I try to make gratitude a daily practice. I am not a religious person, and I do not consider myself to be a “pray-er.” But every night before I go to bed, I reflect on the things I am grateful for and visualize what I’d like the following day to be like. I begin with a mantra of thanks– for my children, my husband, our health, our home– and then I imagine what experiences or qualities I’d like to experience in the next day. I generally visualize patience, presence, remembering to take the time to connect lovingly with each of my children. I set an intention for productivity, inspiration, balance, grounded-ness, and while I’m at it, another dose of patience, please.
I like to think of this as my bedtime meditation, but I suppose it’s its own sort of prayer. I lift these thoughts and intentions to the universe, the Great Mother, my own version of what a cosmic deity might encapsulate.
It is important for me to end the day this way; I have a hard time preaching gratitude to people when it’s clear I spend a lot of time complaining. In fact, I have developed a sort of platform on the therapeutic value of venting. (Complaining!– it’s not just for ingrates and assholes!) I recently received a comment on my post What I’d Like to Tell My Childless Friends, But Won’t where the author gently chastised me for my sarcastic remarks, indicating that the humor cloaked a lack of gratitude and thoughtfulness. I responded very politely, but once again referred to my belief that parents sharing their frustrations and revealing that their lives with their kids aren’t all kisses and snuggle-fests has an innate value. Connecting with other people about our common gripes– be they parenting challenges, workplace concerns, or even more serious struggles like grief or loss– can actually be a positive thing.
But still I try to begin and end my day from a place of thankfulness. Some days are easier than others to maintain a positive mindset. My daughters have been sick for, oh, I don’t know- months, it seems, and last night our toddler coughed all night long. Literally. All. Night. Long. Every few minutes, another coughing jag would begin. We barely slept at all, and when we did manage to fall asleep, we were repeatedly awakened in a stupor to the disturbing soundtrack of our youngest child coughing and crying. It was awful.
The following morning, I canceled my music class, bailed on a “working brunch” that I’d been eagerly anticipating, and instead of exercising and cleaning the house, I kept my daughter home from childcare and scheduled a doctor’s appointment. I was exhausted, nearly hallucinating from the lack of sleep. I burned my bagel, dropped or tripped over nearly everything I came into contact with, babbled incoherently during phone calls, and wandered mindlessly from room to room in search of whatever mysterious purpose had brought me there.
My toddler, however, was full of energy and zest. She dumped out all the dirty washcloths and dishtowels from the laundry basket, laid them out on the floor, and then soaked them in the bathroom sink, all the while cheerfully murmuring, “Dammit! Dammit! When I raced to the kitchen to fill her sippy cup with water, I returned to find her coloring on her sister’s clothing with a highlighter she’d swiped from my night table. Sophie- 2; Mommy- 0.
Sophie insisted on bringing five (5!) stuffed puppies into the doctor’s office. As I carried her on my hip through the parking lot, she proceeded to drop a different puppy approximately every five seconds. Bending into a deep squat to retrieve it, my mom-purse would swing from my shoulder, bashing into both of us. Over and over. By the third puppy drop, I began to giggle uncontrollably. Sophie, sensing my mirth, beamed and chanted, “Too many guys! We have too many guys!” My good humor was returning. Slowly. As it turned out, in addition to her cough and runny nose, Sophie had an ear infection- her first ever.
Did I mention the previous night I’d dropped my iPhone into the toilet, (yes, I realize what an atrocious practice it is to bring my phone to the bathroom) resulting in a phone that, while able to send and receive texts and emails, was absolutely useless for making phone calls. An unfortunate condition on a day when I knew I would be home for hours with a sick child.
As I moved throughout the day, I tried to count my blessings amongst the struggles. At least it’s just an ear infection- it could be worse. Hey, she could’ve brought seven puppies! At least she wasn’t coloring on my clothes!
During this month, many people try to step up their grateful game, listing the things they are thankful for even daily. For whatever reason, I have not joined them. But I look forward to our Thanksgiving dinner, when our tradition– like many other families’– is to take turns sharing what we are thankful for. In addition to the big ones, the things that are somewhat constant like family, health, and our jobs, I enjoy naming the things that I am thankful for right now.
Right now, I am thankful for…
- The fact that my toddler still loves to hug and snuggle me. It’s often the best part of my day.
- The fact that ear infections and head colds are our family’s biggest health concerns.
- My fantastic writing partner, Jessica, and knowing that we are so very close to the launch of our very first book- The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship.
- My incredible parents, who will be joining us for ten days. Not to mention the fact that we love their visits- a sentiment I am well aware not everyone feels about having company.
- My friends. I get something different and essential from every single one of them.
- The upcoming week of self-imposed internet radio silence. I always cherish my blog breaks. This time, when I return from a solid week of unplugging (to the best of my ability, of course) I will be announcing the release of our book!
What are you thankful for this holiday season?
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post.
This week’s sentence was: “Right now I am grateful for…”
December 6th’s sentence is: “One of my favorite childhood memories is…”
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