Why I’m thankful for all the messes in my life this year

Timothy Eberly at Unsplash

Where I come from, Thanksgiving isn’t a major affair. It’s just another holiday with the usual routine of big businesses trying to coast on the festivities to make a few extra bucks. I have historically never paid attention to Thanksgiving as a holiday, though this year, I found myself reflecting on the idea of gratitude because I was triggered by the Daily Stoic email I received on 28 Nov 2019 — you can read it here.

Choosing to practice Stoicism is by far the greatest choice I have made thus far in my life. I won’t go so far as to say I am a seasoned Stoic now, although I can safely say that I am stronger than I used to be and am better able to make sense of my life and the various anxieties that I deal with.

The Stoics exhort the concept of ‘Amor Fati’, a love of fate, and consequently a cheerful acceptance of whatever comes our way.

This Thanksgiving, a Stoic would be grateful not just for the good things in his/her life but also the unpleasant, unsavory and insufferable miseries they have encountered. As if that doesn’t sound daunting enough — the idea is to maintain this state of gratitude not just on special occasions like Thanksgiving, but all through one’s life.

This is definitely one of those Stoic principles that makes me go, “What were the early Stoics smoking when they wrote that?!”

Nevertheless, this Thanksgiving, I shall attempt to recount a few not so pleasant incidents from this year that I ought to be grateful for as a Stoic. I will also attempt to look at the silver lining in those incidents though in some cases, finding the silver lining is quite like going to look for all 7 Horcruxes while being blinded.

Joy.

Here goes …

I am grateful for the professional setbacks I’ve suffered at work this year — it’s one thing feel underappreciated and undervalued but to realize that a huge part of my self esteem was tied to how well I do at work was quite the eye opener. The events that unfolded this year at work helped me realize that I needed to separate my self-image and the success of my work persona to stop falling into the trap of seeking external validation. You’d think over 6 years in the corporate world would have taught me that already. But clearly there was something that I needed to fully grasp before becoming a more well-rounded individual.

I am grateful for suffering through multiple forms of heartbreak this year at the hands of people who I trusted with my deepest secrets. Learning to truly be vulnerable has been a difficult ride for me and it is still the one thing that terrifies me. Getting your heart broken by people you thought would be forever be in your corner is a painful feeling no doubt. And to be completely honest I don’t even know how I can really bring myself to be grateful about it. The silver-lining on this one isn’t bright enough yet, but it is getting brighter each day.

As someone who has always favored facing bitter truths over being comforted by lies, I should be happy that I found out about these betrayals sooner in the relationship rather than later. Yet, it isn’t easy to walk away from all this though I am doing my absolute best. The most prominent element of silver lining in this case has been the fact that I have realized that despite my worst case scenario materializing because of being vulnerable, I was indeed able to survive it, albeit with a few unexpected discoveries of strange coping mechanisms.

When I say strange coping mechanisms, I mean meditation, K-Pop, 90s Anime and more Beethoven on my playlist. Don’t get ideas and don’t you judge me. ;-)

Lastly, I am grateful for all the little stresses at work — how I have these fires to put out almost every day and how I feel like I’ve just cleaned up something, yet another thing unravels somewhere else and I have to go fix that up again. I am not a person who naturally thrives in chaotic environments. I enjoy stability, though lately, I have come to realize that there is a way to get through these tense moments with some humor. Even if my jokes about the situation are rather tasteless at times, they do have a calming effect on myself and the team I work with.

It’s not much, but it’s progress.

And progress is definitely something to be grateful for.

One day in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful

— Sigmund Freud

Maybe a few years from now, I will look back at this year and smile. Maybe.

If not, I can always say it inspired some decent writing out of me. That’s quite all right too. If someone reading this somewhere was benefited by it even a tiny bit, maybe it’s all worth it after all. The biggest epiphanies I’ve had have always come in the form of a single sentence or two, delivered to me when I was ready to hear the message.

And that’s my wish to whoever is reading this — may the right words and the epiphanies find you when you need them the most. And may you blossom and spread your wings.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Author of 'How to be a Lighthouse'. I write for those pursuing excellence and meaning.

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