Lately, I have been feeling anything but grateful. I have been questioning why we are ‘the chosen ones’, what makes us qualified to raise our baby with Down syndrome. I have been scanning crowds when we’re at the park or public swimming pool, looking for another family who may have a child who might be less than ‘perfect’ so I don’t feel so alone. I have felt jealous of mums who get to take home their little bundle of chromosomally-normal joy, while we’re going to have a baby who always comes with a disclaimer. Couple those insecurities with pregnancy hormones (oh, they have so much to answer for), a bit of sleep deprivation (darn bladder of a 35-weeks pregnant woman and some unsettled children) and that equates to far too many almost-complete-strangers witnessing my tears lately. But this wasn’t meant to be a ‘woe is me’ post…
While I certainly have my moments, I feel lucky to have inherited the Pollyanna gene from my Mum, who has successfully managed to instill in me a sense of optimism regardless of the circumstances, to help me to find that silver lining even when I’d rather sulk under the big black storm cloud for a while. Don’t get me wrong, I do think it’s important to really ‘feel’ emotions, good and bad, rather than just sweeping them under the carpet – life isn’t always sunshine and roses, and we need both light and darkness to appreciate the full spectrum – but I rarely let myself indulge in wallowing for too long.
In the past few weeks, I’ve been reading Ann Voskamp’s ‘One Thousand Gifts’ . She has a beautiful style of writing, but it’s not an easy read, especially if you’re not religiously inclined. Essentially the message is to ‘dare to live fully, right where you are’ – that life can be difficult, challenging and painful, but if we challenge ourselves to be thankful for the little moments in our daily lives, we will find joy. Ann collects her ‘thousand gifts’ in a journal, amidst her busy life with six home-schooled children on a farm, and includes such visions as “362. Suds… all color in sun” as she does the dishes. Simple pleasures.
It’s not a new concept – one of my all time favourite books is ‘Simple Abundance’ by Sarah Ban Breathnach and in it she encourages readers to use a ‘gratitude journal’ to record five things each day that they are thankful for. I’m sure Oprah talked about it too. There’s also the 365grateful project. And it makes sense. Surely if we slow down enough to see the beauty in little things in our lives, we will realise just how much we have to be grateful for and feel more content with what we have, rather than constantly searching for something more?
I know, beyond a doubt, that I have so many blessings in my life. The big stuff is impressive enough. Two beautiful, healthy boys that fill my life with joy; a loving husband to share this journey with; an amazing (big, noisy, supportive… the adjectives are endless) family who remind me that they are thinking of me in big and little ways; incredible friends. But on some days, when the fatigue and hormones tend to outweigh the feelings of contentedness, I know there is so much of the little stuff too, if I’m quiet and attentive and thankful. A beautiful tree in our backyard that we love to play under in the afternoons; the delight and giggles of boys playing in 10cm of water; still being able to see my toes (when I sit down); the ‘hungry bottom’ of my ultra-cute almost-2 year old; sometimes rare, but tender moments between two small brothers. Oh yes, there is much to be thankful for. I have an empty notebook beside my bed… wonder if I can get to 1000?