Keeping up with daily gratitude feels very burdensome, especially when it messes with my grumpy mojo. Daily gratitude is creating existential questions, and I don’t think that’s how it’s supposed to work.
If I’m not grumpy, who am I?
If sarcasm and cynicism disappear from my repertoire, what could possibly fill the gaping void they leave behind? Pink puffy hearts?
Without helpless rage, what will motivate me to wake up on any given day?
If I can’t just keep hanging on in quiet desperation, the English way, will Anthony still love me?
Maybe I haven’t given it long enough. I will carry on.
Day 10 (day before yesterday).
Today, I yelled at Jesse after she yelled at me about five different unfair things and then told me to shut up. She was having a bad day.
So I yelled back, HEY IT’S THE CHRISTMAS SEASON, A PERFECT TIME TO GIVE MOMMY HELL. I KNOW, LET’S FILL HER CHRISTMAS CUP BY TREATING HER LIKE GARBAGE. MERRY CHRISTMAS.
But day before yesterday, I’m thankful for the Christmas Spirit.
We got a Christmas tree last weekend. So the kids were all excited about CHRISTMAS, and they decided to make tree ornaments from pipe cleaners and make some things as gifts to put under the tree. They absconded busily to the basement for at least an hour, during which I heard various mutterings and crashings, and then they trotted back up and placed cutely wrapped packages under the as-yet-undecorated tree. It was very sweet and cheerful.
Later I headed down to the basement for something and found, well… I think it’s better if I just show you.
I froze, breathed, took the time to snap some photos, because that helped me calm down… and turned around and headed right back up the stairs, stepping over these small entrails along the way:
I muttered to Anthony, you should see the basement, WTF. He hugged me. “At least they have the Christmas spirit, Carla.”
I tell you what, the Christmas spirit hasn’t moved me to clean that mess up yet, but he’s right. It’s very sweet that the kids have a giving, albeit outrageously messy, spirit.
So day before yesterday, which is the relevant GRATITUDE PERIOD here, I finally got around to putting up the tree lights. Normally Anthony is around, so we end up being slightly more parsimonious than I prefer. The typical refrain goes something like this:
Carla. That’s enough lights.
Carla. It’s fine.
Carla. It doesn’t need more lights.
I usually relent. But day before yesterday Anthony went to work and I did it myself. Heh heh heh. I put three strings on that we had lying around. After several wraps, unwraps and re-wraps, I realized that this was my rare opportunity to just go for it. So I ran off to Ace and bought some more lights. I felt like a conspirator. Nothing felt better than adding that fourth string of lights to the bottom of the tree. Gratitude for my shiny lit Christmas tree.
Day 11 (yesterday).
I’ll be honest. Right now I don’t remember anything about yesterday, at all. Let me check my calendar.
Oh! Right. Nick was home sick, and I had to take Jesse to the dentist to have two baby molars pulled, one on each side of her mouth, and since Nick and Anthony are both sick and I might be toxic, I cancelled a planned walk with a new friend. Then later in the day I had to take Jesse to the nutritionist for a weigh in.
Boy, was it a great day. Lots to be grateful for. I’m totally overwhelmed by thankfulnesses, it’s like a tsunami of gratitude. I’ll let you know what it is I was grateful for yesterday, when I figure it out.
Day 12 (today)
This morning I went to a session of a pilot “compassion resilience” workshop that I’ve been participating in. It’s for parents who have caregiver fatigue from raising kids. In other words, it’s a workshop with universal application to all humans who have ever spawned.
In these workshops, we do mindfulness practices, and it is very, very hard for me. I have to work so hard not to impersonate Stuart Smalley or snicker occasionally. I feel like a terrible person during those moments.
Today we talked about parental guilt and shame, and the cycle that moves us from enthusiastic parenting — in which we serve our kids only pastured-grass-fed-yoga-practicing-beef, meditate 2 hours a day in unison as a family, grow all our own vegetables, and have an in-house mediator to settle all disputes peacefully — to zombie parenting. In the latter state, we try to eat our kids alive as the flesh falls from our bodies.
No no no, that can’t be right. I better check my notes.
In zombie parent state, aka full-tilt compassion fatigue, we are on the brink of complete decompensation. We develop a bloated sense of self and a persecution complex. We’re suspicious, we drop out, we go numb.
That’s compassion fatigue, is it. I thought that was just what typical parents are like. Huh.
Anyway, this is good, it’s all good. It’s a wonderful lens shift to look at myself and think… Hey, you’re not just an awful mom and a natural born A-hole, Carla! You are suffering from compassion fatigue!
We talked about self care or self compassion, and what things we might do in that regard, and how it can help us let go of guilt and shame. All good, all good.
We ended with an exercise called “just like me.” The moderator said each line, and then the participants, in a state of mindful repose (don’t roll your eyes, Carla!), would repeat it to ourselves silently (don’t do it in Stuart Smalley voice, Carla!):
Just like me, my child is seeking happiness in their life.
Just like me, my child is trying to avoid suffering.
Just like me, my child has known sadness, loneliness and despair.
Just like me, my child is seeking to fill their needs.
Just like me, my child is learning about life.
Now this is a beautiful thing, an exercise in empathy. I think it was supposed to make me feel better. Instead, it left me fighting back tears, and with stronger feelings of guilt than I had experienced in at least the three hours prior.
Because damn, shouldn’t I know and remember those truths every single day without having to chant them? Why is it so hard to remember to see my kids this way?
Probably because they’re jackasses. Just like me.