Friday, July 20, 2012


On a day like today, when people died needlessly in a theater in Colorado, when making sense of the gunman's motive is beyond the average heart, I find myself withdrawing and adopting a grateful mindset.

I learned the value of this attitude the day before Mother's Day last year. Early in the morning my son called to say he had broken his femur and was in the emergency room at the local hospital. I didn't ask what happened, I just said I'd be there as soon as possible and hung up. 

When we got to the hospital, my son was obviously in extreme pain, despite the above average strength medication he had received. He was also as white as a sheet. He had been x-rayed, scanned and had every blood test possible and the hospital decided his injury required the services of an orthopedist and transferred him to another hospital, a major trauma center twenty five miles away. It is a world class facility and people from all over the state and the country are sent there in cases of major trauma.

Eventually, at around two in the afternoon, my son was wheeled into the theater. On the operating table, they discovered that he had not only broken his femur and chipped his pelvis, but he had also been slowly bleeding from multiple small veins and had lost half the blood in his body.

He recovered from the surgery pretty quickly, but required an extended stay in hospital because he had a problem getting his blood pressure back to where it should have been. 

I'm rambling here, but the next day, Mother's Day, everyone on the nursing staff kept commenting on what a horrid Mother's Day gift I had been given. This gave me pause. I didn't agree with them at all, you see. 

The thought that my son could have bled out and died had he not had access to world class treatment was such a scary one, that I didn't really want to acknowledge it. What I did know for certain was that I had been given the greatest Mother's Day gift any mother could ask for - my son, who happens to be an only child. I was still a mother. From that day, I began to adopt gratitude as a way to begin and end each and every day. 

I am woken every morning at five o'clock on the dot, by a crazy Maine Coon kitten named Mal, the newest addition to our furling family. He gets right up in my face and yeowls as loudly as possible, until I get up. I'm grateful for him, because I wake up giggling as a result of his little habit. It's impossible to be angry or even annoyed with him. He's adorable. So that's my first 'gratitudinal'. 

Together, Mal and I traipse downstairs and I greet the other three cats. Cuddles and hugs out of the way, I head out to the porch to welcome the day with open arms. I'm grateful for the sunrise, and the noisy Cardinals in the maple trees, because it means I am here to enjoy my family and friends and creatures for another day, that I can see and hear and smell and touch. That I am whole. My second 'gratitudinal'.

I hear my husband stirring upstairs - okay, thudding - the man has a heavy tread, what can I say? I'm grateful for the creaking boards and the thumping on the staircase, because it means my soul mate - and he really is just that - will be joining me momentarily for our early morning hour of news on BBC America. It's the only thing that's on at that hour!

He brings me coffee and hugs me and tells me he loves me. I'm so grateful for all that he is and all that he does. My third 'gratitudinal'. 

So the day progresses. I give thanks often : for my son, the cool breeze, the stray cats who come to be fed twice a day, good things in the mail, phone calls or emails from friends, photos on Facebook, wisecracks on Pinterest.

I've discovered that being grateful makes the day easier to bear, especially when things go wrong or when some tragedy occurs and is plastered wall to wall on every news channel. I don't mean 'falling to my knees and offering prayers to Heaven with tears streaming down my face' kind of gratitude. There's no wailing and flailing involved, just a simple hand to the heart, slight tilt of the head, eyes closed 'Thank you' to remind myself that I could very easily be without any of those people or things, but I'm not. Don't wait around for someone or something to disappear or be removed from your life, by circumstances beyond your control, before you feel grateful for them/it.

But those are the big things. There are lots of little things that you can give thanks for all through the day. Some examples, you ask? Well, here are a couple. I burned my hand taking something out of the oven (I'm a chef, so it's a frequent thing), but I have, however, discovered the most incredible burn jel that takes away the pain almost instantly and, bonus, there is never a blister the next day. So instead of being angry at myself for gripping a pan that's been in a four hundred degree oven, I'm really grateful for that stuff. Or I drop and break a glass or mug on the the kitchen floor, but I'm instantly grateful that there are no cats in the kitchen at the time, rather than being down on myself for being clumsy. 

You see it's not just about offering thanks. It's also about replacing emotions like anger, frustration, disappointment, fear, regret, misery, sadness, jealousy, inadequacy, embarrassment, et al, with something better. A pivot, you could say. Your reaction to any situation is always your choice, and if you train yourself to go to the calm or peaceful option every time, life becomes less complicated. I'm not saying it's easy or that it happens overnight. I'm not even saying that you'll feel actual gratitude deep down - at first. But the more you do it, the easier and more genuine it becomes, and if you do it often enough you will find your heart is so full of gratitude, that there really isn't room for all those other feelings anymore. 

For me, it was an easy thing to do because that Mother's Day, I realized that the thing I was most grateful for in the entire world, was my son's heartbeat. And there are not enough words in any language on the planet to adequately express how deeply, truly, truly deeply grateful I am for that.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I'm so grateful you stopped by!