This is not your usual piece about gratitude.
I am sure you’re familiar with all the benefits of having a regular gratitude practice.
Chances are you, as a reader of this blog, have a gratitude routine of yours. I was one of you. I have been regularly gratitude journaling for over a year now. I have experienced all the promised benefits of it myself.
Gratitude journaling has helped me reduce my stress, get better sleep, and feel more energized. It improved my mental well-being so much that I even started a social media page to encourage others to practice gratitude.
However, one day, things changed. Expressing appreciation for what I had started making me feel bad, selfish, and guilty.
What happened? On the sixth of February, my home country was hit by two immense earthquakes. A region where millions reside was completely destroyed. Thousands of buildings collapsed. Hundreds of thousands of people were trapped under the remains. Cities were wiped out. In the entire country, life just stopped.
Shortly after, my social media feeds were flooded with despair. People who could not get in touch with their families… People who tweeted their locations under the remains of their collapsed houses, begging for rescue… People who lost their homes, families, and friends.
I was heartbroken. I felt helpless and useless in the face of this tragedy.
A few days later, like any other day, I sat down to write in my gratitude journal. I couldn’t do it. You would think that after seeing all the unfortunate people who lost everything they had, I would have had even more to be thankful for. After all, I was so lucky just to be alive. But no, I couldn’t do it. Instead, I got stuck with guilt.
Today I feel grateful guilty for being in my safe home.
Today I feel grateful guilty for having a warm meal.
Today I feel grateful guilty for hugging my loved ones.
It has been almost two months since the earthquake. I couldn’t get myself back into gratitude journaling. Then it hit me. Underneath my grief, there was another emotion: anger.
Because you know what? This disaster wasn’t just a completely unexpected incident. The scientists had been warning the authorities about this earthquake for years. The geologist said it was inevitable. The civil engineers said the strength of the buildings was too low. The city planners said the right infrastructures in case of such a disaster were not in place.
Over so many years, we all heard them repeatedly warning the authorities, but nothing was fixed. I was very angry with the broken system that did not care.
I couldn’t let go of my guilt because I was afraid that if I did, I would let go of my anger with it. I don’t want to let go of my anger. I want to hold onto it so that I keep fighting for a change, a better system that cares about its people.
I know it’s not just me or this one earthquake disaster. Many people all around the world suffer from the actions of governments. People who live under war, oppressive regimes, or corrupt states would very well understand the anger I feel.
Rage toward an authority, a government, or a broken system is not the same as being angry with another individual. The rage gets bigger in scale to the number of lives affected. And maybe the worst part is that this type of rage is harder to let go of because history shows that such rage fuels the actions for change in broken systems.
So I wonder: Is it possible to transform the rage that is harming me inside into something else without losing the desire to fight for change?
And again, I find my answer in the path I know the best—gratitude. But this time, instead of being thankful for the things I have, I’m thankful for the things I can provide.
Today, I am grateful for having a safe home because I can accommodate someone who lost theirs.
Today, I am grateful for having a job because I can afford to donate meals to people in need.
Today, I am grateful for having my arms because I can hug someone who lost their loved ones.
Today, I am grateful for accepting all my feelings and having the wisdom to transform them.