The idea of a Gratitude Journal is all the rage right now, but I think for that very reason, I have resisted doing one myself. The fact that so many people want to do it, I didn’t want to do it just to be different. But I’m coming around. I NEED to come around. I am learning that in order for me to not get undone by the uncertainty and ugliness many communities and classrooms are feeling in the wake of our recent election, I have to find and focus on the goodness right in front of me.
With the dissonance and unrest in so many communities post-election, because of the speed with which life passes, kids grow up, and circumstances change, the colorful experiences that make up the stories of our life can blend together and lose their luster or get overlooked. Just like driving down a highway and the scenery whizzes by in a blur, unless I stop and look around I miss the detail of every blade of grass, tree, and rock that makes up that scenery. Stopping to take notice of the little joys in life not only helps collect them for memory’s sake, but it forces me to really focus on what’s right in front of me and make sure to celebrate. That’s how I can restore the hope that seems lost.
So here are three for today… a shower, a boyfriend, and a phone call.
I am grateful for a hot shower.
I was thinking about what to write today as I got in the shower and was immediately distracted by just how great the water felt. I’m telling you, the full force and pleasant sting of the hot water stole my attention and I was happily lost in the moment. It was so hot…the steam was suffocating. Not in an uncomfortable panicky way, but more like lying in bed with the comforter pulled over my head, feeling and breathing in the warmth. I stood lost in the moment so long I almost ran out of hot water. Snapping back to reality, the soap, shampoo, and I raced to get me clean before the cold water unkindly butted in. On this gray, chilly day, I am grateful for the blast of hot water in the shower.
I am grateful my daughter has a boyfriend.
…said no dad ever. You wouldn’t think a dad of teenaged girls would ever say that and usually I’d agree. But not this time.
I am grateful not because of the boyfriend part; I am grateful because my daughter told me about him.
Being a single dad, I never know if I am loving and supporting my girls enough for them to be skilled, to be confident in the use of those skills, and to feel loved and safe enough to come to me when they need help. My youngest daughter is a kind, smart, beautiful, thoughtful, tenderhearted center of my world…and all I want is for her to be happy. If this boy interests her, great! But the best part is she trusts me enough to tell me. There is plenty of time to plan the demise of the gangly hormonal heartbreaker who is smitten with my precious daughter, but for now I will be grateful for my daughter’s trust in telling me about him. If there was ever an indication that I might be getting it right with my girls, this is it.
I am thankful for renewed connections.
Recently, without premonition or planning, my path crossed with an old high school classmate. Over the years, the occasional Facebook comment or posting has helped maintain a thread of connection but I wouldn’t say it was all that strong. Just like with most old high school friends, time has a way of blurring my recollection of what was individually special about each of them, leaving a mass of friends, one not seemingly more special than another.
But today, we magically picked up where we left off 30 years ago. In the blink of an eye, we were suddenly transported to junior year, English class, and a 30 second moment in time that we both remembered vividly. But more powerful than the memory itself was the emotion that we both felt again in the exact same way we did back then. Just like a familiar smell or song can instantly resurrect memories long forgotten, the mentioning of our 30 second shared moment revived the exact same emotions from that time. As we shared those stories, 30 years was instantly erased and we talked as if we were 17 years old again, side by side in World Lit class instead of being in our mid 40s, on the phone from two different countries. We spent an hour together replaying some great stories and sharing a few new ones.
And this is why I am so grateful…
My reconnection with an old friend clearly reminded me of what love really is. Not husband-wife love, not parent-child love, not lustful love, not seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time love of nature love, but a simple love of another person. An honest and deep human affection. By taking the time to really “see” each other and share our stories, we showed that we still matter and our 30 years of living helped us appreciate the power of the genuine friendship that had sprouted back then and was just as real now.
When I got off the phone, I sat still for a few minutes, wrapped up in the feelings of that call much like I had been wrapped up in the sensation of the shower earlier. A big purple comforter of reconnection and love. Would never have predicted it, but boy am I thankful for it.
Today is a gray and cloudy day literally, but too many days lately have felt gray with uncertainty and concern. As I have wondered how to counteract what feels scary and uncertain for my daughters, for my students, for my colleagues and community, when I ask how can I instigate something warmer and brighter and more loving than the acrid tenor that pervades wherever I go, I realized that I don’t need an event or a movement. What I need to make a change is right in front of me…I just have to stop and take note of it.
I need to be grateful. And I need to encourage others to be grateful.
Turning away from the gray of doubt and concern, turning to the goodness of a hot shower, a trusting daughter, a lifelong friendship, and countless other examples of goodness all around us is what makes for a much brighter, more loving kind of day.