Saturday, September 10, 2011
Not to worry about whether I'm appreciated
I was explaining to my 7-year-old son that his dad and I receive the same amount of money, after a question he asked me about incomes. At the moment, it's true. As a full-time student, my husband's Austudy allowance is pretty much the same as my parenting allowance. Anything I receive from writing is a bonus. My little boy was taking that in when his 16-year-old brother remarked, "Well, at least Dad actually works for his," or something like that.
"Hey? What did you just say?"
I'm afraid it regenerated into an exchange of heated words. I found myself beginning to spiral down to a place I didn't want to find myself - the pity party. You may have been there. How can this person not perceive all that I do, not only for him but all day long? This came straight after I was vacuuming around his computer chair while he was sitting in it, etc, etc. I managed to catch myself in time before I really started to wallow in all the bad party food that makes me feel sick. It's a sign that keeping this blog is a good influence in my life, I hope.
Firstly, I remembered some wise advice from Dale Carnegie, in his book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. He'd just told the story of a boss who was burning with bitterness because he'd given each of his staff a Christmas bonus and nobody thanked him. Carnegie remarked, This man made the human and distressing mistake of expecting gratitude. He just didn't know human nature. The crux of his chapter was simply that. Human nature has remained pretty static for aeons and probably won't change in your lifetime, so just accept it and get on with your life.
I remembered other bad-mood-making incidents I've experienced. A common thread they've contained is me chafing over some perceived lack of appreciation or gratitude, and people not giving feedback for a job well done. How silly to get our feathers ruffled because of the way human nature is wired. It's as foolish as griping because the sky is blue and your favourite colour is red. Jesus healed 10 lepers one day, yet only one returned to thank him. Why should we expect anything different? Why should I take my poor son to task when I know in my heart that teenage boys simply aren't wired to notice such things. (After a bit of yelling, he actually said, "I didn't mean it like that," which, while not an apology, is the closest thing I could expect.)
Another silly thing I do is gauge my effectiveness by the amount of positive feedback I receive. When I hear praise, I happily feel that I'm on the right path. When none is forthcoming, I begin to question the wisdom of the way I'm spending my life. It's time to stop being a ridiculous human barometer with praise as the mercury. I'd rather be a steady, glowing thermostat who knows deep in my heart that my contribution to life is valuable, no matter what others are saying.
I think the nature of what I do has made this more of an issue for me than it might be for others. Authors hope for positive feedback from readers and reviewers, while people such as parking inspectors, office workers and train drivers may find it easier to go about their daily work without expecting gratitude. Sometimes I've longed for the simplicity of the job of a parking inspector, office worker or train driver, yet instead of making such a hard core change, I can simply stop my thirst and craving for the one thing human nature isn't naturally inclined to give. When I think about it, this is as silly as someone remaining dissatisfied because of their insatiable craving for dodo-bird schnitzels garnished with hen's teeth.
Over the last few days, I was very pleasantly surprised to receive two thank-you messages from people whose manuscripts I wrote reports for in a competition. I found out that reports were returned to 25 writers and I was genuinely stunned when 2 thought to thank me. This seems consistent with the ratio of Jesus and the 10 lepers, even though writing somebody a few pages of feedback is nothing like healing somebody of a fatal, regressive disease. It proves also that appreciation isn't quite as rare as hen's teeth. I'd like to be found among the number of those who do feel and express gratitude and appreciation. Especially now that I've experienced first hand, after hearing from these two people, how it brightens the day of the recipient.
Centuries ago, Dr Samuel Johnson said, "Gratitude is a fruit of great cultivation. You do not find it among gross people." Let's be unlike the mass and be vigilant to sow gratitude seeds always.