I know that gratitude and guilt trips aren’t supposed to go together, but at this time of year, they’re always linked in my thoughts and feelings.
I think the easiest way to get these thoughts out of my head is to unpack them on their own.
This time of year is traditionally a time that I consciously practice gratitude. I look back on the year, and I mentally note the good things. This year has been a fantastic year for me, and I have a huge amount of gratitude: I am grateful for the friends that I have made. I am grateful for the community that I have found, and I am grateful for the personal growth I’ve experienced through that. I am also grateful for the relationship that I have with my son. I am grateful for our home, which although it is small, it is safe, secure and happy. I am grateful for a lot of things.
But gratitude is something that I have always tried to focus on. Unfortunately, I do get accused of being ungrateful a lot. I was often accused of being ungrateful by my father. It wasn’t because I wasn’t grateful though. It was because I didn’t express that gratitude in an acceptable way.
There is also the slighter darker side of gratitude for me in relation to my father. He seemed to think that when he did the bare basics that every parent should do (feed me, clothe me, etc.), I should not only be eternally grateful but that I am forever indebted to him for keeping me alive. I am grateful that he kept me alive. I know that it could have been a lot worse, but I don’t think that I owe him my eternally servitude for doing so.
Guilt trips have been on my mind a lot lately – so much so that I shared this meme on Facebook about a week ago:
I do get it. I get that a lot of people love spending time with their family. I’m slightly envious of those people because I honestly would prefer to have the type of family that I enjoy being around. If you’re one of those people that enjoys spending time with your family, that is fantastic, but please be mindful that not everyone has your family. Read this from Radical Neurodivergence Speaking and this from The Bullshit Fairy.
The happy holiday memes, and the questions about whether I’m spending time with my family over the holidays all cause me to feel guilty. I shouldn’t have to feel guilty because my family sucks, but I do. I shouldn’t have to feel guilty that I don’t get into the festive spirit because reminders of family are everywhere, but I do.
So, do gratitude and guilt trips go together?
In my mind, they do. They do because there seems to be an assumption that if you aren’t spending time with your family right now, then you are ungrateful in general.
I am not ungrateful in general, but I can’t quite figure out why I should be grateful to people who spent a large portion of my life abusing and manipulating me, based purely on the fact that we share genetic material.
I guess I’ve written this because I want people to realise that if someone isn’t spending time with their family right now, they probably have a very good reason, so it’s never really ok to ask them why. Unless you know them really well, it’s probably not even a good idea to ask whether people are going to see their family. It causes guilt every time.