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How to Find Gratitude in Unpleasant Situations


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Yesterday I had the distinct displeasure of attending a PTO meeting at my children’s middle school. Normally, I enjoy the opportunities that I get to be involved in the lives of my children and the areas that affect them (e.g. school).

Unfortunately, at this meeting there were a few individuals whose purpose in attending the meeting had nothing to do with improving the quality of the school, but instead on bolstering their own egos and publicly bullying others with no discernible objective other than to make others feel bad.

I left the meeting furious at them, and consequently furious with myself for allowing their negativity to affect me. I’ve talked quite a lot here on Wondermom Wannabe about refusing to let others influence your thoughts and emotions, but I was failing in my efforts to take my own advice.

Apparently I watch too much television because when I took a moment to figure out what was really making me mad, I realized it was that I had identified the “bad guys” and though we had reached the climax of the story, I didn’t get to enjoy the resolution where the good guys walk away victorious and the bad guys get their just desserts.

 

a black and white graphic image with the title text reading Gratitude

How to Find the Good in Any Situation

My good friend, who happens to be on the PTO board requiring her presence at the meeting, was equally frustrated after the meeting. And while I had to rush off to drive my daughter to gymnastics, she went home and before her anger could overflow, was confronted by her adorable Westie who needed a bath because she had been especially zealous in her outdoor exercises that day.

Although this could have been the tipping point that sent my friend over the edge, she instead reveled in the ridiculousness that is a wet dog zipping around the house at 30 mph, springing easily over furniture and through people’s legs in an attempt to air dry herself. When I called her expecting tears and instead was greeted by laughter, I was caught off guard (delightfully so) and was reminded of all the blessings in my own life that could serve as equally useful distractions:

  • My 50 pound pitbull that acts like a 5 pound puppy and who cannot sleep unless she is resting her head upon someone’s arm, leg, chest, or neck. When I really need an emotional boost, I picture her guilty expression when she is caught gnawing on my slippers though.
  • My four miraculously resilient and often spontaneously funny, wise, and charming children. To lift my mood, I replayed a conversation I had with my 6-year old earlier that day.
    • Daughter (holding play phone): Mommy, I just texted you. You should read it.
    • Me: Okay … (pretend to read) …That’s a great plan. I’ll bring the cake.
    • Daughter: You need to text me back.
    • Me: (pretend to text)
    • Daughter: Well? What’d you write?
    • Me: Check your phone.
    • Daughter: Mom (looks at me like I’m a moron), it’s not a real phone.
    • A husband who, despite the fact that I have birthed and nursed 4 children and my body bears the battle wounds proving thus, still treats me like I’m the most beautiful woman in the world. Oh yeah, and when I walk in the door like a raving lunatic talking about crazy people at the PTO meeting, he patiently hands me dinner-to-go, gives me a sympathetic nod, and says in his best I-am-trying-to-be-from-Venus tone, “That sounds horrible honey. I too, have had to deal with difficult people and I know it can be really hard.”
    • Close friends, who will listen to me rant, tell me that I sound like a lunatic while somehow assuring me that I’m completely justified in my harsh judgments and unkind attitude, and make me laugh at myself before I start taking the world to seriously.
    • Virtual friends, who I have met in my blogging network, who support, encourage, and applaud one another constantly, proving to me there are kind, generous people out there if you just look for them. One of these friends recently suffered a terrible loss and the blogging community immediately stepped in to keep her site and social media network running smoothly until she could focus on them again.
    • Things I take for granted: enough food to eat, my health, enough money to pay the important bills, a house to live in. Frankly, I am probably overly blessed in these areas since I’m battling a war against a muffin top, can barely keep my house presentable, and have accumulated so many material things I’m looking at the calendar trying to figure out how soon the military will require us to move again so I’ll have a good excuse to purge.

3 Ways to Find the Gratitude in Every Situation

So, ironically, it took getting angrier than I have probably ever been in order for me to feel deep gratitude. My friend at the meeting offered up these additional thoughts:

  • We’re grateful that we aren’t related to the people at the meeting because then we’d be forced to interact with them for longer than a school year.
  • We’re grateful that we aren’t those people who willingly spend their free time finding ways to hurt others rather than focusing on bettering themselves or anyone else.
  • We’re grateful that we have vivid imaginations so even if we never get to witness these individuals’ karmic smackdown, we can envision plenty that satisfy our sense of justice.

I actually feel pretty sorry for those individuals who were so mean-spirited at the meeting. Clearly, negativity presides in their lives and I can only imagine it’s because they don’t have as many things to be grateful for as I do. So next time someone makes you sad, angry, or frustrated, take from it whatever will help you be a better person and leave the rest of it with them.

Want to practice gratitude? Sign up for this free 7-Day Gratitude Challenge. You’ll get a daily email for one week sharing a reminder and quick tip for being grateful.

6 thoughts on “How to Find Gratitude in Unpleasant Situations”

  1. I have to agree. It’s still different when you are grateful with things. Negativity will soon eat you alive once you dwell on it – it’s not really a good thing if that happens.

    Reply
  2. Oh Oh Oh Oh am I one of the virtual blogger friends? Pick me! Pick me! This is a great reminder and all perfectly said. Big hugs my friend. Holly

    Reply
    • You know you are. 🙂 I’m so thankful for all the support and inspiration you provide me. Fortunately though, you are one of the few blogger friends I am quite certain I will get to meet in person (and very soon!).

      Reply
  3. PTO meetings are the worse. I don’t like attending them and they usually sneak up on you at your child’s play or musical. I love your gratitude list.

    Reply
  4. BRAVO! HOAs, PTOs, when will these become, what us “Normal” people know the true reason for them being created, a safe enjoyable place for us all to come together for a common cause and act like caring human beings to eachother?

    Reply

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