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.