This is Not Awful

I don’t do gratitude lists because they feel forced. I group them with all the messages we get from society that annoy me such as “think positive”, “seize the day” and, the most annoying of all, “just breathe”. Don’t tell me to breathe thank you, I will hold my breath if I want to!

Or grateful.
Image by Sanity Soap

The other reason I don’t do them is because my DEFINITELY AWFUL parents were forever telling us that we were ungrateful. My dad even used to call me and my sisters the “ingrates” as a kind of casual “funny” nickname like “Hey, ingrates! Come to the table, it’s dinner time!” So if someone asks me what I’m grateful for, I can’t help but hear the answers being yelled at me in my head in my mother’s voice.

What I do is “Not Awful” lists. Why? Because it doesn’t ask me to feel anything different, it only asks me to notice what’s there.

Humans naturally scan the environment for negative things. We were designed that way to keep us off the dinner menus of lions and tigers and what-not back in the Stone Age. So “Not Awful” lists are about scanning my environment and noticing anything that isn’t negative: anything ranging from neutral to ecstasy (aside from ACTUAL Ecstasy that is. Don’t do drugs kids). By gently shifting my focus off the negative, it shifts me off negative rumination and my mood changes as a natural flow-on effect. Gratitude comes of its own accord without invalidating or minimising any real and current struggles. This is what they call…MINDFULNESS is it not?

I don’t know who drew this, sorry.

Mindfulness is so trendy right now but I wonder how many people actually know it’s a royal pain in the ass to practice. Mindfulness, at least what I’ve come to understand of it from Psychologist J, Dr K and what little I’ve dabbled in Buddhism, is just choosing where to put your focus and noticing what is there without getting caught up in labelling or feeling.

Image by Neil Farber

While the concept is simple, doing it is NOT because our minds are like naughty little puppies that scamper away to think or feel about all kinds of things other than what we wish them to.

Image from Copper Beach Institute

So here it is, my NOT AWFUL List for the week:

1. My son. Having a headstrong autistic child sure has its challenges but at the end of the day he is an actual real human being my body made. Also I truly believe there is no such thing as a bad child. He is 4, full of life, smart, chatty, outgoing, very cute and 100% NOT AWFUL.

He’s a sweet little pebble though.

2. My husband. Here is another person who gets on my nerves at times but not this week. He’s been especially patient with me the last two evenings and that’s NOT AWFUL.

Husband, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Image by Gemma Correll

3. Excellent Long Term friend who texted to say her and family would be in my city this weekend so we can meet up. I’m REALLY looking forward to this. This will be 100% NOT AWFUL.

4. My dog. He’s 18 and still he’s alive. That’s NOT AWFUL.

5. This comic that made me laugh. Laughing is NOT AWFUL.

I can’t credit the creator because I saw it on another blog who didn’t credit the creator.

6. The cafe Husband, son and I went to on the weekend because I was on the hunt for gluten-free diary-free breakfast choices. I chose a “paleo eggs on toast” with bread that I struggled to identify as bread. Though the taste of the bread borderlined on awful, the conversation about it didn’t.

“This bread is really earthy… I mean to the point it actually tastes like dirt. But dirt that’s really nutritious.”

“That’s taking paleo to the next level.”

My son’s breakfast choice was simply spectacular by comparison. Definitely NOT AWFUL and OH MY GOODNESS I NEARLY FORGOT THE MOST NOT AWFUL BIT OF ALL: I may have found the world’s most delicious cappuccino with almond milk.

My son’s gluten free vegan chocolate pancakes that I ate half of.

My Not Awful lists don’t always look this grand though. Sometimes there seems to be nothing that feels OK. And how would this method work for other people? What if you have no children and want them? What if you have no significant other? What if you’re in a lot of physical or mental pain? What if you’re homeless? What if you’re dying?

When I feel like gratitude is impossible I start with what’s neutral. My list is more like this:

1. I had something for lunch.

2. I have somewhere to sleep tonight.

3. I’m not at work.

4. It’s not raining right now.

4. I have a clothes line.

5. This clothes peg works.

And gradually I find that there are more and more things around me that aren’t AWFUL and it might lift my mood just enough to get though the day.

Do you do gratitude lists? What works for you? Comment below.

I highly recommend his guided medications. I don’t know what he says in them but his voice gently puts me to sleep.

Published by sarcasticfringehead

I'm an adult survivor of child abuse who documents therapy; a yellow brick road to hell.

10 thoughts on “This is Not Awful

  1. I think you’re right about gratitude. Sometimes I really am incredibly grateful for how lucky I am but other times trying to be grateful feels fake. Or sometimes I hear things (on podcasts, usually) which make me feel better and I try to think if I could offer the ideas to friends. But like you saying “what if they couldn’t have children but really wanted them” I find myself thinking “actually, their bunch of problems is totally different to mine and offering them my “feel better” token feels kind of presumptuous”. I remember working with a guy who LOVED death metal music. He was a very kind guy and in his office cubicle he had a big sign saying “calm”. I found it really hard to reconcile these different aspects of his personality and couldn’t imagine how the calm sign went with the death metal. All I’m saying is… people find their own tiny stars in the blackness. You can’t always share stars.


    1. I suppose I have been a bit presumptuous in sharing this method I use thinking it would work for others. I LOVE the way you’ve described how people find what works – “tiny stars in the blackness. you can’t always share the stars.” Such a poetic description. That’s very funny about the death metal guy. Death metal music is anything but calm!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I read your post as having a number of ideas, rather than being presumptuous. Well really you were just sharing a couple of your personal strategies. And what are blogs for if not for sharing info/ideas. I was more referring to ringing up a specific friend and saying “I heard this really cool thing. Blah blah blah. Doesn’t that just reshape your world?”

        Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s a really realistic list and truly the kind that comes to mind…oh aNd yes..hearing someone say ‘relax and just breathe’ boils my blood too and makes me wanna punch them seriously 😏🤭

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I like this approach a lot. I have a lot to be grateful for, but I really don’t feel grateful and being told that I should feel grateful tends to have the opposite effect. This is a nice way of counting the blessings/not awful things without being so directive in how I should feel about them.

    Liked by 1 person

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