Is gratitude a prison?

There was this conversation between Randall, the adopted son of the Pearson family, and Kevin, his non-biological brother in This Is Us S05E13 that had been stuck with me for a while. It’s when Randall admitted that the fact that he was adopted by a family he loves so much makes him feel that he is bound to show nothing but gratitude at all times, while that feeling, truthfully, feels like an emotional prison because oftentimes he still couldn’t help but thinking about all the what-if’s had he been living with his biological parents instead his whole life. And Kevin said he sounds “wildly ungrateful.”

And I’ve been thinking about that ever since. The feeling of having to constantly show gratitude because people might perceive you to live a somewhat ideal life, when the truth is, sometimes you just want to lash out because things haven’t felt okay in a prolonged time, and let the world watch you go nuts in 4K if they please.

I’ve been very fortunate that the worst thing the pandemic brings to me personally isn’t losing individuals, or things, that I hold dearly onto. Sure, I haven’t felt even remotely okay in months, but I’m not at least grieving or constantly bursting into tears.

But every other day during the working hours while I’ve been working from my parents’ home since March last year, I’d walk up to my brother’s room, throw myself on the bed and stare blankly at the ceiling, and complain about how I felt like doing nothing that day. Every-frickin’-day. I’m just lucky that I still function well and deliver at work despite the mood. I guess I’ve had it in me since my early years at school that my fear of failure eventually overrides all the emotions I bottled up inside, and I’m so annoyingly lucky that it hasn’t slipped once. I’ve been safe but it does not mean I feel okay doing so.

And it’s not just about not feeling enthusiastic about work. There were many periods I felt out of love, even. And the world felt out of touch, too. I had no passion to be shared. No emotions, no sparks. At anything at all. (Except caring for my cat and binge-watching TV shows just so I have something that sounds fun enough to do.)

I would go about my responsibility at work because I get paid for it, with much procrastination if the work isn’t urgent, and that’s it. No sparing time for hobbies, let alone volunteering activities, online classes, or side hustles which seemingly have grown more popular these days. On the other side of social media, I keep wondering: how do y’all have the energy for those?

I keep telling myself that it’s okay not to feel okay. My self-diagnosis says that I am just burnt out, just like so many of us right now. Again, it’s probably not special. My logic says with everything that is dawning on the world right now, feeling empty is a privilege. Because at the very least, I’m not mourning. I’m not constantly stressed out either – although every once in awhile I obviously still am. I might be unhappy, but I know that many people are having so much worse.

At the same time, I know I must acknowledge the feeling that I’m not doing fine, and maybe do something about it. Well, most of us aren’t doing well indeed. Maybe it’s not a special case, but it’s still the truth for everyone who suffers from it. The fact that it’s so statistically common does not mean it should be dismissed.

I’m still thankful that the most significant things the pandemic has affected for me are my plans, my everyday feelings, and my fluctuative willingness to give a crap at anything. But being reminded to “always be grateful” since the rest of the world is on fire does feel like a trap sometimes.

How do I act grateful and feel too unhappy to live a fulfilled life at the same time? What’s the secret to experience both at once without rebutting one another?

Can you even become one without denying the other?

8 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Those contradiction of gratitude and trapped feelings is actually something that makes us โ€œhumanโ€.

    Whatever we feel, either it is an out of love feeling, our out of touch – it is what we feel, and it is valid.

    Hope you can gain your footing and the answer that youโ€™ve been looking for soon!

    1. Yup! I guess the key to really live as a human is to be able to navigate these kind of emotions without feeling guilty and just embrace all the dynamics that makes us who we are in the process. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I feel for your situation. While I’m lucky that I keep my job and able to work from home during the pandemic, the dreadful feeling and anxiety was real. I was so uninspired and lost desire to pursue any hobbies. I think it is important to recognize all the different feelings, I am grateful but doesn’t mean I am not tired of long-hours of working. I’m trying hard to see thing as it is without judgement. It’s what I am feeling and it is not how I am suppose to feel.

    1. My friend who’s a psychologist says that being grateful is the last stage after we feel happy, satisfied, fulfilled, and so on. So it makes me wonder whether I really am feeling grateful from deep down, or am I just “claiming” to be grateful just because logically, I should be and I have no reason not to be?

      But anyhow, wishing for much better days ahead for both of us! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Kalo aku biasanya melihat ke ‘bawah’ untuk menyadarkan diri bahwa apapun yang kita miliki hari ini patut untuk disyukuri dan melihat ke ‘atas’ untuk memotivasi.

    If you feel unhappy with your current life because you feel flat and a bit boring, maybe you need a little bit of change.

    Dan maaf kalo misalnya komennya bisa jadi ga nyambung, hehe…. but i try.

    Anyway, senang rasanya kak adnabilah udah aktif lagi blogging dan langsung ngadereded. Banyak banget yang pengin dicurahkan dalam tulisan ya?

    1. “Ngadereded” hahahaha. Kebetulan lagi cuti seminggu, jadi kegiatan sehari-hari cuma blogwalking dan nulis berhubung gak bisa ke mana-mana juga. Mayan lah seengganya ga cuma tidur doang hehe, plusss memang lagi banyak banget yang pengen diluapkan, betul.

      Mungkin bukan situasinya yang boring ya, tapi lebih ke perspektif dan diriku aja yang lagi gak baik-baik aja. Kemarin nemu istilahnya, “languishing” katanya sih. Yah mudah-mudahan bisa balik ke kondisi prima lagi entah gimana caranya..

        1. Hmm entah term-nya baru muncul di masa pandemi, atau udah dari lama tapi memang baru populer sekarang. Katanya ini memang the most common feeling di masa pandemi ini sih, kemarin2 baru baca news article yang bilang gini soalnya. Plus, katanya melabeli our feelings itu adalah salah satu cara untuk bisa overcome issue tersebut karena orang-orang jadi punya common term yang bisa mereka refer, jadi mungkin istilahnya memang baru dibikin di masa pandemi ini ya? Tapi kurang tau juga nih harus baca2 lagi hehe.

Leave a Reply