Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I tend to do my blogging while my daughter is napping. It's a period of quiet in my day, it's a more meditative time in general, and I tend to look forward to it quite a bit.

I had a sense of what I wanted to say today... was sort of "writing" segments in my head all morning as I chewed on the concept of gratitude. And then I put Ari down. It's been 90 minutes, and she is still not asleep. Instead, we are doing quiet time during which she can play, lie down, color, sing, etc. - while Mommy gets some work done and has her own quiet time.

The important element of this setup connects to my emotional state during the last 90 minutes. My emotional state, in fact, as Ari has just come out of her room and announced she needs to use the bathroom.

Earlier, I had been crying. Sad, but true. I was angry, sad, disappointed, feeling suffocated. All those things that go along with the difficult times of motherhood/parenthood where your ego and attachment and darknesses get the better of you.

I was so sad to lose my time... all the things I had planned to do during the 2 hours I normally have to myself in the afternoons. It was a matter of being attached to some very specific expectations (and the tailspin following the thwarting of said expectations). And - the real lesson and opportunity for practice - my actions and perspective in response.

So... it is still possible to feel gratitude and to write about gratitude today - despite being earlier derailed by my inability to maintain peace of mind and go with the flow. I am very grateful for my daughter. She is equal parts the greatest gift of my life and the greatest challenge at times, and her presence has required me to grow in ways I never anticipated.

Cultivating gratitude seems to be present in many major religions and spiritual paths. Some talk about it in other terms, some connect it to a larger purpose or a theistic framework, but many of them emphasize the necessity and impact of being able to feel and give thanks for the blessings or joys of your life.

Constructivist theory and narrative therapy tie into these concepts, which aligns with the Buddhist approach of maintaining peace of mind and cultivating a grateful heart, because it is in our perception of events that our emotional state lies.

In other words... the meaning we make of events, people, places, things, our history, our desires, the day-to-day ups and downs we all experience ultimately become how we characterize our lives. The way you write your story... or tell your story to others... or think of it in your head... is linked to how you view yourself and your life.

Tragedy? Comedy? Love story? Full of conflict? Satirical? A story of peace? Boundless joy?

How many of us can describe our days as truly joyful? I started paying special attention a while back to the way I answer the question, "How are you?" I had noticed I tended to narrate a sort of bleak, down, or at least somewhat dull and ambiguous tale in my responses. I was communicating to others my loneliness, unhappiness, restlessness, etc. through a sort of passive aggressive form of storytelling in which I was constructing a tale of a woman who is never quite free... never quite elated or at peace.

Which is not really true. I mean, it can be true, if I let it be so. But that is but one story... and one that most often I tend to feel is not actually accurate. It's sort of like an old costume I put on because it's familiar and comfortable and I know where to find it.

So. Gratitude. Gratitude is connected to the narrative we create for our living. It is linked to our perception and our meaning-making... in every moment. Long-term, short-term, any-term. Little pains, big pains... all kinds of suffering. We make meaning of those pains, and we can choose to see anything from an angle that affords the possibility for gratitude.

Today my daughter is not sleeping. My opportunity for practice happened to be the work of calming myself down, noticing the expectations I held for my afternoon and the emotional disruption I experienced when those expectations (to which I was very attached) were not met.

Instead of investing in a narrative fraught with poor me messages, it's instead a chance to construct meaning from my inability to stay calm and let go. It's an opportunity to think about how I am using my time, how my daughter and I communicate, how our days are structured.

It's also possible to see it as a time of great change and excitement. She is growing up! She's nearing a time when a daily nap will no longer be the norm. This brings new challenges, but also new opportunities and freedoms. And the bottom line is - I still marvel in her as a person. I relish who she is as a human being. A missed nap should not eclipse those feelings of gratitude and wonder.

The picture above is not the one I intended to take. I was planning to sneak in while the bunny was sleeping and take pictures of her sweet little napping face. But we wrote a different story today; one that requires a different image.

May you experience a sense of gratitude for the positive things in your life. May even the seemingly negative concerns provide an opportunity to re-write your story and find more peace.


  1. this blog is real great. it is very helpful to me right now. i just came home from yet another very crappy day. it feels like there are more and more of those lately, which are probably based more on outlook than reality. i've never met a kid i didn't love, but i recently started a nanny position that is unlike any i've had before. it's the first time i've felt defeated by children, indifferent to quitting on them, and thought maybe i don't want to have kids of my own (which is something i usually get excited about at least once a day).

    i've been wondering if having a bad day means giving yourself permission to feel sorry for yourself, and if that is in and of itself an addictive behavior that takes up space in people who tend to feel like everything is already against them before they've started. it's comforting to see those same feelings somewhere else with--if not an effort to fix them, at least an effort to figure out what makes the cogs grind against each other like that. sometimes in the heat of sadness and anger and pessimism, it is nearly impossible to draw these connections for yourself.

    so, yeah. i love this.

    p.s. come back to the show.

  2. Thank you, Megan. I have to admit, one of my greatest wishes in doing this project is that it might ease someone else's suffering and make a few people feel less alone. We end up feeling so disconnected sometimes... and that sense of other-ness or alone-ness only seems to amplify those feelings of sadness, desperation, or apathy you're talking about. I have noticed, my most pessimistic and negative times are inherently linked to my perception of being alone and "abandoned." Which is, of course, ridiculous. No one has abandoned me. And so... just in shifting that one aspect of my perception, I am able to open up a space that allows for greater forgiveness, greater strength, and greater ease. Not sure if that helps... but just remember you are loved. You are connected to everyone around you. And you are an incredibly powerful person. I love you. Miss you guys very much!!