Bittersweet Gratitude

Many of us have heard of the benefits of practicing mindfulness where we become more aware and therefore more present in any situation. Essentially, living in the moment. I can vouch personally for the simple routine of practicing gratitude where each night before I go to sleep I consciously think of three specific things I am grateful for that day. No matter how tired I am, it’s a lovely way to end the day. I do it quietly to myself, it’s just for me. It’s something I frequently recommend to clients who want help with seeing and valuing what’s going well in their lives.

Two things happened recently that took me to a different level. They made me both more deeply aware of what I have, and have reinforced an almost overwhelming sense of gratitude. Even with my daily routine of practicing gratitude, the positive feelings these two events stirred up caught me off guard. I’m sharing these with you to encourage you to pause and to think about what you could apply in your own life, because despite the fact that these events caused me to shed a few tears, they were mainly tears of happiness which in my experience are rare enough. And so all the sweeter.

 

BitterSweetGratitude

The first thing that happened is that my lovely husband went away for the weekend and took our gorgeous daughter with him. Actually on re-reading that sentence it sounds a bit alarming that I would be grateful but read on. I can count on one hand the number of nights I have been away from her. “Don’t worry mom, I’ll come back, I always do” was what she told me as we hugged goodbye. She’s almost three.  I had to hide my tears of pride. This is the standard line I use with her when her dad is away with work. She adores him and I always want to ensure she knows she’s loved and he will always come back to her. Hubby has been working incredibly hard lately for our family and I’ve barely seen him. I’m also heavily pregnant and fairly exhausted with the usual demands of motherhood, pregnancy and work. In theory and from a practical perspective this was a great plan. Two whole days to myself. To relax, spend time with friends, get my nails done, and the best bit, sleep uninterrupted! So why did I find myself dreading them leaving despite all the lovely things I had planned? Why did I keep grabbing her for one last hug? Why was I not irritated when my husband got home a bit later than he said he would to collect her? As they pulled away in the car leaving me in an eerily silent house, with zero responsibility for the first time in I don’t know how long, all I wanted to shout was “come back”! All the moments where my little girl has driven me crazy with her bedtime stall tactics, or her dramatic meltdowns over which fork I give her with her dinner or the other endless mommy things that crop up daily, were forgotten in an instant. My head said, sit down, relax, get to sleep early, make the most of your freedom. My heart just wanted her back. Don’t worry, I got over it pretty quickly but it’s been a lovely wakeup call that despite the frustrations of marriage and parenting, I love being a wife and mother, and when they got back I knew I would be refreshed and ready to go again and to give more.

The second thing that happened is that my good friend lost her dad to a sudden and brief illness. A man with seven daughters who we heard burst into the song “Thank heaven for little girls” any time they threw tantrums while growing up, and who bunny hopped them up the stairs to bed each night. A wonderful testimonial to a lovely man. Her world is no doubt falling down around her. I am so sad she has to go through this. For the fact that her children will no longer have their granddad. Losing a parent must be one of those moments in life where you have to fully be a grown up, you have no option to revert to child mode any longer.

My first instinct upon hearing the news was to text my own dad to tell him how much I love and appreciate him. We’re close, but he’s a typical man of his generation and isn’t one for words. He stunned me with the loveliest reply that I will keep forever. I have always appreciated my dad, but on this day, because of the awful experience my friend must go through, I got to feel closer to him. It’s moments like this in life that are what count. So for still having my dad, and for being reminded of how lucky I am I am truly grateful.

You’ll each have your own version of these stories. It could be anything that you might unconsciously take for granted. I think it’s interesting that for me both times I was reminded of how lucky I am it was linked to family. When it comes down to it what is more important than that. It’s been an emotional time and sometimes we don’t want to go there but equally sometimes it’s good to shed a few tears and to remember that life is good.

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