I’m learning to be grateful. I don’t just mean saying thank-you more or being more polite.
I am learning to embrace gratitude in every single aspect of my life.
It is no surprise, in this hectic, fast paced, technology-laced world; people are seeking lives of grateful simplicity. Blogs, magazines and books are celebrating the notion of living with less and actually “seeing” what and who we have – instead of walking right by. Authors like Ann Voskamp and Brene Brown’s books are making the New York Best Seller’s List.
But the person I am learning the most from is my Mom. Just last week I watched her dance.
As I arrived at the nursing home, Mom was a few feet ahead of me strolling down the hall behind her walker. She’d stop and shake her leg, take a step, stop and shake the other one. Not sure what was happening I picked up my step. Perhaps her pant legs were dragging on the floor I thought, anticipating that she might take a tumble. But when I got up to her side, I realize she was still humming, dancing and enjoying the line dancing event that had just wrapped up. Right there in the hallway she showed me her best moves.
I am not trying to suggest someone losing their mind, their personality and their memories to dementia is something to wish for, but at the same time watching Mom live with it has taught me about a lot about living.
At the beginning of her disease, Mom fought hard for control of her mind and her memories – a battle she could not win. But once she surrendered into her new normal, she began to practice something that has really left me shaking my head – daily gratitude.
Mom no longer worries about her car, her furnace or what people think. She doesn’t stress for an afternoon over whether or not she should apologize for being misinterpreted. She no longer frets about money, her children’s health or wellbeing, her own health or the condition of her soul. She just lives every day in a state of simple gratitude.
She is thankful for the person who serves her lunch. She is thankful for my modest visits. She laughs at the most basic jokes and she smiles back at the faces smiling at her. She hugs and says, “I love you,” without any thought of social graces or people’s perceptions. She gets more joy out of a bowl of ice cream than most people get at an entire amusement park. When she steps outside she sees God in the large trees, the flowers and the squirrels and offers Him thanks and praise with simple child-like prayers.
Perhaps, there is something to this scaled-back basic way of life. I want to be more grateful for things as basic as a warm cup of tea, my son’s laugh, a warm sweater on a cold day, a friend’s phone call, my husband’s embrace, the vibrant colours of the changing leaves and the very breath I breathe. If I could only clear my mind enough to daily notice and appreciate all the little things I miss each day, my life would be lighter, fuller and happier.
Like I said, I’m learning.