Sunday, May 30, 2010

Don't Take Life For Granted

When I became pregnant with my first child, I decided to become a full-time, stay at home Mom. I knew I was very fortunate to be able to make that choice (financially) and once my son was born, I was very happy not to be a working Mom. When my second son was born, I felt even more blessed to have the financial security to continue to be a full-time Mom, and I was even more thrilled with my decision to turn my back on corporate life in order to open my arms and my heart to my children.

I've been keeping the home fires burning for about 11 years now, and I've learned a lot about taking things for granted...mostly because I often feel that all of my work and effort are taken for granted within our little family. Clothes are magically cleaned, folded and put away. Favorite foods appear in the fridge and the pantry. Dirty dishes disappear from the sink and dishwasher, magically reappearing in the cabinets, all sparkling clean. Floors clean themselves, errands are run, birthday presents bought and wrapped, library books returned, and school supplies (even those last minute project supplies) magically show up at just the right moment.

Of course, you and I know there's nothing "magic" about running a household - Mom does it all. So I grouse now and then, as most Moms probably do, and then I get a little more help, but, in time, it dwindles back down until the next time I grouse. Between you and me, my grousing probably coincides with phases of the moon, but I haven't taken the time to pin that down as of yet.

All of that said, I must admit that I am just as guilty of taking things for granted myself, and I find that it takes a bit of a nudge to realize and admit it. As a stay at home Mom, I can go to the grocery stores on a mid-week morning and cruise through pretty effortlessly. I take that for granted until I make the mistake of trying to zip through on a Sunday afternoon. There is no such thing as "zipping through" the parking lot, let alone the store itself, on a weekend. My time during the day is pretty flexible, which allows me to volunteer a great deal in my boys' schools and to generally "be available" for whatever presentation or show crops up. I take that flexibility for granted until I bump into a conflict that I just can't clear, and I realize how fortunate I usually am. I take my health and stamina for granted until I'm knocked down by something major, like bronchitis, or even a more minor sinus infection. Worse than that, I take my children's health for granted until I see or hear stories of seriously or terminally ill children.

It's human nature, I suppose, to expect, without even thinking about it, that life will go on tomorrow just as it does today. It's human nature, I suppose, to think that we are in the absolute worst situation of anyone on the planet, until we hear of the tragedy that someone else is dealing with. It's human nature, I suppose, to expect others to lift us up when we need it without ever offering to lift anyone else, or to expect that all that needs to be done will be done without our hands getting dirty. Perhaps it's human nature, but that doesn't make it right.

This planet that we live on and this life that we have are very precious and very fragile. The children that we are blessed with are incredibly precious...and they can be fragile, too. Our family ties, whether it's family we're born into or family we choose, are priceless. Our time with one another is limited in so many ways, so it must be savored, cherished, and treasured.

But how do we stop taking life for granted and begin enjoying it more? Gratitude. Start small and work your way up. Instead of complaining about all that went wrong, be grateful for the little things that go right in your day - your children got to the bus stop on time, there's just enough milk for your coffee, and you sailed through 3 green lights on your way to wherever (probably to buy more milk!). Be grateful for things that others do for you and say "thank you"...preferably with a real, honest to goodness smile on your face. Ok, maybe the smile is pushing it, but at least notice other people's efforts and say "thank you".

Be grateful for at least one thing, each and every day because that will force you to take notice. And if you're taking notice you're not taking for granted, and that will change your whole day. And when you've racked up 7 changed days, you've changed a week. And as you change your weeks, your partner and your children might just follow your lead and begin to notice and be grateful, too, so their days will change. And before you know it, we've made a real difference in each other's lives and in the world. That may not be human nature, but it surely feels right to me.

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