It always throws me when someone famous dies at a young age. It is as if I have a belief that if you are a star, you are protected. I haven’t experienced a great deal of unexpected loss in my life. The only deaths I have experienced are my grandparents, and they lived good lives and passed in their later years. The reality is people die every day, young and old. As I hit midlife, I have become acutely aware that everyone dies.
No one is protected from death, and no one knows when their end is going to come. This growing awareness scares me and overwhelms me when I think about my role as a mom. I can’t imagine leaving my children or, worse, losing one of my children. I can’t imagine the agony and excruciating pain people in these situations experience. Losing one of my children or leaving my children at an early age is a fear of mine, especially in the world we live in these days. As a way of combating these fears, I have been trying to practice gratitude which is a strategy that Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW, suggests in “Brené Brown: the Call to Courage” a Netflix special.
Maybe I am the only one that lives in fear of losing loved ones or having my life cut short, but I have to believe that I am not. I used to live my life feeling like I was in control. I grew up believing that I made things happen. If you work hard, you are a kind person, then good things happen. I have realized throughout my life that A+B doesn’t = C. As I reflect on my experience, there were so many things that were outside of my control, that I foolishly thought I made happen. I believe it is common when you are younger to fall prey to this belief system. As I have gotten older, I realize that ultimately I am in control of myself (period). It has been a humbling and a “turn my world upside down” revelation. It has pushed against a deep-seated belief that I have clung to, to make sense of the world. I believed that worrying helped me. I felt that worrying somehow protected me from bad things happening. The reality is that it didn’t help and actually hurt me.
Spending my life worrying and living in fear of the end was no way to live. It sucked my energy and happiness. Replacing fear with gratitude spoke to me when I read about it. It gave me pause to think about how I choose to live my life. There is uncertainty in everything, and living in a place of being grateful for where I am and who I am with leaves me in a better frame of mind. When I am in a bad mood, or scared or frustrated, I focus on what I am grateful for, and it has a positive impact on my mood. Some situations call for more gratitude than others. I also find that waking up and focusing on what I am grateful for influences my day.
The other day I woke up to start my day. Both of my kids found their way into my bed in the middle of the night, which meant I had to be extra quiet, couldn’t turn the lights on, and couldn’t play music. I went downstairs, let our dog out, and found myself irritated. I got ready and was still in a negative place. I decided to go downstairs, make a cup of coffee, and take a minute to reset. I sat on the couch, drank my coffee, and thought about how grateful I was that I was about to go and wake my kids up. I appreciated so much that I was going to get to kiss them, hug them, and cuddle with them as they woke up. It brought a smile to my face and a warmth to my heart. I went upstairs to wake them up, and they were not happy. They were whiny, negative, and just wanted to go back to sleep. I shared my story with them and told them that waking them up was what brought me out of my funk. I told them that I thought I was the luckiest mom in the world because I got to wake them up and be with them. I watched them both smile, and their attitudes changed. They engaged with me, and each other, and we had a delightful morning. They dressed with smiles on their faces and chatted as they ate breakfast. It was a good reminder that we choose our attitudes, and we positively impact others by how we show up. Practicing gratitude at that moment affected my daughters and me.
Messages to my Daughters: Practice gratitude daily, especially in your most challenging moments. I guarantee you can find something to be thankful for in any situation. It might be your family, friends, a job, a cup of coffee, or the penny you found on the ground. Make time to see the good in the world and your life. It can make all the difference in your attitude, your happiness and the world around you.