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Welcome Meddleheads, to the column where your crazy meets my crazy! Please send your questions via email. Right now. Not only will you immediately feel much better, you’ll also get some advice.
I was married just over two years ago in a perfect ceremony to the perfect man. All the people I love most in the world were there to share our day, some of them having come a great distance or through a great deal of trouble to be a part of it. Our friends and family were very generous with us and helped us have an amazing honeymoon.
I know I sound like an ungrateful slouch. I am a slouch. But I am not ungrateful. In fact, I am sick with guilt over my rudeness.
When we returned from the honeymoon, I started right back up with my teaching job and ordered the thank you cards. That's where I stopped. I was going to do them over the fall, but we had a major renovation going at the house. Then I thought I would send them as Christmas cards. Didn't happen. OK, fine. Wouldn't it be cute to send them on our first anniversary as a way to commemorate how special the day was for us? Nope. No way.
I know I sound like an ungrateful slouch. I am a slouch. But I am not ungrateful. In fact, I am sick with guilt over my rudeness. It wakes me up at night. Honestly. But now it has been more than two years, and I don't know what to do. Take out an ad? Pay personal visits?
Help! Can you or your readers help me find a way to express my gratitude gracefully at this point?
Let me have it!
Guilty and Grateful
First off, “Guilty and Grateful” was the proposed title of my forthcoming memoir. Alas, my publisher felt this title lacked sufficient commercial umph, so we’re going with “Horny and Afraid” instead.
Nonetheless, I spend much of my life in the precise nexus you speak of, the space created by the collision of good intentions and basic slouchdom. I’m happy to let this column’s readers share their thoughts about the specific sort of thank you might consider. As my wife can tell you, I’m not much good in this department, although I do think that Hallmark could triple their annual revenues if they started mass-producing cards for slouchers like us.
What I want to do is make a really basic point. If I sound a bit shrill in doing so, please bear in mind that I am speaking mostly to myself. And that I am not a very good listener.
the fact that you haven’t done this for two years -- and have instead engaged in this private, energy-sucking opera of self-recrimination -- suggests pretty clearly that you’re feeling internal conflicts.
So. Here’s the deal: your gratitude doesn’t really do others much good until you express it toward its deserved recipient. In fact, at the moment it’s not even doing you much good. All you’re doing by not expressing all this gratitude is converting an empathic impulse into a self-absorbed guilt drama. Because, to be honest, the folks who went to considerable trouble to attend your wedding, and who helped underwrite your honeymoon did so (I hope) because they love you and wanted you to have a great time, not because they were expecting to receive a thank-you card from you. It was a gift, not a contract.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t express your gratitude somehow. Only that you should do so out of a genuine and unconflicted sense of gratitude. And the fact that you haven’t done this for two years — and have instead engaged in this private, energy-sucking opera of self-recrimination — suggests pretty clearly that you’re feeling internal conflicts.
What are those about?
I have no idea.
And you may not either. But, as I am reminded more or less daily by my wife and children, actions speak louder than words. Something causes you to continue to put off what feels like a pretty simple act. I’d wager a high-quality candy bar that you’ve spent far more time tossing and turning in your nocturnal guilt bath than it would take to simply fill out the effing thank you cards. How self-thwarting is that?
Your job in life is to express gratitude to those you love, not to turn gratitude into a hair shirt.
To be clear, the kind of self-examination I’m counseling is intended to help you stop causing yourself this kind of misery. It’s not something you should inflict on the folks you want to thank.
For them, I’d recommend something heartfelt and personal. A card with photos from the actual honeymoon with funny captions. Some words about how much they mean to you. If you want to address the lag time in your thanks, go to town. But I’d counsel using humor, make yourself the butt of the joke, etc. But keep the focus on your gratitude towards them, not the little opera inside you.
Most of all, please (please please) take this experience as a lesson. Your job in life is to express gratitude to those you love, not to turn gratitude into a hair shirt.
I fully expect Heavy Meddle readers to offer further suggestions.
Author's note: Well, folks, you’re up! Any specific ideas for G&G? Or perhaps some broader advice? Go for it in the comments section below. And by all means send a letter to Heavy Meddle, too. You can use this form, or send your questions via email. I may not have a helpful response, but the act of writing the letter itself might provide some clarity. — S.A.
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