Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Gratitude is Not an Emotion
Christmas morning this year began at 4.55am. I thought we had grown out of pre-dawn Christmas starts, but when Posy hopped into my bed on Christmas morning it was with a request to "Please look in my ear - I think a moth crawled into it." I have to say that in twenty three years of parenting I have never had to inspect a child's ear for moths, which just goes to show that there is always a new experience round the corner. Thankfully there were no moths, but as we cuddled back to sleep I was struggling with my Christmas resolution for this to be a day with gratitude to the forefront.
Later as I woke with the sun shining in and I realised it was almost eight o'clock, there was my first moment of gratitude, and I lay and watched my twelve year old baby sleeping angelically and drank in the wonderfulness that is a sleeping child, one who still needs me everyday, if only to check her for moths, and that is a moment to treasure.
More moments of gratitude - I was running around madly getting things done, and getting lunch ready to take out and being grumpy about the fact that my parents were about to arrive and all the girls decided to have a shower and use the bathroom when I wanted a shower, and the breakfast dishes and late night cooking dishes hadn't been done yet, when a little voice inside my head slowed me down.
Here is the truth - my parents don't care if the house is immaculate, they come over because they love us and like to spend time with us. How lucky am I? And sharing a bathroom? Hey, running water is such a privilege. Plus, when I had two bathrooms I had to clean two bathrooms, and that was no fun at all. So when my parents arrived I was still in the shower, and we had presents and fruitcake then Mum and the girls helped with the dishes and Mum rinsed all the lettuce for salad and we all managed to get out the door in time for lunch, gratitude and tempers intact.
Lunch with friends was splendid, as always. Gratitude is easy when you get to spend time with kindred spirits. Here is my gift from my dear friend Karlin - she is a great gardener and very funny. What could be better than a joke gift that is useful and homegrown? I am absolutely using this idea for my work secret santa next year..
Back at home and The Boy arrived on Boxing Day to stay for a couple of weeks which is an unmitigated joy. We had to juggle the sleeping arrangements. The Girl has been here for a month already, and she is upstairs sharing the attic with Rosy. The Boy is sleeping in Posy's room, and Posy is now sharing with me. Later next week when The Boy's partner arrives I will give them my room and I will sleep in Posy's room on a mattress on the floor. I had a brief pang of regret for the large house I left behind, where all the children had their own room. The children themselves have had many pangs of regret over this. But, playing musical bedrooms at Christmastime is a long and honourable tradition. I remember squeezing into cousins' bedrooms like we were sardines, and queueing for the bathroom and getting into trouble Christmas 1984 for using up all the hot water at my aunt's house one day. I mean, I know I like long showers, but I was fifth out of the six persons having a shower that morning.. (clearly there are still residual psychological issues..)
Close quarters means getting in each others' faces a lot, but that means we are forced into relationship - no bad thing in a family of introverts. Conflict resolution is a good thing, right? Last night as we all sat around the table playing a card game with one of The Boy's friends who had popped over for dinner, well, the gratitude was easy. There was just enough room around our small table, but 'just enough' - that's all we need, isn't it?
This is what I am seeing from a few days of attempting to practice gratitude as often as I can remember. I don't have to feel good to feel gratitude. First I search for the good in a situation. Then I feel good. Gratitude is not an emotion, it is a deliberate intent to look for good. And here is the truth. For me it is not hard to be grateful. I have a wonderful life, full of the all the good things; family and friends and hot water and good food and a roof over my head. I don't need to spend any time at all being grumpy and irritable and judgemental and demanding. And yet I do. So going forward I will be practising some gratitude and slowing down to find the good that is all around..