The last few weeks, I have been participating in a daily gratitude exercise.
I think I am grateful for what I have in my life but I am not going to lie – this exercise is sometimes a challenge.
Don’t get me wrong: I am immensely grateful for everything I have in my life. I have gentle, daily reminders of grace, but there are times I struggle with those feelings of want.
Our cabin is far too small and cramped. I want a bigger, newer house. I want to have more than one bathroom, for many reasons but the most selfish is so I can put on my makeup without someone knocking on the door telling me to hurry up.
I think of how my car is old and was used when I bought it. It’s small and it wasn’t the car of my choice– but it was what I could afford.
I think of all the things I want, and don’t have.
In other words, I am more focused on what I don’t want than what I do.
And I let petty little occurrences completely steal my joy.
I get disappointed about something and it ruins my day.
Again, it’s not because I am not grateful, because I am.
But I think I have that Depression-consciousness that came from Granny, who was grateful for what she had but also was scared to talk much about having anything out of fear of jinxing herself.
She was thankful once for getting some money and then turned around and had an unexpected expense come up. She just sighed and said she never could have what she wanted.
My uncle Bobby, ever believing he’s going to hit a jackpot, won $160 on a lottery ticket one day and gave half to his favorite – and only – niece. I was going to go to Ulta, to the bookstore, and maybe even the shoe store. I could stretch that money to the inth degree.
The next day, my car battery was dead and needed to be replaced.
I was deflated.
“Story of my life, old gal,” Granny said. “I get some unexpected money, and unexpected bill comes up. I can’t get ahead.”
Of course, that didn’t help; I had always been told Granny and I were just alike.
“Maybe consider it a blessing you had that money to begin with,” Mama said to balance out Granny’s negative spin. “Maybe that’s why Bobby was led to give it to you – to pay for that battery.”
Perhaps, but it was a huge disappointment to me. I had been so excited and was looking forward to going shopping with some ‘mad money.’
Flash forward through the rest of my adult life and just like Granny, I was thankful and grateful but had an underlying sense of fear of losing what little I had.
“I worried about my GPA in college, I made good grades, and I am not scared to work hard; I don’t know why I am not a flippin’ millionaire, Mama,” I cried one day.
She didn’t know what to tell me, other than she wasn’t sure either. She wondered herself.
“Granny and Pop worked hard, too, Kitten,” she said softly.
I knew what she meant. They worked hard, too, and neither were close to being a millionaire.
“Remember what Barry told you about Granny though? Maybe that is how we are supposed to live.” Mama was referring to how a family friend who had known Granny all his life described her, saying, “She was not wealthy by earthly means, but you never knew it the way she loved. She loved generously and deeply.”
True. If the old gal wasn’t wanting to shoot you, she loved you.
There was no in-between.
“I know, Mama,” I said, still wallowing in the deep pool of self-mire. “I just thought for sure, I would be a millionaire by now, given how hard I work.”
I was in one of those funks that neither Mama nor chocolate could pull me from.
These funks come and go over the years, too.
After a few years of not being able to get Cole nearly what he wanted for Christmas, I have started shopping a little bit earlier, even if he sees it.
“Why are you starting so early?” he asked me a few weeks ago as ghosts and goblins were still on display.
“Because, baby,” was my reply.
My child is able to pick up on my moods and sensed there was something deeper. “Why, Mama? Are you OK?”
“Yes,” I assured him, seeing his worried face. “I just, I-” I searched for words.
“Last year I waited almost too late to get your stuff and everything was almost gone — that was a huge disappointment for you. And there’s been a few years your gifts were not that great.”
There had been a few years, his gifts were pretty lean and skimpy to be truthful.
“I just want to be able to get you stuff you want and like, is all. If I was rich, I could get you everything but since I am not, I am getting you a little bit as I can.”
He looked up at me, his face wrinkled in only the confusion pure childlike innocence can invoke. “Oh, sweet girl,” he said. “Don’t you see how rich we are? We have a house, we have three dogs who love us, we have a car, a van, and I have tons of toys. I’ve never not liked anything I got at Christmas – each year has been perfect and the best Christmas ever.
We have food to eat, clothes to wear, and a roof over our heads. If we went and asked people in other countries, they would think we were millionaires! But don’t you see how rich we really are? We’ve just got to be thankful for it…”
And, just like that, my heart was full.