Living a Grateful Life: The Millennial Series
I remember as a little girl sitting around the Thanksgiving table smelling the turkey, the green bean casserole, the fresh rolls, and being told I couldn’t touch any of it. Instead, I had to sit quietly as each family member around the table talked about what they were thankful for that year.
I know you all know what I’m talking about. The thing is, most of the time the same few things were repeated over, and over, and over again. They were usually things like, family and friends, a good job and good health. As a child, gratefulness became the hors d’oeuvres we had before we could dig into the main course, i.e. the ACTUAL food. As an adult, I have come to understand this family tradition. I appreciate it much more, but I still believe it’s a poor representation of what it means to live a grateful life. After all, living a grateful life today takes constant, daily reminders of all that we have instead of all we do not.
How it all began…
I set up my Facebook account the summer before I left for college. My freshman year, I loved using it to chat with others on my campus and stalk the cute boy down the hall. It was a social tool to enhance my social life and I loved it. As I graduated college, got my first job, and transitioned from college student to “adult”, Facebook became something new entirely. Instead of logging on to chat with friends or make lunch plans, I logged onto my home screen and was inundated with updates from my friends. Updates like, new jobs, boyfriends, new apartments and even marriage.
While I had a job and was happily dating, my life didn’t look as shiny as the pictures I was seeing posted to friends’ timelines. Before I knew it, I was spending time each day engrossed in how my life didn’t seem to measure up and driven to make sure it did. I was ‘keeping up with the Jonses’ in the digital world and I was not happy.
Shortly after, my husband canceled his Facebook account. He said he never used it and didn’t feel like he needed it to keep tabs on anyone. His decision gave me pause and for the first time I became aware of what I was doing each time I logged on and checked on my friends. Instead of being grateful for what I had, I was left complaining and comparing over what I didn’t. This is not how I wanted to live my life and not how I wanted to raise my future children.
It’s a slippery slope.
I’ll be the first to admit I love technology. I love how it simplifies my life, helps me to multi-task better and more efficiently and I love how easy it is to stay connected to my friends and family although distance separates us. But I am also aware of its pitfalls. It is incredibly easy to get distracted with pretty Instagram pages and perfect Facebook posts and to begin thinking “that’s how MY life should be.”
Ladies, this is not how my life is. I am not writing this post on a shiny marble desk with a midcentury modern chair upholstered in a deep blue velvet. I don’t have clean, white paint on the walls and perfectly hung frames in a tasteful gallery wall display. My desk is a piece of spare wood I found in my dad’s garage. I have a few holes in the wall I should patch but haven’t. To write this post, I first had to put away 3 different sewing projects I had strewn all over the place and sitting at my feet is a stack of stuff I don’t even know where to put. This is my life.
And I love it.
This love didn’t blossom overnight, but was instead a steady, rhythmic, tuning of my heart over a period of time. It started with a journal my sister gave me as a gift. It challenged me to write at least one thing I was grateful each day for a year. I love journaling so I was excited to fill these pages. At first I only listed the obvious things like, “little star slept through the night” and “I found a job.” But pretty soon I was finding myself grateful for the minute details of my day. Things like the way my first sip of hot coffee tastes on a cool day and that the trees were created using so many different shades of green instead of just one.
Before long I wasn’t logging onto my Facebook page and thinking of all the ways my life should be different. Instead, I was finding I had more excitement for my friends when good things happened to them. My heart was no longer full of envy which left if available to empathize and celebrate with others more freely.
What is the legacy I want to leave??
If I thought technology was a part of my life, it will be a part of my daughter’s even more. It blows my mind to think about all the new inventions she’ll have access to as she grows and eventually raises her own family. This is why living a grateful life has become so important for our family. What does this look like for us? It means, as a mom I’m verbalizing every day at least one thing I am grateful for.
Some days are really easy and I can find several. Other days are really hard and I find myself scraping the barrel in order to come up with something. (These days I’m usually grateful for a glass of wine at night or groceries that deliver.) But I find no matter how large or small the item is, verbalizing it always does something to my heart. It frees me and makes me more aware of what I have instead of what I do not.
I want a daughter who loves her toys and doesn’t always seek to cast them aside for something newer and shinier.
I want a daughter who spends more time loving on others then purchasing the latest designer clothing.
I want a daughter who gives freely from what she has because she understands that there is always someone who has less. If those are the things I want my daughter to embody, then I need to embody them first.
So this week, instead of thinking about how you your kids never smile for a family photo, send up a little prayer of gratefulness for the things they can do well. Maybe it’s a sense of humor. Maybe it’s a hug before bed at night. Maybe it’s their free spirit. Whatever it is, verbalize it and make it your mantra for the day. Better yet, find one thing each day you can write down. At the end of the week, look back at what you were grateful for. Next time you struggle with comparing what you have to what you don’t, remember this list and the little ones who watch you. We mama’s must be the example we want our children to be.