Having What I Have: Another Piece on Gratitude

I don’t know what it says about my parenting that for the past two Mother’s Days, I’ve ended up requesting time without my child to just rest and recharge. Last year I ended up asking Stephen to take Lily without me to the family BBQ while I just had a day alone (see "Being Selfish for Mother's Day"), and this year my mother-in-law generously agreed to watch Lily for the weekend so my husband and I could rest and enjoy some couple time. When you parent together and work together, it can be easy to have the illusion of time spent together when in reality we’re sometimes living in close proximity, taking care of the business of running the house, working on the film, and watching Lily without actually interacting with each other in a quality manner, especially while feeling rested and relaxed. 

One gift that comes to me when I rest and have some alone time is the chance to reflect. You can tell how often this happens by how often I manage to blog! This really is a space I’ve come to value as a chance to process, reflect, and witness the journey.

This weekend, especially after a long nap, what keeps coming up for me is a phrase I heard a few weeks ago at a talk at our JCC by Geneen Roth, author of Women, Food, and God and Lost and Found. She and her husband lost their life savings in the Bernie Madoff scam, and she had to do a lot of hard thinking about a pretty taboo topic: money. Even though she really did have true financial worries, she also realized that even prior to finding out that Madoff was a fraud she'd never appreciated what she had (and it was a very comfortable amount). She's always worried about what could go wrong. She was insatiable.

She talked about the “trance of depravation” that we frequently find ourselves in, unable to actually “have what we have.” We keep waiting to feel grateful until we get “there,” but we don’t define what “there” means for us or question the assumptions and beliefs behind where we’ve gotten our ideas about the value of “there.”

I wondered if she could read my mind. I have often found myself in a cycle of depravation—the moment something I’ve been worrying about or wanting to have happen gets resolved, I hardly pause for a breath before I move on to the next big want or worry. Even when things go really, really well, I can easily think of what might go wrong or the next angst-ridden issue rattling around in my head keeping my mind occupied on what I don’t have instead of resting in the gratitude of what I do have.

Lately the “what I do have” column is pretty amazing. Not only is our film starting to take shape after two years of work, but the post-production funding is starting to come in. We live next door to an incredibly beautiful forest, even though we also live within walking distance of city amenities (like great eateries, parks, and libraries).

And Lily is just bursting with personality.

Life with Lilybird is filled with a lot of chatter (seriously, this child is incredibly out-going and can talk most anyone in circles), imaginary play, and joyful moments of pure being. The imaginary play is especially fun to watch and encourage. She has a host of imaginary friends who have been coming to visit lately (some live in our tree and fly in through the breakfast window for tea or hot chocolate, some want to play in the bathtub, others visit randomly). And she likes to pretend to be a doctor or patient several times a day. She tells me to “lay down on your special pad,” (she got this from a friend), and then she’ll listen to my heart, check my eyes, ears, and teeth, and even re-attach my fingers (she thought of this one morning playfully). She even likes to play “Monster” right now. She either pretends to be a monster about to steal my food, or she’ll want Stephen or me to pretend to steal her food (she prefers playing monsters with Stephen, probably because he’ll really chase her around the house). So far she tells me that the monsters are nice, but I have tried to preempt scary monsters by saying you can get rid of monsters by tickling them. We’ll see how that works.

Of course we have some classic two-year-old moments too—there is some high drama, especially around transitions and sharing (and especially if she’s tired). But really, toddlers are incredible teachers about how to live in the moment. Sometimes that’s a moment of utter anguish, but it’s often total, unfettered joy—it’s where they want to live, and it’s where Lily naturally lands, especially if she’s rested (I could learn something here….).

A highlight for me right now is dancing in the kitchen after a meal. Lily has always loved rhythm and music, and one of her favorite things to do is listen to music and dance. Here’s how it often goes:

“Mommy, play some music on your computer.”

“What’s that magic word that Mama likes to hear when you want something?” I asked pointedly.

“Pleeeease play some music!”

“Oh, of course! Thank you for asking so nicely.”

Sometimes she has a particular request (she likes big, grand pieces right now—and I mean grand, as in The Hallelujah Chorus). If I choose, I put on something fun to move to like The Macarena or Papa Loves Mambo. She starts dancing and quickly wants company.

“Mommy, dance with me,” she’ll command, while holding out her hands. Soon she’ll get Stephen into the action too if he’s home.

“Come Daddy! Dance with us!” And she’ll hold out a hand. So there we’ll all be, dancing in our little kitchen. Her face is absolutely lit up in utter joy—and she seriously can bust some fun dance moves. For me, having been raised a good Adventist who didn’t dance or dwell on the pleasures of the body, it’s liberating and healing to move with abandon, enjoying my body and the positive group energy that comes from our little family kitchen dance.

It’s bliss, really. And getting an opportunity to rest and reflect this weekend helps me recognize that bliss and have what I have without worrying about what comes next.