On December 31st, 2017, my family buried a time capsule in the rocky earth of northern New Mexico with a collective intention to move into the new year free from the weight of our recent past. We watched it recede in the rearview mirror of our dusty SUV as we drove away that next morning—back towards home and towards a fresh new year.
We were seeking slow. Pining for boring. Aiming for unbusy. We intended to achieve this with a simplified approach to our daily lives, less over scheduling and more empty space to just be.
A rocket launch is what we got. The first sixty days of this year have included more change than we expected (and so very much more than we were seeking). But, though the pace of our days has often felt frenetic, it has been a result of a literal downpour of positive things—new opportunities, unexpected timing, please-pinch-me strokes of good fortune. All coinciding with uncanny alignment so that, even in the midst of such constant and persistent change, it all felt like a singular flow and we were simply hitching a ride along with the tide.
While we’ve been caught up in our own raging, but positive, current, we have watched as the wider world continues to turn in on itself. Along with the rest of the nation, we mourn the tragedy of yet more dead children, killed by children with guns. It is a grief heavy laden by the fact that this is such an ordinary, American tragedy, with a narrative so familiar that we have allowed its horror to fade, along with connection to our own humanity.
In this same new year, we have watched as close friends experience deep and profound heartbreak, relatives face down the realities of newly-diagnosed disabling disease, and one family’s utter paralysis after the sudden loss of their young son.
I am under no illusion that we can wish away our troubles by stuffing them into an old coffee can and burying them in the ground. Yet the ground—groundedness—is something I am finding to be my refuge in this happy, chaotic, overwhelming, disappointing, exhausting, inspiring, ordinary, tragic year.
I had a litany of grounding practices and habits I planned to integrate and stick to this year, most of which never got farther than the page of my journal. But there is one new habit I began and have stuck with, a mobile app of all things, that has profoundly shifted my perspective.
Each day, the Gratitude Journal app on my old iPhone 5s gives me a reason to pause to think about something I am grateful for. The interface, with its monthly calendar view, makes it shamefully obvious if I just phone it in with the same generic gratitude all the time. I’ve found myself really pausing to think, to look through pictures on my phone or think back through the day for what I am most grateful for (right now) in my world.
I try to use my body response as a barometer, paying attention to what I feel as I mentally tick through a list of gratitude candidates. That feeling is sometimes accompanied by a laugh or smile, when recalling something one of the boys said before school that day. Often times, though, what I feel is guilt or shame in the face of blessings I have but don’t always deserve. Surprisingly (or not), when I look back through my gratitude calendar, I tend to list the most things I am grateful for on the days I feel the worst.
Thankful, With Strings Attached
I’ve always been annoyed by the saying, “A grateful heart is a magnet for miracles.” It feels somehow parsimonious and superstitious at the same time. But now I realize I’ve been reading it all wrong.
You don’t earn points with the Universe’s miracle bank by practicing gratitude. My gratitude journal doesn’t change the harsh and unfair realities of the world. What it does, though, is it allows me to see the miracles happening all around me. Not just through the words I type into my app each morning, but also in little moments of magic sprinkled throughout the rest of the day.
This year, I began to look at the world with my eyes open just a little bit wider. And what I can see takes my breath away.
That is miraculous enough for me.
Some things I am grateful for:
- The solitude and quiet of early mornings
- Midweek movie nights
- My illogical self-assuredness
- Netflix’s The Good Place with Kristen Bell
- My infinitely patient husband, who challenges me and catches me when I fall (which, as it turns out, is quite a lot)
- My infinitely patient friends
- My failures, because they have been my greatest teachers
- My stepsons, who give me something brand new to fall in love with about each of them every day
- 13 weeks of Yoga Immersion with Buffy Barfoot
- Watching people I love pursue a passion, sometimes with a front-row view (ex: the birth of Clean Life. Real World, the health/lifestyle venture from my lifelong friend Elena Peden)
- An entire Saturday without any plans
- My father, for raising a different kind of daddy’s girl
- Curiosity of the human spirit
- 1980’s movies
- Supper Club
- Financial struggle, because it has taught me the real value of money and the meaning of intentional spending
- My in-laws (seriously)
- Mexican food
- Our dog, Zelda
- Free printables
- Our kitten, Link
- Living within a few miles of my sisters, yet 2,000 miles from where the three of us grew up together
- The Mississippi BB King postage stamp
- My matriarchy of southern belles
- Handwritten letters
- Taco night
- The podcast, Edit Your Life with Asha Dornfest and Christine Koh
- Conversations about God and the universe with our 11yr-old
- Sayulita, Mexico
- 50% Off Days at Goodwill