A few years back, my mom was in a coma for a month after a surgery-gone-bad, in the absolute fight of her life. As I stood by her bed, overwhelmed by fear and muted by grief, I watched her tiny body grasp each breath through her ventilator tube. I softly gripped her hand, desperately praying for the slightest squeeze back. Scenes flashed of her scolding me for carelessly knocking my milk on the table, or walking in on her sneaking into Christmas presents she had no patience to refrain from. Or the time she adopted a puppy and told me to tell dad she found it on the side of the road.
And in that moment, all I wanted was for things to be normal.
I wanted one more conversation in which she would repeat the same story, and I could roll my eyes because I’d heard it a hundred times. I yearned to hear her complain about how my dad snuck out to McDonalds and she found Big Mac wrappers hidden in the truck again.
Mom did make her way back to us, and each week she’s here almost feels as if it’s stolen time. My appreciation for our laughter and embrace has deepened, but further, so has my affection for the routine and the inevitably frustrating.
This experience translated to other aspects of life where I began to crave the everyday annoyances, the uneventfulness, and the taken-for-granted absence of pain. I thirsted for the familiar ebbs of life, even the trivial or slightly obnoxious.
I began to be profoundly grateful for all the little things. To be thankful for life when it's still, and to see the beauty in life's unembellished.
Contrary to always chasing the next achievement or pursuit of the constant emotional high, I've learned when life is handing me its biggest test, I want those bare simplicities.
Savoring a stolen bite of coconut ice cream from the freezer. Sustained eye contact during a conversation. The calm wash of a long, deep breath.
The awareness of my basic health.
No, these aren't Olympic medal wins. They aren't made-for-TV love story endings. They aren't large acquisitions in business.
But in each day, I can be utterly grateful for even the most seemingly modest.
And past challenges and tribulations have given me not only strength and growth, but more importantly, a set point in which to continually remind myself, that sometimes that which is normal is the prize.
Because if getting engaged, or receiving a promotion, or making the NY Times Bestseller list are the euphoric moments to live for, the constant chase for these pinnacle events can mean an unfulfilled in-between. And that's where life is lived.
I want to party because it's a random Tuesday and because life deserves that kind of celebrating.
Each day that I practice this level of gratitude allows me to show up differently. Rather than live in sporadic fear or constant seeking, I show up fully present in the subtleties. Instead of fast-forwarding to the next vacation or big life event, I am happy that an amazing man walks through the door at 5:30 every day to greet me.
Rather than place expectations on my significant other to make grand best-selling novel gestures or buy me lavish gifts, I appreciate the times where he doesn’t have to, but does. Where small acts of kindness or his hand on my thigh on long car rides is enough.
That he pulled weeds with my mom in the garden.
Or that he loves my overly-detailed descriptions of bodily fluids when I'm ill.
That he texted me how good his lunch is, even though it was last night’s leftovers.
Or that his occasional snores transform from annoying to the soothing sound of someone who's next to me when my mind spins.
I'm thankful in the underlying knowledge that even when life will present its biggest sorrows, he's going to be there. Not in a Superman cape or with all the right things to say, but quietly holding my hand.
Yet sometimes that gratitude comes at the end of a painful argument that eventually pushes us to grow and be humbled.
Living with this flowing dispenser of gratitude means that each day is littered with dozens upon dozens of micro-moments of joy and happiness. It means I no longer have to chase, to prove, or live in strangling expectations.
And gratitude has the power to change the small, uneventful, and less-than-savory times into those we want to embrace.
[jbox title="About the author:" border="5" radius="15"] Jean is a soul-builder on a daily journey to become a better version of herself and develop and inspire those around her. As an entrepreneurial-minded writer, mentor and speaker, she writes about sales, life and beer on her blog. Follow her at @JeanOnTap.
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