I like that phrase “unconditional gratitude” it goes perfectly with my conviction of No Regrets.
Everything we experience — good, bad, ugly, awesome — it all contributes to our present being. Life is a series of moments and choices. We have very little control of our circumstances, but we have complete control of our responses to our circumstances. We can choose to be the expression of balance and harmony in any circumstance, or we can choose to be chaotic and discordant.
To experience true peace, love and joy … we must strive for balance and harmony at the center of grace and gratitude. To be unconditionally grateful. In this expression of gratitude we are able to witness our experiences with greater clarity, understanding, and wisdom.
This expression “unconditional gratitude” was made by Andrew Solomon, in his TED Talk filmed March 2014. Writer Andrew Solomon has spent his career telling stories of the hardships of others. Now he turns inward, bringing us into a childhood of adversity, while also spinning tales of the courageous people he’s met in the years since. In a moving, heartfelt and at times downright funny talk, Solomon gives a powerful call to action to forge meaning from our biggest struggles.
Andrew Solomon writes about politics, culture and psychology.
Why you should listen
Andrew Solomon is a writer, lecturer and Professor of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University. He is president of PEN American Center. He writes regularly for The New Yorker and the New York Times.
Solomon’s newest book, Far and Away: Reporting from the Brink of Change, Seven Continents, Twenty-Five Years was published in April, 2016. His previous book, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity won the National Book Critics Circle award for nonfiction, the Wellcome Prize and 22 other national awards. It tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so. It was a New York Times bestseller in both hardcover and paperback editions. Solomon’s previous book, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, won the 2001 National Book Award for Nonfiction, was a finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize and was included in The Times of London‘s list of one hundred best books of the decade. It has been published in twenty-four languages. Solomon is also the author of the novel A Stone Boatand of The Irony Tower: Soviet Artists in a Time of Glasnost.
Solomon is an activist in LGBT rights, mental health, education and the arts. He is a member of the boards of directors of the National LGBTQ Force and Trans Youth Family Allies. He is a member of the Board of Visitors of Columbia University Medical Center, serves on the National Advisory Board of the Depression Center at the University of Michigan, is a director of Columbia Psychiatry and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Solomon also serves on the boards of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Yaddo and The Alex Fund, which supports the education of Romani children. He is also a fellow of Berkeley College at Yale University and a member of the New York Institute for the Humanities and the Council on Foreign Relations.
Solomon lives with his husband and son in New York and London and is a dual national. He also has a daughter with a college friend; mother and daughter live in Texas but visit often.
What others say
“I do not say this often or lightly, [“Far From the Tree”] is a book of genius.”— Tom Ashbrook, NPR
Andrew Solomon: How the worst moments in our lives make us who we are
|As a student of adversity, I’ve been struck over the years by how some people with major challenges seem to draw strength from them, and I’ve heard the popular wisdom that that has to do with finding meaning. And for a long time, I thought the meaning was out there, some great truth waiting to be found.
|But over time, I’ve come to feel that the truth is irrelevant. We call it finding meaning, but we might better call it forging meaning.
|My last book was about how families manage to deal with various kinds of challenging or unusual offspring, and one of the mothers I interviewed, who had two children with multiple severe disabilities, said to me, “People always give us these little sayings like, ‘God doesn’t give you any more than you can handle,’ but children like ours are not preordained as a gift. They’re a gift because that’s what we have chosen.”
|We make those choices all our lives. When I was in second grade, Bobby Finkel had a birthday party and invited everyone in our class but me. My mother assumed there had been some sort of error, and she called Mrs. Finkel, who said that Bobby didn’t like me and didn’t want me at his party. And that day, my mom took me to the zoo and out for a hot fudge sundae. When I was in seventh grade, one of the kids on my school bus nicknamed me “Percy” as a shorthand for my demeanor, and sometimes, he and his cohort would chant that provocation the entire school bus ride, 45 minutes up, 45 minutes back, “Percy! Percy! Percy! Percy!” When I was in eighth grade, our science teacher told us that all male homosexuals develop fecal incontinence because of the trauma to their anal sphincter. And I graduated high school without ever going to the cafeteria, where I would have sat with the girls and been laughed at for doing so, or sat with the boys and been laughed at for being a boy who should be sitting with the girls.
|I survived that childhood through a mix of avoidance and endurance. What I didn’t know then, and do know now, is that avoidance and endurance can be the entryway to forging meaning. After you’ve forged meaning, you need to incorporate that meaning into a new identity. You need to take the traumas and make them part of who you’ve come to be, and you need to fold the worst events of your life into a narrative of triumph, evincing a better self in response to things that hurt.
Think about it, are you unconditionally grateful? Do you notice a difference between “unconditional gratitude” and gratitude in general, or ingratitude, or indifference?