One of my biggest cancer pet peeves is the one about cancer turning you into a new and improved version of your former self. Somehow cancer makes you a better person. I don’t agree with that premise and have written about it in more depth here. Another cancer expectation out there is that following your cancer diagnosis, you become more grateful. I’ve thought about this one from time to time and since it’s the month of thankfulness and gratitude, I’m wondering about it again.
Often you hear people who’ve been diagnosed with cancer, or any serious illness, say thereafter they appreciate life more, take things for granted less often and are in general more grateful.
My first reaction whenever I read or hear this kind of thing is to resist. I’m not sure why this is true, but it is. I don’t give cancer credit for much other than upheaval and heartache.
With Thanksgiving fast approaching, gratitude is the hot topic of the month, or one of them anyway. I think I was a pretty grateful person before cancer, and I feel I am a pretty grateful person these days too.
Am I more grateful now?
Well, I am of course, more grateful to be alive than I used to be. Or am I? I am certainly grateful for many people and many things in my life.
But am I more grateful than I was before?
I don’t know. Maybe. Probably. I hope so. I try to be. But not because of cancer.
Gratitude is something we learn, improve upon, or better understand the complexities of over time. Cancer or no cancer, gratitude, like many things, matures over time.
As Brene Brown says in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection:
For years, I subscribed to the notion of an “attitude of gratitude.” I’ve since learned that an attitude is an orientation or a way of thinking and that “having an attitude” doesn’t always translate to a behavior… It seems that gratitude without practice may be a little like faith without works – it’s not alive.
Gratitude is not just a feeling; it’s something which requires doing, and not just a now and then kind of doing, but practicing at least on a somewhat regular basis.
Finding gratitude involves effort.
I like that way of thinking about gratitude.
One of my blogging friends, Lisa Valentine, authors a blog called Habitual Gratitude. You should check it out sometime. I marvel at how Lisa looks for something to be grateful for every single day and then blogs about it. That is real commitment to practicing gratitude. Most people, me included, do not put that kind of effort into finding gratitude. Can finding gratitude become a habit? Lisa thinks so.
No matter where you are in your life and no matter how you feel about these things, gratitude is definitely one of those topics worthy of thinking about from time to time, and not just once a year on the fourth Thursday in November.
Being thankful for the life and all that we have right now in this moment, and feeling gratitude for those we are spending this moment with (even if it’s just oneself), maybe that’s enough.
Maybe it always has been.
I have much to be grateful for today and every day and one of these things is all of you, my dear readers.
Wishing a very happy Thanksgiving to all my USA friends!
If applicable, did cancer make you more grateful?
Do you work at finding gratitude?
What is someone or something you are grateful for today, right now?
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