People often throw around the word "gratitude," and just as often I find myself repelled by it. It's always seemed overly simplistic. Or it has seemed judgmental, as in, "you have no right to feel bad, you should be grateful for all you have." Or it has just felt a little too flower-child-spiritual-guru-yoga-y, even for me, a person who usually embraces such abstract platitudes as "breath in light and love" and "be kind to yourself." I remember trying to practice "gratitude" once in undergrad when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed, and it ended up sending me into a self-blaming spiral of asking myself "so what's wrong with you that you have all this and still don't feel happy." But lately I've been coming around to the word and the concept, mostly because I am starting to feel genuine, unforced gratitude in my daily life. Gratitude has crept up on me as I've gotten older, and I've learned to define it for myself as simply recognizing the things and the people you love. So I'll further embrace my inner flower-child-spiritual-guru-yoga-y side by finally attempting to embrace this concept of "gratitude," or recognition, or whatever word resonates with you. Maybe none of them resonate with you, and that's ok too. This is my first official "weekly love letter," which I am hoping to write once a week (though I guess that was obvious by the name "weekly love letter") in honor of whatever aspect of my life, big or small, feels especially helpful that week. This week I've chosen something big, and maybe cliche. I want to write a love letter to my friends specifically, and the vast majority of my coworkers in general. To in-eloquently make a long, stupid story short(ish) - at least I'm ready to write a full-length post about the incident - a whole bunch of stupid shit went down at work this past week. More accurately, a whole bunch of stupid shit went down on our group Facebook page. Things happened, people were mad that they were being forced to actually do their jobs and weren't allowed to leave to workout during their shifts anymore, and then other things happened and I attempted to respectfully disagree with some dudes, and it all concluded with one male coworker telling me that I was "contributing to the oppression of the many by the few" and another informing me that "most of the group" has a "problem" with me, because I "look for fights" (I guess he's referring to all the times I've left rooms and hidden under the stairs to avoid getting into fights?), "run my mouth" (Ok, this time I KNOW he's talking about the times I've talked about feminism [see previous post about my now-infamous pap smear discussion] and challenged people on their casual misogyny), and "crying about stuff" (well this one is true). "This has NOTHING to do with you being a woman and EVERYTHING to do with you acting like a child," he continued. He concluded that he said all of this out of love (thanks buddy!) and that no one had told me any of this because "believe it or not, this group is filled with some of the most unbelievably caring and good natured people" he knows. Well, buddy, let me tell ya- I do believe it. I believe it, and I am so thankful I get to work with the people I do. Because within minutes of my coworker posting this last tirade (which he almost immediately deleted, BTW, and shout out to my awesome friend [name retracted] who snapped a screenshot before he got rid of the evidence while I was busy sobbing in the fetal position in the shower), I had received at least ten texts and private Facebook messages from people asking if I was ok, expressing their disgust with this man's actions, and assuring me that what he said was not true. And by this morning, almost every single person I work with, besides of course the people who do, in fact, have a problem with me (from what I can tell is like a hard five, maybe a soft nine...roughly 8% of the total people, which by no calculation could be considered "most of" the group), had reached out to me somehow to make sure I did not feel alone and to offer their support. This in itself is huge. But two specific comments, or kinds of comments, made the biggest difference in helping me through this trying situation. The first kind of comment came from those people who shared their agreement with my argument, and who told me that I was, in fact, making thoughtful arguments and respectful points. Because I can get a little feisty- it's the negative flip-side of being a strong, outspoken woman. And despite the part of my coworker's message that claimed I "make everything everyone else's problem," when things like this happen, my first action is to obsessively go over everything I did to see what I might have done wrong. I've often been accused of not taking responsibility for my part in conflict, so I try extra hard to take responsibility. The reason I was sobbing in the shower after reading the post- besides the fact that it was just mean- is because my first impulse was to believe he was telling me the truth. It was very easy for me to believe most people would have a problem with me, because I can be difficult sometimes. It's true that sometimes I get really stressed out. It's true that sometimes I get a little too upset in political conversations. And it is true that I cry at work sometimes. But hearing not only that most people do not have a problem with me in general but also hearing that my arguments had been sound and warranted is doing a lot to shake that belief out of me. One woman even told me "never let anyone tear you down for being smart." Thanks girl. The second were the messages I received from the group of women at work I consider to be my close friends. To repeat the refrain of my being "difficult," I've always kind of assumed that my friends were my friends despite my many faults. But after having one woman in particular tell me that she is "proud to call me her friend" (I'm tearing up as I type this), I'm willing to entertain the idea that maybe people like me because of who I am, not in spite of who I am. And also a moment of recognition for my friends outside of work, who keep me sane and keep my perspective of the world from collapsing into the tiny crawl-space that is my job. I drove to Riverside in rush hour traffic to meet one of you for dinner (hey Chloe!) and I loved every stupid minute spent crawling along the freeway because I meant it when I said spending time with you was an act of self-care. (#selfcare amiright?) (#parentheses) (#overload) So that was my first #weeklyloveletter, and my first foray into a public display of gratitude. What are you grateful for? What are the things and the people you love that deserve some recognition?
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