I’ve been trying to teach Edie gratitude and thankfulness, at least as much as one can teach a 3.75 year old. I can’t really teach her to be grateful if I am not. That is the really tricky part. I think I have to admit that I tend toward pessimism naturally. I am a bit anxious and depressive, a belly-acher if you will. So this post is not about me preaching to you or even giving advice. Believe me, I am the last person that you would want to take advice from. Most of the time I feel like I am a super hot mess of a parent and human and am mostly just trying to get through each day and make myself better and hopefully get better at this parenting thing, too, without being a total jerk to those I love and need the most. Along with exercise, gratitude is a fantastic remedy for these conditions and attitudes. I try many evenings to have Edie pause and name what she loves or loved that day, to name the things for which she is grateful. I say most nights because there are some nights when we can barely get her to potty and brush her teeth before she loses it and collapses into alternating laughing and crying before a final crash into sleep. Last night as she was about to fall asleep, she said simply:
“Let’s talk about Maine.”
Maine is our favorite place in the world where we like to vacation and would love to live full time if we could figure out how to make a living there. It makes us happy and peaceful and relaxed. We always feel more connected and more ourselves, really. It makes us grateful. So we talk about Maine. We talk about our favorite meals, memories, and moments including Rufus, our dog, getting sprayed by a skunk.
These shared moments of gratitude bring us closer together and help keep us centered and focused. It’s one of the reasons I find it necessary to belong to a faith community. It’s a place where you can share your struggles, sure, but it’s also a place to be grateful together. To say, even though there is a lot of shit in the world we still press on. We have hope. We hold each other tight. We stand up to injustice and oppression. We know that Trumps presidency will one day end. For certain it takes a lot of audacity to have hope and gratitude. There are days when I can get bogged down with a lot of the junk that a lot of us do: my aging dog, my dying dad, failed relationships, oppression, the rise of the right around the world, and climate change to name a few.
Hope, grace, and gratitude seem to be the antidote to most of this shit. I have so much to be grateful for. I have a feeling that most of us do. As usual, Edie is the one who teaches me how to be a better person. She already gets it and when she says, “Thank you, Papa,” her gratitude makes me grateful too.
Here is what I am grateful for in a list form. This list is not exhaustive. It is a start and a reminder. It is an anchor for me to come back to on those days when I can’t seem to find a place to start.
I am grateful for:
- Every text message that I still get from my Dad. There will not be many more, but there have been more than I thought.
- Tim, my husband. I literally have no idea how he puts up with me. He makes me a better person. Every single day.
- My family. My mom who I get to live with. My sisters, who understand me like no other people on the planet. My family through marriage. I am lucky on all accounts here.
- The ocean. I am grateful to live on the coast and the ability to smell the sea daily, to gather sea glass, and to have the mystical metaphors that come along with the tide.
- Sobriety. I drank too much for so long. Man, a lot of it was really fun. I still drool when I think of a good Cabernet. But, I am healthier, happier, and much more rested and present than I have ever been.
- My plants, inside and out. There is nothing like growing something to help with gratitude. Sometimes when no one is watching or listening I even tell them how lovely they are. Crazy ass hippie.
- Edie. Yeah, we have our difficult moments, but this person that I am lucky enough to spend every day (and many nights) with is just perfect. I have been told not to tell her that by some well intentioned folks but I completely disagree. She is perfect. How many of us actually feel that way about ourselves? I want her to and she is gonna have enough messages to the contrary.
- Sleep. I love how dark it is in coastal New England in the winter time. It gives me an excuse to put on my pajamas at 7 and be in bed reading by 8.
Ten seems like a nice place to start. Gratitude is something I am working on for my sake and for Edie’s too. I am doing it because I have to. If I do not, I can get completely bogged down in the garbage. Gratitude enables Grace. It gives us that second chance ( and third, and fourth…). Like teaching a three year old to be grateful the hard part can be getting started. As Edie has taught me, sometimes you just have to cuddle in bed and talk about Maine.