Friday, September 5, 2014

Daily Gratitude

It was an ordinary day, a quick phone call to my cousin Caron recently to wish her a happy birthday, I asked her how she was planning to celebrate turning 74.

I hesitated slightly as I asked the question. Caron has grown frail the past few years, suffering from COPD and tethered to oxygen 24 hours a day. Her loving husband Bud has taken over all the household tasks and cares for her full-time.

Caron laughed quietly. "You know, the best celebration I can imagine is just having one more ordinary day," she replied. "I'm grateful for every day of my life. Every day is a celebration!"

Her words made me think of a conversation I had with Aunt Molly a little over a decade ago. It was near the end of her life. And she was telling me about a recent visit to her doctor when he had expressed concern about her heart. He had handed her his stethoscope, asking her to listen to the off-rhythm heartbeats. Instead of alarm, what she felt was wonder.

"It seemed miraculous to me, as imperfect as the rhythm might have been," she said. "I thought that my heart has been beating for 87 years -- since I was in my mother's womb -- and it has never stopped, never been a problem up to now. I said a quiet thanks to my heart for carrying on so well for so long. And if it's getting tired, if it needs to stop sooner rather than later, so be it. I'm grateful for every heartbeat, for every moment of every day that may be left."

The memory of Aunt Molly and the experience of talking with Caron recently make me stop and think about how casually we accept the days given to us.

So many spend days complaining that life isn't as perfect as they had hoped it would be. Whether it's complaining about the weather, about the food at the local diner, about neighbors they have come to know and not like, about the vicissitudes of daily life, so many of us get caught up in the small stuff and lose sight of the big picture -- that we're alive, in reasonable health, living comfortably in a world filled with wonders.

Some spend days watching t.v. or playing cards "to kill the time", to fill the empty hours of each day, letting opportunities to help others, to express love, to explore their own unique creative gifts slip away.

Some of us count the days until a vacation, a special event,  or some other happy occasion, mentally skipping over the time in between -- time that may end up being as eventful or meaningful as the long-anticipated occasion.

And some of us put off positive changes until tomorrow, always assuming that tomorrow will be soon enough, that tomorrow will, in fact, come.

I've made a promise to myself not to wait until a life-threatening or life-limiting disorder strikes to begin to treasure all of my days. Each day - regular, unremarkable days as well as the days marking memorable occasions -- is a gift. It is a chance to look around and see the world in a new way. It is a chance to accept what is and embrace whatever life brings with joy -- living with gratitude instead of self-pity, wonder instead of fear.

Each day is, indeed, worth celebrating.


  1. YES! Exactly! I think about these things all the time and try so very hard to appreciate every moment. Which is not that easy with 90 degree temps and 1000% humidity. LOL

  2. Dear Kathy,

    Having reached the age of retirement in more ways than one but having only very recently accepted the fact of it, the inescapable fact of it, I have also accepted something else: I don’t need to fill every minute of every day with being positive. I am allowed to let things slide if that makes me happy today. Tomorrow I may think differently but just for today I can do anything I want or nothing at all.

    If today I want to watch tv or blog or nap or potter or any of the other pretty meaningless things, then I CAN. If it makes me happy or just contented, which is even better in my opinion, the I definitely can.

    Ad what’s wrong with the occasional indulgence of self-pity? No one else is ever going to feel truly concerned when you are feeling unhappy.

  3. I understand this post intimately. Every day I wake up and go to bed grateful. Grateful that I am better than I was a year ago, grateful for the people and pets and things that enrich my world. And yes, illness and recovery kickstarted this into more awareness, but when I think back, I'd kept a gratitude journal for a long while and repeatedly (and not intentionally) annoyed people with "Well, it could have been worse" attitude. Some people need to be grumpy or on the offensive all the time. I know a lot of them and I know how to work with it. But that doesn't work for me to follow suit. Not that I can't fritter some time -- that's OK. But I never forget that I am grateful to have that time to fritter and enjoy, even if it is with something inconsequential.

    I know that someday I will have a personal pity party, some day or week when everything seems to be going wrong and the why me mode kicks in. Except usually, I think it's more the "Why not me?" feeling -- knowing full well how much better I have it than some others, many others. I think I did a post on that a year or so ago ago -- it's just my turn. We all get one. We can take it with grace or let it drag us down. Of course, it's easy to say that when you are on top of the game... the real answer is yet to come!

  4. Hi Friko! I'm with you on this one ~ cheers to retirement and the glorious freedoms that come with it!

  5. Your Aunt Molly's words are a treasure. I am as guilty as some about letting life slide by some days but it never seems to fail. that something beautiful, sweet, unusual or just funny happens to make each day special. Wonderful post.

  6. Another great post, Kathy... Just recently, I sent some 'thinking of you' notes to several friends for no 'special' reason. I got back so many great notes saying how much that meant to them... In fact, it's true that the 'daily gratitudes' are the most important ones we give to others... AND--sometimes, a contact to say HI to someone may be the one thing which can make their day....


  7. Kathy, after two diagnoses of cancer in my 50s I am always grateful to be still alive and well in my late 60s.I know just what your Aunt Molly meant.

  8. Life, every minute of it is a gift. I learned this too late in life, but at least I learned it.

  9. Dear Kathy, for about 18 years I've kept a gratitude journal. Each night I write down five people, cats, events, places, feeling--whatever--for which I'm grateful. This year, I'm doing that but I'm also going back and rereading three of the journals: 2004, 2007, and 2011. It's so comforting to read what was happening on this date during those three years. Reading those entries helped me realize again and again just how much I have to be grateful for.

    When I first moved back to Missouri, after being away for 55 years, I was a complainer. All I did was look for things I didn't like here. I did that for about three years and then realized just how self-destructive that was. And so I began to look for the good and that's made all the difference as to how I feel in making Missouri home. I'm grateful now for so many things of the last five years. Life is good. Peace.

  10. I just turned 50... gasp... which is surprising because just yesterday I was in my 20's... but anywho, I have the same regards to life. Every day is a celebration of everything good in the world.
    big hugs,

  11. You know when you are young there is so much to discover and learn but once you get old, the stories become all the same.
    The grass mountains sky lakes.... they are all the same just in different places.
    When I see people rushing on highways every holiday and the city empty I think ha.. this is where vacation is. Here you find peace in your own home, in streets empty of cars and people lol
    The rest run around and come back home to rest and vacation before going back to the drudgery of work. Staying home costs me nothing but enjoyment.:)