Remember a few months ago when you were complaining about that dude at the gym who kept smashing you? How many of us are now thinking, wow, I wish I had appreciated super smashy dudes while I still had the ability to go to class. I wish I had relished in the beautiful soreness back then. What I wouldn’t give for a kimura jacked up shoulder right about now!
In other words, why didn’t we appreciate what we had while we still had it!
Every morning, while slowly sipping the last of the magical happy juice in my coffee mug, I make a gratitude list. It is a great practice, one that attempts to inject a moment of positivity into each and every day. It is also often a bit frustrating for me.
I think sometimes we misunderstand this idea of gratitude. We treat it like disciplining a disobedient puppy. Who are you to feel bad when you have so much? You should be grateful!
Are you annoyed about that parking ticket? Instead you should be grateful you have a car. Mad at your mother-in-law for that insensitive comment? Shame on you, at least you have family!
The thing is we seem to have gotten this idea into our heads that gratitude equals guilt, that having things in our life we are thankful for means that we aren’t also allowed to be incredibly pissed off from time to time. In other words, we use it to make us feel bad for feeling bad.
Yes, when this weirdness is all over and we go back to our normal lives, I am definitely going to try to appreciate what I have more! To stop sweating the small stuff. To live in the moment. The first day I step back onto the mat with 20 teammates I am going to be overflowing with gratitude.
And then I am going to realize exactly how much I suck at jiu jitsu and get frustrated all over again.
And all of this is perfectly fine.
If there is one thing that this quarantine has taught me, it is that it is fully possible to feel two completely opposite emotions at once; to be both terrified and overjoyed, angry and appreciative. And yes, it is not just possible, but fully natural and normal, to be completely miserable and still have gratitude.
You see, here’s the catch. Once you accept that “everything sucks, BUT”…your mind opens up to noticing all the little joys in life. They are absolutely everywhere! In your kitchen (coffee lives there!). The hot water in your shower. A cute hairstyle. Your kid finding a quiet game to play…alone.. And before you start rolling your eyes, remember I am not saying to ignore all the ways that life truly sucks right now. Nope, you gotta embrace those too. Scream, cry, laugh, exhale. One life, multiple emotions.
Yesterday my 12 year old daughter and I discussed how life here in Brooklyn is slowly starting to re-emerge. People are coming outside. They are starting to see friends again, with masks and at 6 feet away, but they are seeing them! I told her about a message I had gotten from a training partner recently, lamenting when things were going to get back to normal.
“What do you mean by normal?”
“You know, training, hanging out, coming home late on Fridays.”
I pointed out to my daughter that my friend and I had actually hung out that Friday, with two other training partners. We didn’t train. We didn’t go to our usual bar. Instead, we met up in the park with drinks and snacks and sat on some bleachers, appropriately socially distanced.
Was it the same? Hell no.
Was it still pretty cool? Absolutely!
My husband and I own a small dojo on the Upper West Side in NYC. When we were open, we had a full schedule of traditional karate and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes. Classes were thriving, students were training, and we were so excited about all of it! Then the shutdown happened. So we switched to teaching online. And we were miserable. It was lonely, frustrating, and nothing like having a roomful of students right in front of us. Compared to the real thing, Zoom karate totally sucks!
But once we moved on and stopped trying to compare everything to what it was before, we started to get excited. I started to look forward to seeing my kids’ faces on my computer screen. I stopped feeling completely stupid wearing a gi in my living room.
What I told my daughter is that it is totally appropriate to have all kinds of emotions about everything that sucks right now. But make sure that you aren’t so lost in the suck that you miss the little things that are coming back. That you miss the little things that are worth appreciating.
This sucks, but…
One life, multiple emotions.
Everything will come back eventually. Our dojo will start to reopen soon. Friday nights will go back to heel hooks, cold beer and french fries. That beautiful soreness that comes from over training will return.
For now, be furious and notice the sunshine.
It is getting brighter every day.
Jennifer Fremon is a sixth degree black belt in Kenshikai Karate and a brown belt in BJJ. She and her husband run UWS Kenshikai Karate & BJJ in Manhattan, where she teaches karate to children ages 3 and up. When she isn’t attempting to heel hook giants, Jennifer enjoys drinking coffee, walking her dog, making doodle art, and watching the sun set over NYC. She currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband and her fierce 12 year old daughter, and thinks there is no greater joy than seeing a child accomplish something new.