Like many people, these last 20 months have taken their toll on my general well-being. My body hurts in odd places for no apparent reason. I dwell on all the things I’ve not been able to do because of the pandemic, grieving over the two lost summers of travel with my boys who will soon be too old to take family trips–maybe they already are. My favorite time of the day tends to be around 9:30 p.m. when it’s late enough I can get into bed and kid myself it’s because I’m tired, not because I have nothing else to do. I’ve been feeling my heart get heavier, my optimism stuttering, and John Cougar Mellencamp’s lyrics too often in my head, “Oh ya, life goes on, long after the thrill, of living is gone.” (No, I am not, and was not a Mellencamp fan, but you can’t have grown up in the 80’s in America and not known this song.)
I don’t know if it’s just prolonged trauma that has had me wallowing in grief, melancholy and general despondency, focusing on things that I’ve lost or don’t have, instead of recognizing and lifting up the things that I do. But today instead of reading the New York Times or Politico, which only adds to my angst and depression, I watched multiple TED talks on gratitude. This was prompted–no joke–by a wellness newsletter from my health insurance that was all about cultivating a gratitude practice.
Now, I’m no stranger to the studies done on gratitude practice, meditation, or mindfulness, and yet I’ve not been practicing these things with any consistency for years. But, just watching others express their gratitude and talk about the power it has to make us happy, lifted my spirits. I wasn’t even the one doing the gratitude practice–it was gratitude by proxy! And after dinner tonight, I didn’t have that dull lethargy that I often feel when the long hours of evening (damn you Day Light Savings Time!) are staring me down. Even when the boys were wrestling and banging around this evening and the dog started her insane barking at their antics, I actually thought–“I’m so glad I have these two teenage creatures in my house to entertain me, even if they do put a hole in the wall,” rather than “Oh God, someone save me from this madhouse!”
I guess what I’m getting at, which is absolutely no revelation at all, is that I need to choose not to focus on the deficits in my life. I can make an active choice to recognize the assets and give them a shout out, particularly when that sluggish swamp monster of despair is threatening to drag me down in the mire to join him in a misery-party.
So, on that note, let me begin my practice of actively recognizing a handful of things for which I’m grateful. I won’t say I’ll do it every day because, hey, I don’t need to add that kind of pressure to my already fragile emotional state. But I’m going to do it often (though don’t worry, dear reader, I won’t subject you to it on my blog besides today).
I’m grateful for:
- My loud, playful, sometimes smelly teenage boys who are really awesome people who I get to spend time with every day;
- My house, which is cozy, comfortable, and in a neighborhood where I can go out on my lunch hour and have a lovely, long walk filled with blazing orange and red trees;
- Burrito Boy’s drive-thru where we picked up dinner tonight after our preferred Mexican restaurant was closed. Their habanero salsa is stellar and their massive burritos almost fill up my 14 year-old man-child (though he did eat the other half of my taco salad tonight too).
Oh, and to help on my path to recovered happiness and optimism, I vow to stop reading/listening to the news. Instead, I will listen exclusively to my boyfriends on the Smartless podcast. Jason Bateman, if you ever read this, I love you! (Sorry Will, you are a close second.)