Painful gratitude

I’m still pinching myself thinking of how lucky I am to have stumbled into this role 7 months ago. Especially given that recently LinkedIn went through layoffs. Hearing that news a few weeks ago impacted me more than I could have imagined.

The people who were laid off were not simply colleagues. They were some of my closest friends, confidants, and weekend buddies. People that have supported my personal and professional growth. People that have taught me how to be a better man.

Nearly 80% of my previous team was laid off. If I had to wait even one more month to enter this role, I would have been met with an internal hiring freeze. This meant that only business-critical roles could be filled. In a slightly different world, I could have been laid off as well. My mom articulated these past few months well:

“Jay – it’s important to realize that “someone” is watching over you. At this point, they’re directing you to all the right places. Do not take that for granted. Be appreciative that they want the best for you now, it may not always be this way”.

This perspective has helped me to feel more present. I can attribute a big part of that to my readings and practice of gratitude. The following is a blurb from an article on “Selfless Gratitude”, which touches on the Buddhist practice of cultivating appreciation. 

“Gratitude practice is useful because it turns the mind in a way that it enables you to live into life. Having access to the joy and wonderment of life is the antidote to feelings of scarcity and loss. It allows you to meet life’s difficulties with an open heart. The understanding you gain from practising gratitude frees you from being lost or identified with either the negative or the positive aspects of life, letting you simply meet life in each moment as it rises.” 

Although, at times it can be tough to be grateful. Especially over the past few months. One thing I’ve learned is to not push gratitude immediately. Especially when friends are opening up to you about a challenging time in their life. Telling someone to “be grateful” and “focus on the positives” when they tell you that they’ve been laid off, or that their grandma has passed away because of COVID-19, only isolates them further. It puts down the pain they’re feeling. It’s the opposite of a compassionate response. You haven’t truly felt their pain. 

I’ve come to the realization that I may have distanced myself from those close to me because of this perspective. Since my early college days, I always told friends to “look at the positives” before really understanding what they were going through. Sometimes the best thing you can do when a friend or family member is sharing something challenging in their life is to say “yea, honestly, that fucking sucks”. Only once they feel like their experience and pain is being validated, can you then focus on helping them be more grateful.

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