november gratitude

“…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are. - Pema Chödrön

There seems to be a proliferation of gratitude posts in all corners of the internet since Friday morning, and while it's been awesome to see these really tremendous expressions of gratitude from people I admire and adore, my feeble attempts at writing a meaningful and brief Facebook status about something I'm grateful for have been next to impossible. It's not that I don't feel gratitude for things - in fact, I feel gratitude in almost every moment of my life - it's that I don't know how to say it sometimes. Or sometimes it just reads as hollow when it is in fact not at all.

Yesterday, after sitting through a full day LGBTQ ally training on the college campus where I work, I had a complicated and interesting conversation with the director of the training about mostly personal things. The conversation was comforting and energizing, and it also gave me some time to reflect on the course of my life over the past 15 or so years, the ways in which I've grown, changed, and evolved into the person I am today. When I look back on that, I realize that there are people who were tremendously instrumental to my own personal development with whom I no longer speak. Be they exes or former friends or acquaintances who just drifted away, I'm grateful that I've known people who have looked at me and said, "you are doing it wrong."

It's tough to hear that, you know. No one wants to be wrong, least of all me. No one wants to have their consciousness disrupted and another point of view placed in front of them that makes them uncomfortable. The specific people that came to mind yesterday during this Moment of Gratitude I had within my own mind/heart were people who forced me to confront my own prejudices. Whether it was a group of white feminist lesbians confronting me about my own racism, trans*folk confronting me about my cissexism, or my peers behaving in such a way that forced me to reflect on my own lack of compassion, I have met a great number of people who have helped me grow in so many ways, and it's unlikely I will ever be able to thank them directly.

Over the past seven months, I've been in this very concentrated and accidental program of self-assessment and maturation. Never in a million years did I think I would be able to look back and say with adoration, gratitude and love that my first girlfriend was an incredible teacher, or that people who made my heart ache with rejection also made me chart out a path toward becoming a better ally, but these things are true and these people, while maybe not good for me in general (or I wasn't good for them), were so good for me in very specific and isolated ways. So I'm grateful for the people who have forced me to grow, who have changed my life, and who have taught me that I'm never done learning.

I might be back with more gratitude posts throughout November.

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All content © Meaghan O'Malley, 2009-2012. Header image by Rebekka Seale.