We’ve all heard it time and time again.
It is even substantiated by empirical research. Many scientific and academic journals speak of its benefits. In positive psychology, it is even linked to greater happiness.
These days, it’s trending in numerous spaces—from yoga teachers to life coaches, everyone is talking about it.
What is it? Love? Success?
No. It’s gratitude—the art of being thankful for what we have in life.
So yes, we get the drill and we got the memo about gratitude. It all makes sense, but sometimes you just can not exercise gratitude! And no, you don’t have to start doubting your entire life because of this.
Breathe and remember that life doesn’t work only one way. We can not always have a positive mindset. Life is not always bright and sunny for everyone. There are tragedies and hopelessness. There’s pain and anxiety. And as much as we’d like to practice gratitude, sometimes letting some amount of despair and apathy sit within us is okay.
To stop resisting those feelings and let them be for once, or twice, or even a couple of times, is perfectly okay.
Maybe it’s okay to be utterly ungrateful when you’re hungry at 3 a.m. and have a headache, but there’s no place to get food and you don’t have any painkillers.
Maybe it’s okay to be so scared of the dark that you run straight to your mother’s bedroom.
Maybe it’s okay to drink so much soda that you have a sickening sugar rush and have to remind yourself that even though you were supposed to be eating clean and cutting out soda that this was (maybe) the last time.
Maybe it’s okay to cry every morning or to think about how many mornings you haven’t cried.
Maybe it’s okay to feel absolutely useless every day when you look at the sun. The sun might feel just as useless sometimes; it’s literally the same each day and we can’t even look directly at it to verify that.
Maybe it’s okay to think about death sometimes. Isn’t death an intimate part of life anyway?
Maybe it’s okay to not take a shower for four days straight. (Okay, you’re probably going to stink, so maybe try taking one soon.)
Maybe it’s okay to hate—for a little while, temporarily, passionately, or silently.
Maybe it’s okay to lose hope. It can always be regained—always.
Maybe it’s okay to lose. What if life is but a series of wins disguised as losses, whether it’s another year lost or your falling hair?
Maybe it’s also okay to be unhappy. We don’t work at a circus and those people are probably plenty gloomy some days (and on a serious note, circuses should be banned worldwide).
And yes, it’s more than okay to not agree with Elie Wiesel when he says, “When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity.”
We can absolutely love Wiesel, but not agree with him. Humanity isn’t always intertwined with gratitude in all circumstances and all contexts.
But it’s equally okay to remember something succinct but soul stirring Wiesel mentioned about the human heart in his book, Night:
“Man’s heart is a ditch full of blood. The loved ones who have died throw themselves down on the bank of this ditch to drink the blood and so come to life again; the dearer they are to you, the more of your blood they drink.”
It is an ancient saying by Zorba the Greek, and it’s okay for one to vouch for its accuracy. But no matter how philosophical or metaphorical the sentiment feels so real.
It’s okay for us to be not okay—for nothing to be okay. Life is a delicate, extremely tricky balance of okay and not okay. To struggle with that is as human as it gets.
And at the expense of sounding annoyingly cliche and repetitive, being a struggling human is more than okay.