Thankfulness is a breeze, and sometimes a hurricane

Sometimes thankfulness is barely noticeable, like the lightest of breezes on a hot summer’s day. It’s there, still making my heart beat, still flowing through the me-ness of me. But I don’t notice. I go about my day, taking life and gratitude for granted: picking up a small child, talking with that child – now grown – kissing my husband goodbye or hello, talking with friends in person or on the phone.  Feeling gratitude all the while, but not noticing. Stroking a cat, and feeling it again, but it’s so woven into the cloth of daily life that it goes unobserved. Making soup with organic vegetables, and gratitude is in every chop of the knife, in every stir of the spoon. Yet somehow it seems so small, so not worth noting.

So sometimes, thankfulness – which is life after all – brings us hurricanes. Gratitude blasts us with moments we remember for the rest of our days. The sound of my second daughter crying as she was born is a hurricane that still blasts through me every now and then. I am washing dishes and for no apparent reason, it comes into my mind. In that first moment after her birth, hearing her cry meant I knew she was alive, had survived the birth that came far too early. I knew she had a chance. Just remembering that moment is enough to bring tears to my eyes even now, and stirs wonder at the miracle of life, of our existence.

Here’s another – standing looking out the kitchen window of my parents’ home, my father at my side. My girls are outside playing, cycling the bikes he fixed up for them every year. We are watching them and he is talking about that wonder, at the miracle of my daughter surviving.  I sense his awe and feel my own, now multiplied several times over because of this shared understanding.

There was something about that moment, about hearing my father’s expression of gratitude, his innocent, open thankfulness for life, that stayed with me from that moment on, and yet that truly defies words. Have you ever stood with your face to the wind, while it whirls around you? It’s exhilarating, makes every part of the body tingle, makes every cell feel so vividly alive. Yes, gratitude can be a hurricane.

Wind is blowing through an open window as I type, and the sun is sneaking in between gaps in the blinds. There’s a patch on the keyboard, warming my hand. Snow Patrol is playing on iTunes, chosen by my daughter, that same daughter who flew into life in far too much of a hurry. She’s lying on the sofa at the other side of the room, soaking up the sun and the music, a smile on her face. Does she notice how much gratitude she’s feeling right now? Or does it flow through her, invisible like the wind?gratitude

I ask how she’s feeling. She smiles wider, and shrugs. “Why do you want to know?”

“I’m curious,” I say. It’s true, partially at least. Then I add, “I’m writing about gratitude just now and you look so peaceful, so I wondered if you were aware of it?”

She shrugs again. And smiles. Then she finds me a quote.  “The strong man who has known power all his life, may lose respect for that power, but a weak man knows the value of strength, and knows… compassion.”  It’s from Captain America, in case you wonder. He was once weak and asthmatic. So was she.

She does that, this daughter – watches what seem to be mindless programs and movies and finds mindfulness in them. She writes out her favourite quotes, and tapes them to her wardrobe doors. Here’s one from Castle, which to most of us is a television detective show, but to her is a source of wisdom:

“Even on the worst days, there’s the possibility for joy.”

It’s true. Moments of joy, those grateful full moments of life, can come even on the darkest days, even in bleakest moments.

This practice of my daughter’s is similar to what some Buddhist monks do – and some Christian monks . They find God in the ordinary things in life, they make chopping wood an act of meditation or praise. This is how my life is beginning to flow –  so much more often now those simple, ordinary things where once I didn’t notice gratitude are becoming more vivid, more – just more.

So how do you separate those moments out and say – this one I am grateful for, this one I am not? As I type that, a feeling of fear grips around my stomach, and I notice images flow through my mind: hospitals, illness. My father’s death.

The really odd thing is that with hindsight, many of the times that feel so dark and bleak are the moments that later become those shining lights of gratitude. My daughter crying. Mingled among the relief and gratitude at her birth were also fear, guilt, and a muddle of other emotions. Those emotions were there because I was imagining bleak futures for her, just as fear again stirred in me a few moments ago because I imagined futures for myself or for others and  because I remembered pasts. But in this moment, when my thoughts return to the fingers moving over the keyboard, when my ears listen again to with wind, when my eyes notice the sunlight, now creating a slice across the desk, when my arms feel the whisper of a breeze that has sneaked in through the window – what’s here now?

When we stop trying to change the past, or to control the future, all that remains is the gratitude. And to quote Emily Dickinson: Forever is composed of nows.”
 forever

 

Comments

  1. Oh but this is just GORGEOUS, Yvonne. Every part of it. Especially all of it. And the quote at the end. Wow. Thank you 🙂

    1. Author

      Oh, thanks Lizzi. Reading all the comments I’ve been overwhelmed with gratitude again! This post just sort of wrote itself – the breeze came in the window and the words just flowed.

  2. How beautiful! My daughter was also born much too early and I feel amazed by her every day. There is something just special about preemies isn’t there? This is so eloquent. I can feel your gratitude when I read it.

    1. Author

      So that’s something else we have in common Jen! I agree there is something special about preemies. I’ve often noticed a sort of innate wisdom in my daughter – wisdom’s not really the right word, but I can’t think what is. She just has a “knowing.”
      Thanks for stopping by!

    1. Author

      Jean – here’s something else I’m thankful for – that I checked my spam folder! I installed Askimet last week and it spammed your comment. But it did the same to replies I’d made last week. So weird!
      So you watch Castle too? My husband started watching it in our house, and our younger daughter is now hooked. She’s now got me watching with her on Friday evenings, and since she watches the reruns other evenings I am catching up!
      Glad you enjoyed this, and I appreciated your comment, even if Askimet didn’t!

  3. This is quite wonderful. And so apropos for me right now. Love this especially:

    The really odd thing is that with hindsight, many of the times that feel so dark and bleak are the moments that later become those shining lights of gratitude.

    I’m gonna work this into a post next week. I’ll give you credit. 🙂

  4. It is always nice to reflect on those moments of gratitude in our lives. The small things and the big things. I think they keep us humble and positive

    1. Author

      Veronica that’s an interesting thought – that moments of gratitude keep us humble. I hadn’t thought of it like that, but it does seem true, yes. Thanks for your comment.

  5. This is one of those posts that makes me inhale more deeply and exhale more slowly.

    You took me on a journey of richness and beauty in the moments that transpire and form into gratitude. I love this so so much.

    Thank you for this gift.

    1. Author

      Chris, thank you. It’s so nice to know that it had that effect for you. Writing it had a similar effect for me, though as I said to Lizzi, I almost feel as if it wrote itself.
      Thanks for your kind words.

  6. Suffering with a mental illness, it is those things that you have listed that I have become more aware of. I search for them.
    This is so beautiful and I hope that others take note. Life is wonderful and there is so much to be thankful for. Absolutely beautiful and I’m glad I stopped by

    1. Author

      Kimberley I am sorry to see that you suffer with a mental illness and I am sure that your thankfulness will help. I’m glad you stopped by too! Thanks for your comment.

  7. Oh wow. I needed to read such beauty this morning and I am going to bookmark it for future reading. It dovetails with what I wrote about this morning — your daughter has found mindfulness because you modeled it for her, in small ways no doubt. (And your prose is just… wow… gorgeous. I appreciate that just as much as the message!)

    1. Author

      Deb, yes I did think there were connections when I read your post today, (and with Stephanie Sprenger’s post too.) It’s funny, several people have said this is beautiful, yet it came so easily, that I don’t really feel like I can take the credit! It was one of those amazing moments when you write and everything just flowed. I don’t get them all that often, and I loved writing it and seeing what would come next! There’s a lesson there for me – because the more I try to write well, the less satisfied I feel, so time to stop trying!
      Thanks for your lovely comment and have a good week!

  8. I missed the first cry, as my preemie son was born via crash c-section. The first thing I asked when coming out of the anesthesia was, “How is the baby?” Your post brought hurricanes of emotions washing over me. My son is now almost 21 years old, strong and healthy–in stark contrast to his beginnings.

    I love the idea of gratitude as a way of life, and wrote a bit about that this week, too. Your analogy of the wind fits very well. Thank you for the beautiful post!

    1. Author

      Kristi, I don’t think I’d realised you had a preemie too. My first daughter was born by emergency c-section, so I have an inkling of what you went through there, but I had an epidural so I was conscious throughout.
      It’s so great that your son is strong and healthy now, and I hope those hurricanes of emotions were good ones!
      I do think that just as we sometimes don’t notice we feeling negative emotions, we also can feel gratitude without even noticing. Thanks for sharing your preemie’s story and I’ll check out your post now!

  9. It’s always the little things that save the day:)) I love the quotes on the wardrobe…your girl seems like she’s very clever! Wonder where she gets that from?

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