I know it’s cheesy and a little cliched for everyone in America to talk about what they are thankful for this week. Since I’ve been a kid, hearing what people are thankful for is about as mind-numbing as listening to people’s dreams. Or what they see when they look at clouds. Or when they tell you about a movie you’ll never watch. You smile. You nod. You’re polite. And you can’t tell them what they just said. Maybe that’s just me. Recovery doesn’t kill all the misanthropy.
Interestingly though, I’m not hearing much of that this year. I’m not sad for myself, but I am sad for all of the people who love to talk about or hear tales of thankfulness. And to those who want to point it out, yes, I once ran a monthly article on this site about gratitude. I see a big difference between thankfulness and gratitude, but I’ll split hairs another time.
I know saying, “2020, am I right?” is this year’s “OK Boomer” the way it was 1991’s “All that and a bag of chips” or 1997’s “Talk to the hand” and rightfully so. This year certainly takes the cake for noteworthy events. A pandemic not seen in 101 years, racial unrest not seen in 50 years and a divisive presidential election not ever seen will long stay with most of us.
I’m not a big fan of the phrase, “the new normal” because that presupposes that there has ever been a “normal.” I think we just usually live in times of routine where we know what to expect and now, we all have a guarded sense of “expect the unexpected.” Unfortunately, human nature also causes most of us to try to find somebody to blame for the unexpected. Sometimes you need the unexpected to shake things up and move things forward. Call it progress. Call it evolution. It doesn’t matter. Good or bad, you can’t stop it. Pointing fingers doesn’t help either.
The more things change…
Life changes and we have to roll with the punches. In the next two weeks, I’ll be virtually guest lecturing for a psychology class at the University of Maryland, giving my next TED Talk, and helping my daughter move into her first house. As David Byrne might ask, how did I get here? I actually think now is a great time for musical interlude. The song and video are now around (gasp) 40 years old, but I think the lyrics are more pertinent now than ever, especially since I’m a middle-aged guy.
The world is not as it was when you were a younger person, but you are not the same person you were either. And that’s really OK. It’s normal and expected. You’re more liberal or less liberal. You’re more tolerant of some things and less tolerant of others. Your body and mind reacts to stimuli differently than it one did. It’s all OK. Just don’t hurt other people with your beliefs, and let them have theirs. You’ll both be thankful for that.
Yes, 2020 is almost over, but flipping the calendar won’t suddenly change people. I can’t see the people who I know with opposite political beliefs changing anytime soon. I don’t see racists suddenly converting and unfortunately, you can’t make people believe science if they aren’t open to it. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be quiet about it, but it’s not a 2020 thing. It’s a human thing. Try not to let any of this get you too down or too depressed. Keep your side of the street clean.
Maybe people being gregariously thankful will be a casualty of 2020. Even I, of all people, hope that doesn’t happen.