On Gratitude

Studies show that by focusing on what you’re grateful for, you can actually change your brain’s chemistry. Neuroplasticity and all that jazz. This last week I was particularly struck by this. I consciously think about what I’m grateful for when writing in my 5-minute-journal every morning. Sometimes this is in a sleep haze and my notes might not be the most thoughtful…i.e. it’s slightly embarrassing how many times one of my three “I’m grateful for” things includes simply – coffee.

But last week I had read this post of Elise’s and clicked through to this massively expensive house in La Jolla.  Gorgeous. Crazy.   In the same blog reading session I also read Kimberley’s series about the terrible financial troubles she’s gone through over the last few years and is currently facing. (My heart goes out to her SO much! And I think it’s really brave of her to share her story.) And the starkness of these two things just really hit me. 

We have had our fair share of financial worries, crises, account overdrafts, maxed credit cards, broken down cars, etc.  The list goes on and on.  And sometimes these issues can weigh so heavily on our minds, relationships and daily activities that it feels suffocating.  Chris and I have been through so many ups and downs in the 8 ½ years we’ve been together.  But if you compare where we are now to where we were when I was in college working 3 part-time jobs while going to school and him working 2 jobs, seven days per week (literally the man worked 7 days per week for like 2 years. NO days off - love you, babe.) , you can see such a huge difference.  Despite all of that we’ve always come out on the other side. We’ve never lived in fear of homelessness or had the incredibly humbling experience of being on food stamps. (Thank god for those programs, by the way)  It really just gives me so much perspective of all that I have to be grateful for and appreciative of.

I really like what Kimberly says about how most people just assume everyone is functioning in society the same way that they are.  They can’t imagine how others function differently.  What living paycheck to paycheck looks like. It is so true.  I think sometimes we get stuck living in our own little bubbles for so long that we can’t see how truly good we have it.  So as I sit here drinking my - most certainly a luxury – French press of Temple Coffee, I pledge, even in the harder, darker moments to do my best to be grateful and appreciative for all that I truly have. 

When I’m bummed that we can’t afford go out to dinner…I will be thankful that we not only make it a priority to buy but have the ability to afford healthy food. So many people are not that lucky.

When I’m feeling down that I can’t buy Clare the latest thing that all of my other mom friends are buying their kids, or when it feels like everyone around me can afford new clothes, gadgets, etc while we can’t – I will look around at all of the things we do have that seem absurdly luxurious when I really stop and think about what others go through. They may be ‘old’ or a bit run down, but we have TWO working cars. Two!  We both have computers, cell phones, CENTRAL AIR CONDITIONING.  We may live in a small house with a bit of  a run down bathroom, and no dishwasher. But we have an adorable, thankfully affordable rental with plenty of space for our family. And hello - less to clean!  (I've been mulling around a post on an ode to this little house. Someday I'll get it all written out)

When I am sad to be spending another weekend alone while most of my friends have ‘family time’ and Chris works out of town…I will be thankful that while Amtrak’s erratic schedule can be irritating, it supports us and our family and there are so many weekdays when the board is slow that we DO get to spend together that other families never get.

When I’m frustrated that I can’t find enough time to write or work in between Clare duty and piano & zumba teaching, cramming things into the cracks and crevices of naps…I will be grateful that thanks to Chris’s job, I AM able to pursue my passions of childbirth education, podcasting and writing without being chained to a 9-5 job and while also spending much more time with my young daughter than most have the luxury to. 

When my anxiety disorder starts to spiral as my menstrual cycle changes or I overextend myself, rather than digging myself into a deeper hole of worry and blaming myself for not ‘handling’ everything, I will be grateful for the amazing support system of Chris, family, friends, an excellent psychiatrist and the small self-care routines I have created over the last few years. 

Clare has been particularly challenging these last few weeks. Middle of the night wake ups – 4:30am up for the day – more tantrums than I can count – molar teething HELL. But she’s also had some of her sweetest moments…big hugs and kisses and other adorableness. Learning to help her manage her spirited personality will always be our challenge, but also our joy. I love my little firecracker cheese-ball so much that my heart hurts. And for that, I am incredibly thankful.

I got this art print last year, and it really is one of my favorite quotes.  We may not have everything, but we sure do make the best of what we have. And I need to remember to appreciate that.  We all do. 

What have you been taking for granted lately? What small thing could you be grateful for today? Share in the comments!