Originaly written for Common Threads, this piece also appears in The Huffington Post
I was introduced to “gratitude journals” when my mother gave me a copy of Sarah Ban Breathnach's Simple Abundance. I kept a precious little notebook in which I dutifully wrote 10 things every day for which I was grateful. Some days, this practice was far more challenging than on others.
Today would have been a day when I would have struggled.
Sunday has turned into "Date with Edem" day. We plan out something fun to do, and head out as early as possible to enjoy our time together. Today we needed to grocery shop, so we decided to start with planning our purchasing. Edem has a new love for cookbooks, so while I made a list, he scoured his cookbook and picked out meals for the week. He was trying to read a recipe to me, but struggled with some of the words. When I attempted to help, he got really angry and stormed away. I tried to cajole him into sharing his plans, but there was no turning back. I had broken the sacred: "Edem doesn't need Mommy's help" rule.
This was going to be a funnnnn date day...
At the brunch spot, Edem had a fit about not being allowed to go into the market, then about his scrambled eggs. Apparently, they had not been properly mixed. (YES, dear readers, you remember correctly. My son is 5, not 2) When all eyes were turned on us, he informed all who could hear that he doesn’t "LOVE THIS MOMMY ANYMORE!!!!!" Just in case there was any doubt as to which mommy THIS mommy was, he pointed an angry finger to my face.
(Every post needs a picture; here is one showing Edem's stink eye)
A quick trip to the bathroom, a stern scolding, and some time out, Edem finally changed his tune, but not before wearing me out and convincing all who were visiting the busiest cafe in Bali that I Am EVIL Mommy.
Insane traffic, cruel heat, and an over-crowded grocery store packed with people who should have their cart rights revoked started to turn this day into a day filled with nothing-gone-rights.
With all of this hurricane nonsense reeking havoc on my favorite playground, I was already feeling down and missing home, making me an easy target for the blues. So when I rounded the corner to find a display of turkeys, I nearly lost all "Mommy-is-an-invincible-woman-of-steel" composure. The can of cranberries did me in. Yes, a can of Cranberries cinched this deal: this was a crappy day....
You are confused, aren't you dear reader? Cranberries? Turkeys? Five- year-olds throwing tantrums??? Before you walk away, let me explain.
Fall is my favorite season, Thanksgiving my favorite holiday. My best memories come from the "Orphan’s Thanksgivings" I hosted with my University roommates. A few days before Thanksgiving, we would make our way to the grocery store, piling carts high with the raw ingredients needed to make our no-processed/canned food feast. Canned cranberries would NEVER make their way onto our table. Confession be made- this year I’m not cooking. I’m hiring a caterer to cook a meal. YES! For the Love of God, I called a caterer to cook my Thanksgiving meal. There. It’s out. Why? I don't have a proper oven, nor fridge large enough to hold the ingredients needed to cook the meal.
The rest of this grocery store trip turned internal lamenting about where I was shopping. I started to complain about the ridiculously high prices of everything, the poorly lit store, the low-quality cheese selection, the-- anything-- I complained about it. I even compared the way a cart moves in Bali to one in the states.
I just wanted to be home, wearing gorgeous fall colors. I wanted to be roaming the aisles of Whole foods, or picking out produce from the farmers market. I wanted to be helping with the clean-up efforts, supporting my friends, being a part of the community I so dearly love. This want, coupled with the start of my day, made it difficult for me to feel grateful.
On the drive home, my pity party for one had me wearing a thick pair of ugliness goggles. Then we saw her. A woman dressed in rags, carrying an incredibly dirty baby, standing on the roadside, begging.
Edem was the one who pointed the duo out, which started a pretty meaningful conversation about how lucky we are, and how that young lady would have loved to have eggs scrambled any which way. Or how she would have been thrilled to have the resources to shop in ANY grocery store.
Yes. We all have the right to a rough day. An occasional pity party is a-ok in the world of being human. But losing site of all that we have, forgetting how incredibly blessed and lucky we are, that's not okay with me. I needed a good waking up, a reminder of all that I have. How lucky I am to have been able to travel to see the world. Clearly, I have a case of home-sickness; that’s something to explore, but I also have sooooo much right here in front of me that is absolutely amazing
To step back into gratitude, I’m going to do something I haven't done in a long time: I’m going to start a gratitude journal, from now until Thanksgiving. I will share it with you. Maybe then, on days when I am wearing my ugliness goggles, you can hold me accountable, or at least help me find the things for which to be grateful.
I am grateful that I have…
1. A son with a healthy set of lungs.
2. The resources to go to brunch.
3. The ability to count to ten and temper my immediate responses.
4. Highly developed cart-maneuvering skills and can dodge others who do not.
5. A beautiful home.
6. Quiet time.
9. Friends with whom to share a catered meal.
10.People to love in distant lands.
What about you? What ten things would you add to a gratitude list today? Tell me about it in the comments section.
Erin Michelle Threlfall
Theatre Artist, Activist, and Educator, Erin is the mother of a budding genius in his 7th year of study. Erin and her little man, Edem, have a plan to investigate world theatre and influence education one continent at a time. Ghana, South Korea, Togo and Bali have been checked off the list of places to live; these days they call Brooklyn home.