Sometimes it really hard to remember to be thankful. One or two things that are hard to deal with will shout so loudly that they can drown out all the other voices. Like a child who has been told no to another ice cream after a long day packed with fun, and sobs until bedtime like her life is a tragedy, I too can let the minor disappointments, the bumps and the bruises, ruin my good time. I recently read a blogger who wrote about how hard she was finding it to be the parent of two small children. It’s honest writing, and skillfully done, but she does tend to focus on the negative aspects of her life right now in her writing more than anything else. Her response to a reader who commented on the over whelming negativity was to say that she’s just being honest, that she can’t be expected to write about rainbows and unicorns all the time, that she won’t pretend that everything is fine when it isn’t.
It’s a common misconception to think that to cultivate gratitude means you plaster a fake smile on your face and pretend that your life is perfect, hiding all of the messiness of it under the surface. It’s just not the case. To choose to notice and treasure the things that are praiseworthy, even in the midst of trials isn’t deluding oneself. It requires discipline to choose an attitude. The easiest thing, the path of least resistance is to wallow in misery, to allow suffering to consume you until there is nothing left but suffering.
We can all be actors in our own lives rather than victims who are acted upon. It starts by choosing how we will respond to the things that are present in our lives every day. Do I notice the smile of happiness on a toddler’s face, or the wet carpet beneath her tea set? Do I thank my husband for combing the Girl’s hair when we’re getting ready, or snip at him for not hearing me ask him to put them in the car so we aren’t late?
It’s not rainbows and unicorns, it’s deliberate, sometimes hard choices to hold onto what is good, to let go of what is bad, to find joy in all the places it can be found.
This week I’ve been in a lot of pain. My lower back has finally voiced a loud enough protest of my neglect of it’s health and is now demanding that I take care of it properly again. Even this is a gift really, because, while I knew that I should change my course in this regard, I lacked the motivation to do it. I now have all the motivation that I need. And after two days of doing the proper exercises I can already feel that soon it will feel normal again. It was the jump start I needed to invest more time in guarding my health again.
This week also I find myself realizing how estranged my relationship with someone who used to be really close to me has become. Our infrequent conversations show just how far apart we are, how different, how little is left in common. I find myself grieving a little, and determined to try and be in touch more, learn who this new person is, seek to build a new relationship based on who we both are now, to try and truly know, and truly love this person as they are right now, as I want and hope people will do for me. It’s not easy.
Those are the things this week that I could have allowed to keep me from noticing other things like:
- The fact that Little suddenly eats with a fork like a regular person. No more clenching it awkwardly with a fist and stabbing wildly at her food and mouth.
- Laying cuddled next to the Genius Husband at night, not talking, just breathing together , enjoying being close.
- My dad playing with my kids. It was hard to decide who was having more fun.
- The comforts of tea and music, consumed together in a rare moment of quiet.
- Neighbors who wrack their brain trying to think of some way that they can help when they learn I have company over.
- The radiant face of a friend I haven’t seen in a long time at her baby shower.
- Little swishing around in one of the Girl’s princess dresses. It dragged on the floor and she often tripped on it, but she felt so pretty and special in that old thing. How easily joy comes to those who are small.
- The constant support and encouragement that the GH offers me. He anchors me, and gives me the perspective I so often need, and the ability to carry on.
- My dad and I had the most relaxed pleasant time together we have had in memory. Maybe when I was a child it was like this, but certainly not since.
I’m sure I missed so many things this week, caught as I was in stuff. But I’m glad I’m at least oriented to look for them, or I may have missed them all.
The gratitude community is here.