During the few months that Mark was sick and for quite a while after he died, I was amazed at the goodness in people. At the people who sent me flowers, at the people who called, at the people who sent me nail polish when I couldn’t find my favorite color, at the people who cared. I was grateful in a way I had never been grateful before. I wasn’t taking anything for granted. Now, almost four years after Mark’s death, I’m working on getting that level of gratitude back in my life.
It’s easy to be grateful about the obvious things like a casserole someone has brought you or someone watching your baby for an hour so you can nap or take a bath by yourself. I’m pretty good about expressing that gratitude, and even though it’s a little fuzzy, I think I even wrote thank-you notes to people for different kindnesses after Mark died. Even if those notes were in the form of e-mail.
Now the things that I should be obviously grateful for are things like a colleague who makes a couple of calls for me when they see I’m swamped, or my husband making sure that I have an hour to myself to write a post. I’m usually pretty good at both expressing my gratitude for those things and reciprocating when the chance comes.
I think most of the not-so-obvious moments come when you aren’t aware of them. Or you are vaguely aware of them, and they hit you in hindsight. For example, I am immensely grateful to my former boss, Christie, for the work she had to do to pick up my slack while I was either physically or mentally gone from the office. And the part I am most grateful to Christie for is that she was never anything but worried for us as friends, and I never heard a word from her about where something was or when I might be coming back or why I was sitting at my desk crying.
I’m working to be more aware of the things people do for me so that I can thank them, or at least do the same for someone else some day. I’m also working on awareness of things around me that are going well so that I can be grateful for them (the weather, my car works well, air conditioning, air conditioning, and also air conditioning).
Struggling for Gratitude
The one place I always have to struggle for gratitude is my own health and my body. If I were truly grateful for it, I would take better care of it, it’s as simple as that. I can use all the excuses I can think of (I’m going to start exercising tomorrow, I’m not that overweight, I need this 837th can of diet soda to help me stay awake) but it all boils down to my lack of gratitude for my body. Right after Mark died, I hit panic mode, and tried to get healthy so that nothing would “happen” to me and Nicholas wouldn’t be a total orphan. That lasted a few months until the complacency kicked in again.
I thought I was a grateful person, but now I know how far I’ve got to go. I’ve got a few people I really love who are fighting cancer right now. Awesome, incredible, smart, tough, I-want-to-be-them-when-I-grow-up women. They are moms and wives and daughters and they are fighting harder than anyone I’ve ever known to live good lives and enjoy every minute of their lives while fighting the disease. I’m proud to know them and I’m trying to take their attitudes and apply it to my life.
I’m trying to be grateful that I can get up in the morning without being sick, that I can feel an ache in my hip and know it’s because I need to get fit and not because there may be a tumor in my bone, that I can pull my hair back in a clip. I’m also trying to be grateful for movies, music, books, blogs, art, friends, ripe nectarines, naps and time. And I’m trying to do it in the matter-of-fact way that those people I really respect do it. There is no show of “look how grateful and evolved I am!” They are just aware of all of their blessings (and yes, the crap they are going through too), and are happy to have them.
I hope I can say with some truthfulness that I don’t take the most important things for granted. I am aware of how spectacular my child, my husband, my family, my colleagues, my country are. I am also aware of and grateful for the time I had with Mark. I hope that I can use my own example and always be grateful for those people and things while trying my hardest to become more aware and grateful of all of the other spectacular things I am and I have.
This is a cross-post from Type-A Mom.