This ones a bit sticky for me. In our house gratitude was horribly interlinked with not complaining, keeping your mouth firmly shut.
“Shut up and be grateful for what you’ve got”.
And yes, we should all be grateful for the things in life that we have, nothing is a given, not a home, or a job, or safe people or loved ones. Some people currently have none of those things. And yet, as I’ve grown up, I don’t for one minute agree with this notion that talking about things we wish were different, “complaining”, expressing negative sentiments towards things, makes us ungrateful people, or ungrateful for those things that we do have.
I was extremely grateful to go to a private school (although to begin with I begged to go to the local school with all my friends, and would have done perfectly well there), and yet in our house we were continually reminded of how much sending each of us to a private school had cost them, (quite literally, we were given the figures), and everything they had missed out on in order to do so. And I am grateful, truly, for my school was in fact a bit of a safe haven for me for a few years, and yet it does not make right the pressure placed to do well and “make all the money worth it”. It also doesn’t make right the rest of the shitshow of a childhood we had at times. In order to be grateful for the sacrifices they made (and they did do it with the best of intentions), I do not need to be grateful for the rest of my childhood, or pass it off as being ‘made up for by’ that one thing, or ‘well, think about everything we gave up for to send you to that school, how much it cost’.
One right (and actually, a questionably necessary right) does not make okay other wrongs. Being grateful for one thing doesn’t automatically mean you should forget other wrongs.
I am not grateful for the sexual, physical and emotional abuse I endured growing up. Nor the neglect. I will not ignore or forgive those things simply because I “ought to be grateful” for the house we had, the food and clothes, the gifts my father bought us in the airport each week, the schools we went to, the opportunities we had, the birthday and christmas presents. I won’t allow the violation of my body to be made right by the fact that my dad bought me back a big bar of milka chocolate from Schippol Airport most weeks, and “dads home and he’s bought you a present so you have to be on your best behaviour”.
I’m absolutely positive that in my parents opinion, the rapes at the hand of a member of my own family are made okay by the fact that I never went without food or clothes, things I needed, and very often things I didn’t need. I am to keep quiet, keep the secret, no make a fuss, be grateful for all those things that I did get, not be selfish and focus on the negative, make out that it was all awful, and make life difficult for them.
And I still cannot comprehend this response of theirs. I don’t believe I am being ungrateful at all, I am grateful for the things I got.
Their disregard for all of my hurt however, has me floored.
the very first thing i thought about while reading this word was this song by ani difranco. what does my body have to do with my gratitude, indeed.
my parents expected unending gratitude for nearly everything we received. gifts. compliments. none were without strings or conditions. they were pseudo-generous; they gave things frequently, but expected to be thrown a parade in return. i remember hating that, the way they talked about people who didn’t express sufficient gratitude for what they were given, or didn’t return the favour adequately; how they seemed to give to others for the recognition, rather than out of the goodness of their hearts.
i also just thought about all the genuine, life-giving gratitude i have for still being here. for the people who have carried me through, especially the past three years. my wife, my kiddo, my sweetest pocketbrit, my friend s, my therapist. i could never have done it alone. i don’t know how anyone does.
i think about how how frequently i say the words ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’, often in the same breath. how i apologize for my existence and then thank people for not leaving me, for staying near, for not hurting me, for loving me. how deep my gratitude is, when i say those things, but in typing it now, how sad that is. that people sticking around, or loving me feels like something unexpected and exceptional, rather than something we all deserve.
and now i’m just fucking sad again.
Music is important to me. I like to have sound, particularly if it’s loud out, busy with people, if I just want to be in my own world, or quiet all the noise. I can’t sleep without noise, either a film, or music. Always, if I really can’t sleep, there’s one song that I turn to, and the best thing of all is that my best friend sang it for me and recorded it (along with her cat), and on nights like last night where I was sick, I put her recording on and not only did I have my favourite song, I had my best friend singing it. It is safety to me, a place to rest and be loved. I haven’t been able to sleep without music in years, and in my family, there is a lot to be said for being able to put earphones in and no longer have to hear conversations that are hurtful.
This ones very much for PC, a little truth telling – I used to, and still do occasionally when the mood takes me, listen to country music…. (Trust me people, she might unfriend me for this one, the blog could be over before we know it….)
Classical music reminds me of my paternal grandparents (both dead now). Something I adored about my grandmother is that every single day, when I arrived at their house after school, I would be greeted with the smell of the house…an old cottage, wood fire smoke in the winter, the smell of freshly baked bread or cake or dinner, the TV on in the sitting room, pot of tea keeping warm on the aga, and the sound of classical FM on the radio, a permanent presence, morning till evening.
I have also always wanted to go the BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall, particularly standing up in the gods. It kind of makes me sad because I absolutely love the Last Night of the Proms, and it’s always been a tradition of my dads and mine (the only ones who enjoy it) to play it loudly through the stereo system and listen and watch, eyes wide and sparkly, marking the end of summer, and the beginning (back then) of another school year. It was a connection of ours, and I just loved it. I’ve asked a few friends if they would want to go, but never really to any success… but perhaps I’ve just found my answer, PC?(though be warned, I know nothing about music, so I’ll very much be clueless if I’m there with you). If you came to the UK in the summer one year?