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This Is The Work Blog by Alex J Brown
  • Writer's pictureAlex J Brown

When #Grateful Feels Out of Reach, Try This [Free Worksheet]

I’m in a rough time of my life. First came the stir, the beginnings of my quarter life crisis. And the more I sat in that state of crisis, the closer I came to the truth: I am ready for new growth, and it is demanding my attention. So, I did a few things to give it my attention, and it felt bad and then good and all was well. Gold star for taking care of myself, right? I get to check that one off the list, right?


Turns out that time was sacred and important, but it seems it was only a step toward the truth, and its primary function was to mobilize me to get my supports in place in preparation for the big surge, the real learning. Because then came grief, in boatloads. We all know grief comes in many forms, and I can only describe this type as “big G” GRIEF. The kind that changes you forever. And that is where I’ve been. Oh, goodie, change. Funny how it keeps happening.

I told my therapist the other day, “It feels like I have to fight for my sh*tty life.” Not getting the reference (cough, Bridesmaids, cough), she retorted, “I’m not sure I love the use of the word ‘sh*tty’ there. What do you mean by that?” Classic therapist move. I’m onto you. So we unpacked it and looked at it and the insight followed.

Grief is frustrating. Crisis is frustrating. Because when you’re there and you can’t get out, it can feel like all there is, is pain. The reality is, there is A LOT of pain, a lifetime of it, demanding to finally be experienced. But it’s not everything. It feels bad, but it doesn’t mean your life is bad.

I generally consider myself to be a pretty happy and optimistic person, and the most difficult thing about a pain this tender is how it keeps you there.

Joy, in all of its finite glory, is on hiatus. All the parts of you that the world deemed lovable (the useful parts, the entertaining parts, the funny parts, the performance-y parts) have taken respite, and you’re left with only the purest form of yourself, a soul at its source. And for many of us, especially those who have relied on the so-called “good” parts to feel validated by the people we want to love us, it’s a rude awakening. It feels bad. It feels like you are fighting for the worst of yourself.

Naturally, you’ve only been conditioned to believe those parts aren’t absolutely gorgeous and essential, but that’s another blog post.

The point is, being #grateful in a pain this big is a great goal, but it’s easy to get caught up in the shame of not being able to get there. Because this feels like hell. It feels endless. And it’s important. And it will end. And there will be gratitude, “big G” GRATITUDE, but we are not there yet.

So, apologies, but I am not inclined to make a list of things I feel grateful about every day. That said, can I meet gratitude halfway? Can I honor the fact that even in the midst of great pain, it’s not all bad? Can I gently remind myself that Grief is not all of me, that it is not attached to me, that it is simply hanging out in my space, making its long visit and doing its work, and it will go when it is time to go?

Yes, that I can manage. I think.

Maybe instead of naming the things we’re #grateful for, we can try taking a mental snapshot of the things that simply didn’t suck today.

Does it feel more palatable? Does it feel more in reach? Does it align more with your process? If you answered yes, then perhaps you will consider joining me in this new venture.

The Challenge:

I designed myself a pretty little exercise sheet to keep track of my not-all-sh*tty life, and I’d love to have you join me. Use the worksheet to identify three things out of your day each day that didn’t suck, and write them the eff down. Keep track of them.

Maybe your cat looked at you with those gentle eyes and it made you smile. Maybe you cooked a good meal. Maybe you did that laundry heap you couldn’t bring yourself to do last week. Maybe you only cried three times today. Maybe on your lunch break the universe forced you out of your head because the leaves on the trees looked beautiful, and you just had to see them.

Whatever it is, it’s something. Write. It. Down.

And if you're so inclined, post about it to social media using the hashtag #NOTSHITTYTHINGS and tag me at @ajbrowncreative across all platforms. I want to hear about what you find.

Remember, it’s not a bad life. It’s a bad time, big “B” BAD. But it’s important, too. Be gentle with yourself. This is what growing feels like.

And as always, you are not alone.

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