Give Thanks to the Negativity—My Thank You for Them List

Give Thanks to the Negativity Lisa Quattlebaum

Since the beginning of the new year, my daughter and I “say prayers” as an extension of her bedtime ritual.

Given Mila is only three and I have a mixed religious background (which is code for I celebrate Passover and Christmas), our prayer sessions are more gratitude-connected than God-centered. It works for us and the sentiment is more practical and authentic.

Mila, in her already characteristic super independent and loquacious self, recently put a kabosh on my guided Thank-you’s by crafting her own list of people, places and things worthy of bedtime mention. She is generous with her gratitude. Besides Mama, Mark (her soon-to-be stepdad), Nana and PopPop; her kindergarten teacher Josie, her nanny Snow, her bestie Miles, our cat Casa and Minny Mouse and Sophia The First often make the cut.

One night, in response to one of my helpful although unwelcome prompts, she initiated a challenging, ‘let’s keep it real, Mama’ dialogue about why certain people are not in her prayers. How did she phrase it —“no thank-you to them”…“They don’t do good things like Mila wants”.

I dutifully replied with my Kumbaya romanticism, “We pray for everyone, because everyone deserves blessings and there is something good in everyone—everyone is in our life for a reason, whether we realize it or like it at the time. They are here to help us even when it seems that they are against us”.

She gave me an unspoken, “Whatever, you say Mama” and closed her eyes. She is after all, three.

As she drifted off to sleep, spiraling curls about her pillow, a slight snore, with visions of dancing puppies, ice cream and all things pure in her dreams, I thought of the contrary, difficult, icky people in my life who are not on my “Thank-you for them” list.


See, here’s the fundamental truth of the matter—it’s easy being thankful for those who give what you receive, do as you ask, are there in a pinch or at your beck and call, stand resolutely by your side everyday, hold your hand, sooth your soul, and expand your heart. Yet, in all bare naked transparency, some of my major growth, significant life changes and successes have germinated from pushes down, turned backs and blatant no’s.

Perhaps like Katy Perry sings, “Maybe a reason why all the doors are closed, so you could open one that leads you to the perfect road”. So, in that moment, beside my innocent spiritual baby girl and in true parental maturity, I walked my talk and prayed/gave thanks for those who aren’t or have not been very nice & don’t do good things like I want but for whom I am profoundly grateful. Because without them, I may not be the me, I am so blessed to be.


Thank you universe for every one you have put in my path to give me a no instead of a yes.

Thank you for their nudges, pushes, trips, betrayals, stabs in the back and wall building. They have lit the fire under my persistence or turned me on a better path than I may have imagined.


Thank you for the man who makes my latte and is most meticulous if not OCD, going so slow that I am almost always at risk of being late. He has taught me to be more patient, not rush throughout my day, organize my time more carefully and maybe on a frivolous note, to drink less coffee. Thank you Mr. Latte Man.


Thank you old boss and supervisor who were hard to please, unimpressed with my creative efforts, dismissive of the long hours logged, resentful of my initiative and ability to collaborate as well as lead teams to success. Because of you, I have a clear sense of my perceived weaknesses (in your opinion) and have honed my craft, upped my game and elevated my skill. However, I am most grateful for the deepened sense of my strengths, my talents, my creativity, savvy, professionalism and purpose. Thank you for making business personal, for I now realize that this person, me, am better suited to run her own business, be her own boss and a kind respectful one to her employees.


Thank you former best friend who shared my confidence with others. I have learned from you, “In the vault” only refers to jewels and important documents, and you are as sick as your secrets—now that all mine have been revealed and spread around the preverbal camp fire, I am healed. You have also taught me the art of a better judge of people and being discriminating when establishing friendships. I thank you for your lack of loyalty—it mirrored my betrayal to my higher self.


Ex-boyfriends and the ex-husband we don’t speak of—thank you for being frogs. I have not only now found my king, but I have grown from princess to queen. Without you, I would not have had the many wild and crazy passionate experiences I thought were essential in a good relationship. Because of you, I realize the highs and lows need not lead to crashes and burns, but rather spirit-soaring and soul-deepening harmony and sustained love.


Lastly, I thank myself, my inner critic, my Doubful Debbie, my egomaniac self who felt I needed to sometimes learn the hard way. You made me compassionate, faithful and not for myself alone.


Thank you.