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the anxiety of gratitude

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I spent Thanksgiving last year in Singapore. I do not celebrate Thanksgiving and do not quite know what it is about apart from turkey and pecan pie, kind of like Christmas come early. My friends invited me over to spend the evening with their family and friends.

As I started my gluttony, I choked when she explained that the tradition was to talk about what we were grateful for during dinner, and we were to go around the table to share.

I could feel myself wince, my legs going jelly, and my heart thumping because I did not know what to say. It is not because I am not grateful (or maybe I am an ungrateful,whiny, little sod), but I do not have a habit of expressing it, least of all out loud and in front of others.

Most occasions, I scoff at these “lovey-dovey” moments, and these ventures to be “positive.” There is a movement amongst a WeChat group here in Beijing that challenges us to express our gratitude for three things everyday for thirty days. I of course, was cynical, and wondered why people wasted their time on this sort of thing.

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Today, at another group, the topic of gratitude came up again, as a way to mitigate anxieties and worries. I worry A LOT, about everything possible. The speaker said someone said that some science proves that gratitude makes people happier.

O.M.G. I almost fellout of my chair and wanted to flee the room.

But I stayed, and wondered why I was so antagonistic to gratitude. Was it the acknowledgement that someone had done something for me and the fact I needed help was unbearable? Or was it insufferable that people can be nice to me for no reason? Or that they could even love one such as me?

Funny that, the act of expressing gratitude drives up my anxiety, so can it really take my anxiety down a notch? Do I dare, as this morning’s group suggested, express gratitude towards three things for the next fortnight? At least it is less than the thirty-days challenge.

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At the Thanksgiving dinner, I had heaved a sigh of secret relief when my friend supplemented with the explanation that it was also a time of mourning, especially for the indigenous tribes of America. I thought, “Oh whew! That I can do well.” We did go around the table, and I did mumble something of gratitude. But I could not recognize my own voice. It sounded so strange, so foreign, so alien.

Maybe the fact that “Gratitude”as a topic has been hitting me right, left, and center since Thanksgiving (most probably earlier but that’s when I really “heard” it), is some sort of sign that it is the what I need to focus on. So, let us see, if in a fortnight, I am any happier, less anxious, and if this might make me more capable of hope

Hold your breath!

For L & P, for starting me off this slippery slope of gratitude – who can ask for better friends?!

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about Noch Noch

Enoch Li, (pen name: Noch Noch) was born and raised in Hong Kong and Australia. She has also studied / worked / lived in the US, France, UK, Japan, The Netherlands, China, and has travelled to more than 40 countries. She loves travelling and her curiosity in foreign cultures and languages has led her to enjoy her life as an international executive in the banking & finance industry. However, she was forced to take time off work in 2010 due to her illnesses and after spending time in recovery, cooking, practising Chinese calligraphy, reading and writing – in short, learning to take care of herself and letting out the residual work stress, she has transitioned into a Social Entrepreneur and founded BEARAPY to help corporates make workplaces mentally healthy, and support executives to become more resilient.