Why I Take Things For Granted

There are few things I hate being told more than, “Don’t take [insert topic of conversation here] for granted!” It’s a stupid, short-sighted, mental health-destroying piece of advice and if I could set it on fire, I would. I would burn it in effigy and dance in my underpants.

I get the point of the advice ““ it’s good to acknowledge all the wonderful things in your life before your callous indifference towards them destroys them. Acknowledge your blessings! Recognize the good people you have in your life! This is all wonderful. Not to sound like a Norman Rockwell painting or anything, but there are days where I just can’t believe how lucky I am to be surrounded by so many good people. So it’s not that I disagree with the general thrust, it’s that I disagree with all that the wording implies.

I sound like I’m nitpicking, but I freely acknowledge that maybe my strong reaction to the advice is personal. When people tell me to not take things for granted, I am immediately reminded of the times when I follow that advice to the letter.

I have a fear of flying (not Jong-style, literally afraid of being in an airplane that is off the ground). I know my fear is mostly irrational ““ sure, planes crash and people die, but overall, everything I’ve heard and read suggests that it is a very safe mode of transportation. I mean, mothers bring their toddlers on these things ““ that’s how I gauge whether or not something is a death trap, the presence of small children and the number of helmets and body pads involved. And yet, before I fly or anyone I love flies, I try to make peace with the idea that we will never see each other again. It is the ultimate in not taking someone for granted ““ I feel, with real conviction, that this is our last meeting. Let me tell you: not taking people for granted sucks.

In dealing with panic attacks and anxiety, I’ve realized that for me, anxiety is living in a world where nothing can be taken for granted. It’s never knowing if you’ll be OK, if the people you love will be OK, if the world will be OK. It’s not being able to expect continuity ““ instead of gradual movements forward or backward, the bottom can fall out at any moment, and down you go with it. I never take things for granted when I’m having a panic attack. I am never living more in the moment than when I am dealing with my phobia.

Maybe I’ll reach a higher plane (ha! Pun!) of understanding as I age and mature and grow as a person. At the very least, I hope that I eventually get the flying thing in perspective because spending sleepless nights cataloging everything you should have done with the person and also making sure that your toothpaste is no more than than three ounces is no way to live. But in the meantime, I reject your platitude, no matter how well-meaning, and substitute my own: it’ll be OK.

3 thoughts on “Why I Take Things For Granted”

  1. I also hate this sentiment but I’ve never thought it through before. I am living with both general anxiety and depression at the moment, and I feel like this phrase doesn’t apply to me either. Breezing through life without considering what’s important is the exact opposite of my problems. Nope, you can be sure that I’m thinking about and feeling every. single. detail. The silly platitude I try to remember is the one about smelling roses, though I think mine is much more intense and short-lived. When a situation or a relationship or a day or a project is going well or making me happy, I try stop for a minute, grab on and squeeze the hell out of it. Because even if I’m worried that it won’t last, or I’m thinking about a million other things that are wrong, I’ve managed to find one bright spot. It’s a start. And I think I’m learning to find more and more of them– maybe someday they’ll start meshing together into one color (wow, that’s some heavy-handed metaphor action but I’m sticking with it).

    And I like yours. It’s going to be OK. Because as long as you’re still alive and kicking, it IS okay. You’re already doing your part.

  2. I am never living more in the moment than when I am dealing with my phobia.

    Agreed. I have a phobia of crowds and enclosed spaces. In those moments when the walls of people/small rooms are closing in, I am surely not taking for granted wide open spaces and being alone.

  3. Wow: this really resonates with me. Especially when you say–

    I never take things for granted when I’m having a panic attack. I am never living more in the moment than when I am dealing with my phobia.

    I am so there with you on that. I know exactly what you mean.

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