Gratitude

Having an attitude of gratitude is not always easy to attain. Some days, I wake up with a spring in my step and joy in my heart. Other days… not so much. It’s on those days that I hear the voice of my wise momma cutting through all my self-pitying, self-loathing, selfish noise. “It’s okay to feel that today sucks, but look at all you do have!” she states knowingly.

Despite the fact that some days feel less like a walk in the park and more like a half-run, half-drag myself through a muddy path strewn with fallen-down gnarly trees, and fighting off scary bugs and hungry lions, I have the ability to see through that muck at what I do have – thanks to my momma.

I’ve learned, through the wisdom of my momma, how crucial gratitude is. Gratitude has changed me, for the better. I find an attitude of gratitude to be one of the most important tools in my life. It’s a simple, powerful step that shifts what I have into more than enough.

It’s too easy to fall into a self-woe pattern when I look around and take stock of what I don’t have. It turns out, though, that it’s just as easy to look around and take stock of what I do have. It’s taken many years, and a lot of repeated lessons from my wise momma, for me to realize this truth.

In the pre-Netflix era, when I was a young girl and we were limited to watching whatever happened to be on cable, Momma, my sister, and I were lazing around on the couch one rainy Sunday afternoon, channel surfing through what seemed to be a bunch of no-good shows. In the midst of those 20 channels, Momma announced, “that’s a good movie, let’s watch that.” And so, we watched the romantic journey of Miss Birdee Calvert in Hope Floats. It’s an adorable show filled with several actors and actresses who quickly became favourites of mine. About halfway through the movie, Romana Calvert murmurs to her granddaughter: “My cup runneth over.” At the time, I didn’t realize that was a passage from a Psalm in the Bible, making it even more special.

Sometimes, I feel as though that Psalm is a theme throughout my life. When I’m making Thanksgiving dinner for my family, when I’m snuggling with my cat, when I’m watching my nephew toddle around his playpen, when I’m going for a walk, when I’m doing the dishes; a quiet voice passes through my mind, whispering “my cup runneth over”.

Contentment with what I have, and disinterest in wanting more is a lesson passed on by momma. Even after almost 30 years, she passes on that same lesson on a semi-weekly basis. The moment I feel an urge to give in to the negativity that seems to be all around – wanting what I don’t have, or wanting things now – there momma is. “Arista,” her gentle, but firm voice softly reaches my ears, “remember to look at what you do have”. And, as if by magic, what I have is suddenly more than enough. My eyes are opened wide to see a cup spilling over with blessings. The things I lamented over not having just moments before become irrelevant because I can suddenly see what I have is so much better than what I don’t have.

Dissatisfaction with the ‘have-nots’ in my life is even something to be grateful for. The time spent “not having” just makes the blessing even more sweet if, or when, I do receive it. Automatic receipt of something I want doesn’t have the same feeling as waiting, working, dreaming and finally, receiving. The process is something to be grateful for.

My momma doesn’t try to sugarcoat life. She knows better than anyone that life is difficult, that it isn’t fair, that the continual struggle of not getting what you want is heart-breaking and challenging. She’s taught me those realities. Still, despite, or maybe because of, those struggles she has faced, she is the best person to pass on the lesson of gratitude. Momma could easily sit in a pile of self-pity and tell me all about how she has struggled, how she doesn’t have things that she should have, and how she doesn’t have enough. But she doesn’t. She sits next to me in her rocking chair and she tells me about how blessed she feels. Momma chooses to talk about what she has, and how grateful she is for it all. I imagine this isn’t always an easy thing for her to do. I can only hope to emulate her strength as I go about my day. There are moments when the realities of life and the grief over what I don’t have threatens to overwhelm me. There are moments when I am so downtrodden that I can’t seem to think of just one thing to be grateful for. The next moments are what matters, though. They are the moments I realize my cup runneth over, and if nothing else, I remember I have my strong, beautiful, wise momma. That’s more than I need and so much more than I deserve.

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