It’s that time of year. Our Facebook feeds are once again peppered with other people’s “30 days of gratitude.” Most days the posts are pretty banal – I’m grateful for my family, my health, this meal. Real gratitudes? Maybe. But more like hollow platitudes, say the bah humbugs in us.
We’ve read all the research that making a daily affirmation of gratitude changes your perspective, makes you more appreciative of what you have in your life. And we’ve tried it. Last year we bought a super-cute couples journal just for that purpose – once a week we determined to sit down and write 5 things we appreciated about each other. We lasted barely two months before the journal settled into the bottom drawer of our bedside table, where it still remains. We’ve tried going around the dinner table, asking everyone to share what they’re grateful for. But we often forget, and on nights we do remember, the conversation usually quickly gets sidelined and we never go back to it.
The problem – these rote exercises don’t feel right to us. On good days, they feel like another burdensome chore. On bad ones, they simply feel disingenuous. Maybe we haven’t tried long enough or hard enough, but the land of daily affirmations just isn’t doing it for us.
Taking time to be appreciative only during the once-a-year-pause-to-say-thanks-then-promptly-forget-all-about-it that is Thanksgiving also doesn’t feel right to us. We totally buy into the notion that an attitude of gratitude makes you healthier, happier, quicker to forgive and slower to fight, and more pleasant to be around. But in the midst of the daily chaos that consumes our two-career, two-kid life, it’s really hard to remember, let alone maintain.
So this year, we’re doing something different. No forcing ourselves to muster platitudes when we really don’t feel like it. No mumbling half-hearted blanket statements. No, this year we’re acknowledging head-on all that drives us crazy every day. This year:
We are thankful for frequent middle-of-the-night wake-ups; the daily 20+ minute-long trek across the 50 feet from our back door to the car; the loud shrieks of kids squabbling; unexpected tackles that tweak our backs and necks; a messy house overtaken by toys; the irritating whines of children; never-ending loads of laundry; constant battles over the simple request to put on clothes/brush teeth/wash hands/get in bed/do anything at all mildly productive in a reasonable period of time; potty words that invade far too many conversations; and always being 5 (or 10 or 20) minutes late. All of these daily annoyances mean we have the luxury of having children – a luxury that seemed out of reach for so long while we struggled with infertility. A luxury brought painfully home by the recent sudden passing of B’s summer camp roommate’s child.
We are thankful for the weeds that have overtaken our backyard; the slab of stone façade hanging off the front of our house; disintegrating porches that need to be refinished; a leaky master shower; the way normal voices in the kitchen sound like a brass band marching through our bedroom; the perpetual bills of home ownership. All of these aggravations mean we have the luxury of owning a house, a safe space for our kids to play and be and grow and call home.
We are thankful for obnoxiously loud barks; grating middle-of-the-night coughs from under our bed; having to remember 6 pills a day, bi-weekly shots, and monthly medications; the (no-longer-so-occasional) accidents on bedroom carpets. These mean we have the luxury of our family dog, our “first child”, our kids’ beloved playmate, being still with us despite congestive heart failure.
We are thankful for the need for weekly scheduling dates; the hassle of juggling three babysitters’ schedules; constant negotiations over which one of us gets to do what after-hours work event when; hours spent commuting; hurried work trips crammed into as short a window as possible; never-ending emails. These mean we have the luxury of meaningful jobs, of being able to provide for our family.
We are thankful for frequent trips to the grocery store; a cabinet full of canned goods; a refrigerator full of food D angsts over cooking and eating before it goes bad; boxes of mediocre snack bars our kids refuse to eat. These mean we have the luxury of plenty of food, of choosing what we eat and when we eat it – a luxury unknown to far too many families in this country.
We are thankful for long waits at the doctor’s office; rarely-accurate health insurance bills; conversations with on-call nurses whose advice is almost always “bring her in”; hours lost in back-and-forth negotiations with old health insurance companies for long-forgotten treatments. These mean we have the luxury of regular access to healthcare.
We are thankful for heated negotiations over which of us is the primary parent in charge at any given moment; the many articles and blog posts about parenting and marriage that we clog each other’s inboxes with; the fights when we’re not bringing our best selves to our relationship; monthly sessions with our marriage therapist; too many date nights spent not on romance, but on tackling our family to-do list – sorting finances, plotting vacations, planning kids’ schooling. These mean we have the luxury of a marriage where both partners are all-in and care deeply, where both partners value working through challenges together, instead of letting issues fester and damage the relationship or the family.
This year, we are grateful for all the things that seem unbearable in the moment. Because when we take a step back, we realize these annoyances really are the luxuries of our crazy life. And we challenge ourselves to remember that simple fact in the midst of the daily chaos, at least once in a while.
This year, what daily annoyances are you thankful for?