Last week my dear friend sent a message to a long-running group text reminding us that there were only 90 days left of the 2010s. It led to a discussion of goals, both personal and group-oriented, and it was suggested we try to focus on things we are thankful for each day. To be honest, being thankful is something I don’t consider nearly as often as I should. Yes, I have a great deal to be grateful for, but when you struggle with anxiety, it’s easy to get stuck on the merry-go-round of “what ifs” and “I wish fill-in-the-blank.” As I went to bed that night, I tried to put aside the usual breakdown of my day and instead focus on what I was thankful for. I decided that instead of naming a new item each day, I would ruminate on five every evening. They are as follows…
- My faith. My faith has always been incredibly important to me. It is something that is so deeply ingrained inside of me, it is hard to imagine myself apart from it. That being said, though, I rarely take the time now to focus on growing in my faith. With all the other mounting concerns of our daily lives, it can be easy to put it by the wayside and bring ourselves to say a little prayer at night and leave it at that. I realized that’s exactly what I have been doing, and for me personally, it’s not enough. My faith in God is worth so much more than a few fleeting minutes at night. It is truly the heart of who I am as a person and every good thing that I have in the first place. It was the push I needed to decide to take more time each day to be thankful for the faith that means so much to me.
- My husband. Ok, let’s be real here: marriage is HARD. If I had written a list of things I wanted in a husband as a teen and created a man from that list, I would end up with Jacob. That being said, though, anyone who has been married or in a serious relationship for more than five minutes is aware that it is not always the blissful happily ever after we imagine when we say our vows. My friend’s mom used to tell us, “Love is not a feeling or emotion, it is a commitment of the will.” I never understood that until I changed my last name. That butterfly feeling is lust, and it comes and goes as you build a life together. As life moves forward, it is easy to get wrapped up in irritation and disappointment in my spouse. Thinking about him at night and how hard he has worked to create a life for us reminded me of the reasons I committed to him in the first place. He is a good man, a good father, and the rock of our family. I am proud to be his wife.
- My children. Of course, I am thankful for these amazing little beings that I’ve been gifted with. They are the most beautiful little boys I’ve ever known. That being said….they also drive me crazy. Parenting is HARD: as hard if not harder than marriage. My boys are 2 and newly 5, and every day I see them grow and evolve. While those moments can be filled with joy, they also can be filled with anxiety and heartache. As you hold your newborn in your arms, you don’t tend to think about the immense sacrifice that you have just signed up for. They are inquisitive, energetic, and loving. They also can tear the house apart in under 30 minutes and give me a headache unlike any I’ve ever known. We don’t sleep much, my body is drastically different post babies, and I would be lying if I said I haven’t locked myself in the bathroom to cry. I can be so consumed in the hard parts of parenting that it’s so easy to miss the daily joys that they bring. They are so loving. So forgiving. They need me. They make me better every day. They are the reason I am here.
- My career. Like every other item on my list, I had no idea what I was getting into when I decided to become a teacher. There are many days when I am stressed to the max. Grading, lesson plans, professional development….it’s all there. Conferences, emails, testing…those things too. But man, do I have it good. I work in a phenomenal district with administrators who deeply care about the needs of the students AND the needs of their teachers. My school works as a core unit, and I have cultivated so many incredible relationships over the last 8 years. Every weekday I walk into a room ready to greet 22 amazing little people who I adore. I have this rare privilege to see them grow and change as the year goes on, and it’s an honor. Every one of us has a job that has highs and lows. We are tired and consumed, and most working adults probably spend at least a few minutes a season adding up how many more years of working we have before we can retire. But I get this incredible gift of meaning with my career, and I am so thankful for the many ways my job has made me a better person.
- My friends. The ladies in the group text I was referring to are my best friends from high school. One of them has been in my life for almost 30 years. There are 6 of us, and though extremely different, we fit together like pieces of a puzzle. We have been there for each other through thick and thin. Boyfriends, breakups, careers, marriages, and parenting…we’ve seen it all together. We now get to move through our 30’s with arms linked, ready to face what comes our way. Or at least know that five other people have our backs if we just can’t deal at the moment. We’ve also been told how lucky we are to have each other. I’m sure we irritate one another at times, but we are open and honest, and we care about one another deeply. We have a friendship that I pray lasts a lifetime.
The funny thing is, in just the last few days, falling asleep, saying a prayer of thankfulness has helped me to feel better. It has allowed me to have more grace, and to see that my side of the fence is incredibly green, even when it doesn’t feel like it. My days have gone smoother, and I am almost…happier. Nothing in my life has changed in the last handful of days except my perspective. As we come upon the month of thankfulness, what are your five things? Maybe focusing on your five is just what you need to boost your days and remember that when it all boils down to it, we are really blessed to lead the lives we do.