A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my problem with contentment. Or, more specifically, my lack thereof. If you missed it, you can read that post here.
I decided, at that point, to start a gratitude list in an effort to shift my perspective. I wanted to take my focus off what I don’t have and what I can’t control and instead fix my eyes and heart to the things that are in front of me on a day-to-day basis.
I began each day with the words of Maya Angelou running through my head,
“This a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.”
Two weeks in, my list is now at 141, with items ranging from “A good winter jacket” and “A full tank of gas” to “Cream in my coffee,” “Good conversation,” “Hot showers,” and “A cotton candy sunrise.”
On a practical level, it’s meant paying attention to the details as I’m going through the mundane things of my day, like driving kids to and from activities, morning routines, and grooming rituals, and changing the narrative in my mind about these things.
As the hot water cascades over your shoulders, have you stopped to consider what a miracle water heaters are and how privileged we are to simply turn a faucet and have an unlimited supply? Okay, maybe not unlimited, but certainly enough for a luxurious shower.
The things we tell ourselves have tremendous power to shape our hearts and attitudes.
My love/hate relationship with the sport my children are involved in can easily vacillate from one extreme to the other, with my emotions riding the roller coaster up and down, around and around.
But if I reframe the narrative that I tell myself about it, instead approaching it from a place of gratitude, I can see benefit after benefit: my children are strong and healthy, they are amazing athletes, they are challenged daily in so many ways, they have coaches who demonstrate passion and discipline, they love it, and they have made lifelong friends.
For me, I see what a privilege it is that we are able to afford to have them in sports, that I have a schedule that enables me to drive and volunteer and support them, and I’m grateful for the friendships I have made over the years we’ve been involved.
Truly, despite the ups and downs, there is so much to be thankful for.
But I have to be deliberate in looking for it in the midst of the ups and downs.
“In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”
Ironically, I recently found myself in what I consider to be a little test of this whole gratitude attitude.
Maybe you don’t know this about me, but I’m a car girl.
I. love. cars.
I always have. And I’m always looking at the vehicles on the road, dreaming of my next slick ride.
Unfortunately for me, my husband is not a car guy. And while I would gladly replace my car every five years for something shiny and different, the love of my life will drive the same car for 25 years until that thing is being held together by Bondo and duct tape. He has other redeeming qualities though, so…
Last week, I had to take our family car in to the body shop for a minor repair resulting from an unfortunate run-in with the bumper of a pick-up truck in a parking lot.
With my new and improved attitude shift, I am so grateful the accident wasn’t worse, there were no injuries (unless you count my pride), no damage to the pick-up, and we have insurance: another first-world privilege. Our insurance entitled us to a rental car for the duration of the repair—which is awesome, because we spend a lot of time in our car!
When I arrived at the rental agency to pick up the loaner vehicle, they pointed me to a brand-spanking new BMW.
Well, you can just imagine how impossible I’m going to be once I get my eight year-old Toyota back. (Which, according to my husband isn’t even halfway into its lifespan.)
But I have to say, while driving a BMW for a few days was a nice treat (despite not finding the steering wheel heater button) I was quite happy to get my Toyota back at the end of the week.
The truth is, it’s a great car: solid, dependable, fits all our stuff and kids comfortably, has just the right amount of bells and whistles (no steering wheel heat though, which is a feature I for sure want in my next car in another 17 years!) and I feel safe on the roads. That Toyota is a gift. And when I got it back from the body shop, washed and detailed with a shiny new bumper, I was grateful to have it. Period.
Would I still like a new car with steering wheel heat? Honestly, yes.
Will it kill me to wait another 17 years for a new car? Maybe…. Just kidding, cars don’t generally last that long any more so I’m not too worried.
Do I still struggle with restlessness and discontent? Yes, but I’m getting better at catching those moments and shifting my perspective to the positive.
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”
~Philippians 4:8-9 (The Message)
For those of you who messaged me two weeks ago to say you were also going to embark on your own gratitude challenge, how are you doing? Has the shift in perspective had an impact on your level of discontent?
I’m interested to know, so drop me a note in the comments below or send an email through the contact form.
Gratitude item #142
I’m thankful for you, who read and respond and share these little musings. It does my heart all kinds of good to know that some small thought here resonates with you and I’m grateful for the time you spend here in this space.
I’ll leave you with one final thought from a man who was genius in more ways than one apparently,
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
Ever grateful for grace,