This year, more than any year ever before, I’m grateful. It’s not that I have so much more to be thankful for this year than any other (though I do), it’s that in the past year, I have taught myself to say thanks, every single day.
Like anything else in life, attitude is a habit. I knew this, of course, we all know this. How many books are written just on that subject alone? Countless. Think better, feel better, do better. Give thanks and watch your blessings multiply.
But it’s unbelievably difficult to change your attitude and your outlook on life. The hardest part was making a change; for me, it took feeling lower than I’ve felt in years. Hormones make me depressed, and I was pregnant for much of this year, so… yeah. Thankfully (and I AM thankful!), a good friend said the right words at the right time to get me to reevaluate. She also put this book in my hands. I started keeping a gratitude journal. Than I abandoned it and started giving gratitude as a sort of constant daily prayer.
Some days it was just a list I would make as I was walking the dog under the stars, my big baby belly leading the way around the block. I am thankful for warm summer nights. I am thankful for safe streets and well-lit sidewalks. I am thankful for starry skies. I am thankful for my big, protective dog. Other days, I would directly give thanks for my life’s bounty, finding something to be thankful for even when I was feeling sick, tired, and wrung out. Even when, sometimes, the things I said “thank you” for were the very things that were driving me nuts or making me feel inadequate. Like a realtor, I would change the adjectives I used to describe my blessings to myself. My children wouldn’t listen, were being stubborn, were making giant messes. Thank you, God, for healthy, energetic children. Tony was not home often because of tax season and consequently couldn’t help much with housework. Thank you for a loving husband who works hard to provide for our family. Work became six million times more complex and scary as we purchased land and a building and began the (still not finished) task of renovating it for use. Thank you for a flexible job that provides for my family and allows me to take care of my kids. I felt hemmed in by a small house and small yard as I increasingly focused on finding land to build our dream home, the one we cannot afford. Thank you for our cozy house that is within walking distance to Charles’s school.
Once I started giving thanks, I couldn’t stop. I began to notice things – clouds, trees, rain, the scent of dinner in the oven or the sweet smell of my baby’s head, the comfort of a soft blanket, the sweetness of chocolate – in a way I hadn’t before. If I died tomorrow, wouldn’t I have wanted to notice the blue sky today? Wouldn’t I have wanted to inhale my sweaty six-year-old’s sleepy odor as I kissed him goodnight before I went to bed? Yes. Oh, very much yes.
I am grateful for good walking shoes. I am thankful for crisp, fall days that sting my cheeks as I push the stroller up the hill. I am thankful for a body that tires, but does not fail. Thank you, God, for friends who care about me. Thank you for those people in the world who have hearts for service and help keep our hungry fed, our poor clothed, our stray dogs and cats warm. Thank you, God, for loving, caring family who supports one another.
I have found that the biggest thing that makes me feel badly about myself is a “the grass is greener” mindset. We would be so much happier if we just had a bigger house and some land. I would be so much happier if I could lose all the baby weight quickly. Other people manage to have these beautiful, big houses and yearly vacations and plenty of stuff on only one salary – what’s wrong with us? Kicking myself out of the habit of thinking like that was a long and arduous process. I have not fully succeeded in banishing my demons – some days I still look in the mirror and wish for more. Some days I still wonder why it is that I seem to be falling further and further behind while others are getting ahead. But most days I can pinch myself and redirect my thoughts. I am so grateful that we have the means to save for college for our boys, even if it’s just a little bit of money each month right now. I am thankful that my babies have all been born healthy and have latched on and nursed without problem. Thank you, God, for coffee and chocolate.
It wasn’t easy. Saying “thank you” can be so difficult for some of us, especially when we think we don’t deserve our blessings, but it was worth it. It has changed my life. Everyday is Thanksgiving Day.