A few days ago my best friend reminded me that keeping a gratitude journal has been shown by science to increase a person’s happiness. So I’ll be keeping a gratitude journal, because who can argue with science? And I could use a little Polyanna in my life right now, a little playing of the glad game. Here’s my first entry.
I woke this morning grieving, still fully dressed in slacks and bra and cardigan; last night I let my children see me cry. For just a minute or two I sobbed at the weight of sorrow and doubt that blanket my heart in this, the longest winter of my life. And my teenage son held me and I marveled at his growth. He’s grown in all ways and all directions; his hands are now small man hands, bigger than mine. The tiny body I held for years is now big enough to hold his mother, and his heart and his spirit—so grown, such marvels. I am grateful for all of this: the grief, the tears, the beautiful and forgiving children, the boy whose heart’s natural response to sadness is to nurture.
I am also grateful for what came next. As I was pinning my four-year-old Ammon down to brush his teeth, there was a knock on my door. I’d forgotten that I’d invited my visiting teachers to come over at nine o’clock. I’m Mormon, see, so we have people specifically assigned to come visit us and make sure we’re doing okay. It’s one thing I love about Mormonism. I’m grateful for visiting teachers and the chance to be one. There’s this thing I’m going through, though. My relationship with Mormonism and faith and religion in general is…complicated. Jamie gets this. Instead of sharing the standard religious messages, she brings me Hopkins sonnets and an article from The New Yorker about Pope Francis that says things like “Truth is a relationship.” She listens without judgement as I tell her about loss and sadness and difficult choices. And she gives me hope that I can keep searching and growing and learning and seeking truth, helps me know that I am good and loved and important. For all of this I am grateful: toothpaste and toothbrush and tiny teeth and a boy in a body that doesn’t like staying still, the chaos of children, a woman who is a kindred spirit and a tender caretaker of my heart and my hope.
Today. Up early for family prayer. Carpool. And more sadness, so much sadness this morning. Then, my sweet boy Jack won a first grade spelling bee and I got a speeding ticket while taking Ammon to preschool. Then therapy with Tess, who managed to help me cry today for past and present and future versions of me, helped me quiet some of the self-pummeling I do. In class today, we talked of Heidegger and Being, of what it means to live and be present in the deepest questions of our lives, to live the answers and the questions that call to us without words and spark inside our bodies. Today I got to live the question and answer of love and connection. On campus I saw so many loved ones, school friends who have become family—Laura, Tom, Rob, Bonnie, Ammon, Brooke, Emerson. Then, as I picked up my Ammon, I got to talk to Trishelle, one of my dearest friends, the girl I introduced myself to twenty-one years ago at a church dance. Tonight my witty Kaitlyn teased her dad about hair loss and shared her chocolate with me. Tonight I chatted with Matthew about his fears for our family’s future and he told me about his friends Amy and Mamie and I decided I need to write a children’s book with characters named Amy and Mamie. For all of this I am grateful: Prayer and carpool. Sadness and spelling bees. Speeding tickets and cops who reduce the speed I’m charged with from 16 over to 9 over. Crying and therapy, deep questions of love and connection and Being, friends and family I’ve chosen. A daughter. And wit and chocolate and long talks and fear and writing.
Today was not an easy day, but even in the not-so-easy days there is such joy and gratitude. Tonight as Ammon and I got home we gazed at the light shining above Mount Timpanogos—the herald light of moonrise. Tonight is a full moon at apogee, a full moon gazing at our planet in its farthest point away from us, tiny in the sky above mountain peaks. And still tonight there is so much light.