My blog posting today is a tribute to my sister Marisa, who passed away Saturday night. In her much too short life, she has given us a lifetime of beautiful memories to be grateful for. Few people in this world are truly unique. My sister was. Her effervescent enthusiasm is what I cling to in this darkness and for that I am grateful. Rest now my Angel, we will laugh again in our dreams.
Why is gratitude Hard?
In the spirit of full transparency let me just say that I have had a bad attitude about this whole lockdown situation. Not because I disagree or agree with the president. It is, for one, that the thought of keeping my children and dogs occupied without the beach, park or dog park for three weeks sounds like an insurmountable task. I am working on a novel and it is draining my creative energy as it is. Now I need to come up with inventive ways to keep the children entertained?!?!?!
My son is 21 months old and his idea of keeping busy is finding pioneering ways to put himself in danger. We are talking about literally sticking fingers into plugs (before some of you send me an array of abusive comments – we have plug protectors exactly for this reason, but he still pulls them out). So yes, my initial reaction was not overly enthusiastic.
I was being ungrateful.
Gratitude is not a buzz word
If you think my intro is about setting up a sermon on how grateful we should all be for all we have, it is not. You do not need to pack your bags just yet; we are not going on any guilt trips today. We have loads to be grateful for and I know you are without me having to remind you. However, I also know that you have struggles that no one else knows about. Struggles that are more than likely going to be even more challenging during this time of isolation.
Where does gratitude come from?
For me, the loss of my morning routine of going to aqua aerobics has been very difficult to accept. It sounds petty, but to me, the exercise in water was a good way of treating my chronic pain and keeping my depression at bay. I also benefited from the social interaction I got out of it. I like to be around people. Thus, I have been putting in a lot of energy phoning and face timing friends and family. This is what I am most grateful for, having people I can communicate with and people who do not disparage how I am experiencing things.
I belong to a parents’ group that not only shares wonderful creative ideas for entertaining the kids but also sharing funny stories on how difficult it is. No one is judging anyone on this group and no one is trying to show off how amazing they are. Most of these moms have reason to brag. They are Pinterest material. I am grateful that no one is rubbing their brilliance into anyone’s face.
DO NOT GO THROUGH THE MOTIONS
This is what I would like to ask you to do every evening before bed. Do it for the next three weeks and even longer if you can keep it up. Think of one thing at the end of the day that you were grateful for. Genuinely grateful for. “That I have food in my fridge”, is legitimately something to be grateful for, but it sounds a little insincere. “I am grateful that I have mangoes in the fridge, which I am looking forward to slicing for breakfast tomorrow. The yellow colour and its deliciousness is going to be such a bright start to my family’s day”. That is meaningful, because you are acknowledging why that food matters to you.
Gratitude for the people we love
What or who are you grateful for? Be specific. Fully appreciate what this person or object represents to you. How it has been essential to you getting through the day. It does not have to be elaborate or philosophical, but it must be genuinely meaningful. Your gratitude is what is going to make the difference between coping with this isolation versus not coping. If you are going through terrible hardship, I am deeply sorry. Events in this world are beyond comprehension. Finding something to be grateful for, is one way to slowly claw your way through the nightmare.
What gratitude looks like
Getting back to my Winnie the Pooh analogy, it is Eeyore’s birthday and everyone in the forest had forgotten. This was an unacceptable situation to Pooh and Piglet, so Piglet runs home to fetch Eeyore his prized red balloon. On the way back Piglet trips and pops the balloon. All that is left is a piece of floppy red rubber. Piglet is so upset, but Eeyore is so grateful for the gift. Eeyore says to Piglet that red is his favourite colour. Similarly, he also adds that since it has popped, it is now the perfect size for the empty jar of honey that Pooh gave him. The scene ends with him happily putting his popped balloon in and out of the jar.
What has been your popped balloon moment today? Ponder on it and express your gratitude. Show gratitude through meditation, prayer, journaling or a quick phone call of thanks.