter attacks on my essential feelings of inadequacy. His solutions are too obvious, but they make me cry, which I need to do when I’m squeezed into a mood like this. What do the Jungians calls it? Oh yes, my shadow side, or some such hifalutin malarkey. The next thing I do is practical and useful: I clean the inside, yes, INSIDE of the washing machine.

Ok, so how about reading something uplifting that will NOT make me feel grateful. Because I’m sick of gratitude. It only makes me feel guilty and mealy-mouthed. It has no tread, no backbone.
I pick up my Berkeley Divinity School newsletter and read a brilliant letter from Dean McGowan whom I admire—for his accent and his wise mind. He reminds me that the whole church is on the fritz. I know that already. He has no ideas but says it all so brilliantly that I fall into a jealous swoon. McGowan calls for more “thought-leaders to engage both the perennial truths of the Gospel and lessons from history, ancient and modern.”

I’m a thought leader, I think. So I read further into the magazine. There I see numbers of wonderful women who have brought honor to my seminary. Women who are firsts. Women who have done amazing things. Women who get prizes named after them. Yes, I should be grateful for these wonderful leaders shining from within the pages of the Anglican branch of my seminary’s newsletter. I have done some amazing things too. I have been passionately preaching about non-binary (love that word) gender-free language for God for years. I’m an author. How great I am. How under-appreciated I feel. How needy. Oh boo hoo and bullshit.

Then suddenly I feel a swell of anger. I’ve hit bottom, and bottom is exactly where I need to be. It’s where God took me as a disgruntled child, and where God always takes me when I’m overwrought, upset, and self-critical. God listens to me get pissed off and powerful. Why?

Why in the bejesus are we STILL touting firsts and sheroes and women who are doing all the same thing men before them have done and still do? Same praise recipe, just add a gender. How can we REALLY heal the oppressively patriarchal system in which we all have been trapped for centuries? REALLY change it rather than simply touting all the top ten players. Oh yes, lots of others get named because they gave money, that list too is rank-ordered. How can we go for deep change to bring about real justice, real embodied and shared equality in this patriarchalized, topdown world without bashing traditional winners?  All we do is move the players around like pieces on the same board without changing the game. It’s not enough for abundant gratitude—the worst kind of spiritual slather-on-demand gratitude.

My anger lets me rise up, focus, and by God I do feel better! Better enough to go out into the dark, because I want to get to CVS before the day is out and redeem my feeble little $10 off for the $40 I will have to spend just to redeem one godforsaken coupon. I buy a HUGE  jar of soothing Cetaphil for my aging skin, and then something sensible like Mucinex-D for my cough, plus a bag of M&Ms. I have to buy these in order to get enough on my tab to validate my coupon. The young man behind the counter checks me out and with me goes a paper strip—more coupons. It runs from my chin to my ankle (literally)—a large dose of corporate coupon hospitality. By now I’m laughing out loud. I bust open the M&Ms and throw a handful into my mouth. God, I’m grateful for the sweet wee treats.

Laughter is very close to anger focused and released. Much more healing than gooey gratitude.