Thankfulness lists

During November a lot of my friends are posting one thing each day that they are thankful for. I admire them for this, but I’m not doing it, and here’s why.

I never know what to do with lists of things to be thankful for. When I make lists, I am systematic. If I were being systematic with a thankful list, it would just be silly. I could pick a category, and just start enumerating.

For example, characteristics of God: faithfulness, love, forgiveness, power, wisdom, holiness, transcendence, immanence, compassion, understanding, justice, etc. It isn’t hard to come up with 30 of those in a few moments.

Or, people in my life: Kate, each of my 8 kids separately, my parents, Kate’s family, each of my friends one by one, my workplace acquaintances, local and national leaders, authors I respect, etc. Again, it is a matter of a few seconds to list several of those.

Ordinary things around me: I could just start looking around the room as I type — books, computers, telephone, headphones (music), a cup (food and drink), light bulbs, trash cans (that we have enough to throw some things away), etc.

Etc, etc, etc.

None of these lists feels authentic, though. So what I usually try to do is to decide which things I am most authentically thankful for. Then I try to vary the categories to provide variety. I try to mix deeply meaningful with ordinary things. I get increasingly perfectionistic about whether this is “the right list”. I second-guess every choice based on whether I am “truly” thankful for that particular thing. And it all becomes far more complicated than it was supposed to be.

I’ve read some philosophy / literary criticism about the fact that in our modern age some of us have become so self-conscious about our “true” feelings that nothing we feel seems authentic anymore. There are so many options to take that we can’t feel comfortable taking any of them; there are so many selves to be that no self is real. I think that’s what’s going on.

Weird, I know. But true. I know thankfulness is important, and I know it is something I need to grow in, and something I need to express more conscientiously, but one-per-day lists aren’t the best way for me to do it.

P.S. I┬áhope no one thinks I am slamming other people’s thankfulness projects. If you are posting one thing each day to be thankful for, more power to you! I admire and respect that.

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