⚒️ The Challenge of Gratitude II

I’m not particularly religious, since coming to a parent and me preschool with my kids for a year I’ve started singing a prayer before lunch, “E ke Akua, Mahalo no, Mahalo ia oe, No keia, No keia ai, A-mene, A…A-mene.” It’s a thank you song for the food. I don’t know why myself and my family are so food oriented, but we really are.

Even though I eat really simple food, it’s pretty much my favorite part of the day. Because I have to slow down and the rest of the time I’m rushing from one crying child to the crying baby and I really hate rushing.

In the morning I eat oatmeal, it’s really simple, water and oats, maybe some cinnamon, no sugar, no milk, no fruits. Just water, oats and cinnamon. I really enjoy it everyday. For awhile I had an oat allergy and it was such a struggle to try to find something else that easy, that quick, that cheap, that filling, that healthy, that energizing, with all that fiber. It’s also more than that though, I was served oatmeal by a very kind and special lady named Evelia. She was so very sweet to me, that she made the oatmeal special and it will probably always remain that way to me. It’s easy to be grateful for the oatmeal every morning, but I was kind of blocking the feeling, looking for something greater or more noteworthy to be greatful for. I think that was a mistake. I think like weightlifting I have to get used to the feeling of small gratitude before I can allow myself the bigger gratitudes.

When I started this challenge of consistent gratitude, it’s sligthly more open ended than any other gratitude challenge I have tried. I’ve always thought that gratitude shouldn’t be just in the holiday season, or when you get a gift, I suppose it should be all the time. Because life seems like a rare thing that is special and perhaps enough to be grateful for all by itself… I’m not sure about it now in the evening, but I feel that way every dawn watching the sky light up with pink as my side of the Earth turns to face the sun again.

I think since we are on different sides of the Earth this gratitude challenge is going on all the time (me in the Pacific time zone) that’s kind of inspiring, when I go to sleep in a few minutes friends are already awake.

I’ve been more grateful than ever before lately, not neccisarily more than others, yet the most I ever have been.

I find myself greatful for my husband cleaning the carpet for our son who learned to crawl, my dad and my sister for helping me with my baby and daughter. I think it was difficult at first because they do things differently than I do, so it is a lot of effort for me to understand why they do things backwards to what I do, but this summer taught me that what they do is kind of a natural extension of who they are and how their brains work. It’s not a plan or something based on logic, it’s their feelings being different than mine. For example I love the rain so I will take my kids in the rain and I know we won’t get sick from a life time of playing in the rain myself. Yet my dad he has the feeling of worrying about the baby getting sick so he may take the baby inside for me. If he is being nice and helping me, I don’t need to try and change his feeling about it.

I’ve learned to “agree to disagree” this year. I think in order to be grateful to someone it helps if you appriciate them, but it’s hard to appriciate someone if you don’t accept them.

Before this year it was kind of like I was threatened by other people not agreeing with me, but now I’m not. Now I take my own space to have my own feelings and preferences and I also allow my loved ones their own space to have their feelings and preferences, but I won’t allow them to be rude to me about our differences. Meaning I won’t stay and have a conversation if someone is yelling when I am talking polietly. My sister would sometimes get heated and start yelling over small points, like grammer, like dipthongs, but when I didn’t yell with her and let her know I was open to hearing her opinion but not if she didn’t talk polietly. She has started to go to her room for a few minutes and then we just talk a little later and it’s much calmer. It’s usually that one of us was hungry when we are begining to be hostile about issues. I mention it because I think it’s related to gratitide.

I think to be greatful to someone you need to accept them as they are, then appriciate them as they are and then be grateful towards their significance in your life.

It’s not that hard to accept the good in people, the similarities to your own self and own opinons, it’s harder to get past the bad in people and the differences in personality, upbringing, religion, thought, slang, education, money, status, popularity.

A few things have been different this week, one was that I stopped expecting my family to help me with my kids. They still helped me and I appriciated it. I didn’t even know I had been expecting them to help me, but I was. I travelled with my new baby to be with my birth family while raising the baby. I think it was a very common expectation that my sister would help, actually my sister was working really hard at the courts as a clerk and my dad helped me more. If it wasn’t for the expectation that my sister would help, I would have appriciated when she did help, instead of taking a long time to come to terms with the fact that she didn’t help as much as I expected.

I’ve been succeding a lot this week to be sincerely grateful, it’s taken a lot of work, but it’s increased my satisfaction with life as well. Even though I may not be able to be more grateful without effort, I think the fact that I’m examining my feelings, beliefs and mindset will make the improvements that I can make perminent. I’m not afraid of backsliding into being ungrateful after the challenge is over, because the more I experience gratitude the more it feels like the correct way to live and enjoy life more as well.

I’ve been remembering to say thank you to my family in day to day life, that sounds so small but it’s really not, those are the people who I will affect and be affected by more than anyone else. I’ve also had more honesty in my heart when I say thank you, it’s becoming true and meaningful for the first time it’s not just sounds coming out of my mouth because I was told to say that, it’s becoming geniune appriciation for other people spending their free time and energy or money to help me with my day.

I think the nasty trap for family members is that no matter how much is given society expects it. We are told mothers should do everything possible, think of their children at all times, so it builds that expectation that takes away the honor of the gift. In reality my mother didn’t protect me, she abused me, my best friends mother abandoned her, the truth is that mothers are people first and mothers second. They don’t have to do anything more than birth a child to be mothers. Everything else is a gift. But it can stop being a gift when it’s expected or when it’s “sold.” By that I mean if a mother says because I carried you in my womb now you do my cleaning and childcare, then she is putting a market value onto something that should have remained priceless, by selling something it can no longer be a gift. It can no longer be appriciated that a mother helped us if she taxed us for it and we paid full price. That’s a problem I had.

I’m excited that I’ve been able to experience a deeper level of gratitude today, than ever before. It helped to allow myself the option of failing and having curiosity and forgiveness as back up plans. With less pressure to succeed, and a plan for failure, I’ve been able to succeed at being more grateful to my sister and my father than ever before.

It was only because of my daughter that we were all brought together. My daughter is very demanding, she actually “broke” all our spirits and sharing the very tired feeling of wanting a loved yet mischevious, but not bad, child to leave you alone to take a break has given us a shared experience we didn’t have before. It’s given us all humility that was a good place to start a new relationship with my daughter and also with eachother.

I was able to see more similarity between my father and I than ever before, we are both strong and hardworking, yet we mindlessly work on large projects at the cost of our own health, life balance, and missing connections with our loved ones. I think the similarity makes it easier to accept my father and learn to be grateful towards him. I am very grateful that he doesn’t care about gender steriotypes and helped take care of my baby and daughter more than my sister this year. I am also grateful to my sister, she worked a lot and is busy applying for jobs and she still helps me in the ways she enjoys helping.

That’s been difficult to accept, that if I want other people to help, it will be in their own way. Yet it works the same way with me, so I get it.

My sister hates mornings, so even if I don’t sleep all night I can’t get help in the morning, yet she is very generous about doing almost all the dinner, tooth brushing, hair brushing, stories, talking and night routines. That’s more than fair, and I am grateful for it now, but in the past there were mornings that I really was bitter no one wanted to help for me to sleep in.

One thing that stopped those feelings of bitterness was taking personal responsibility for feeding and teaching my kids. Most of the time I spend with them is feeding them or teaching them. Discipline is teaching still. Some time is bathing or playing, but mostly it’s feeing or teaching. I expected my sister would take over teaching because she has a degree in teaching and I don’t, but I didn’t really know that she didn’t enjoy teaching. That’s why she doesn’t work as a teacher. I might have figured it out earlier if she had been honest, but she mostly said that she couldn’t find a job instead of just saying that she didn’t like to teach. Simple lies like that fool people from getting to know eachother, they in a way prevent gratitude.

If a parent says I can’t get that because we don’t have money, it paints such a different picture than I won’t get that for you because it’s not a priority or it isn’t budgeted this month. I say that because my grandmother punished my father for asking for a puzzle, and he grew up thinking he couldn’t have even small things with a great sense of poverty that was very exagerated compared to the actual situation, I then grew up in a similar manner and was at risk of doing the same thing to my kids. But my dad telling me about it made me realize that I have to be careful about taking the time to say something longer that is the truth instead of saying a shorter lie that paints a whole different picture for my kids. I don’t have a lot saved, but neigther are we struggling, I’m very considerate about spending what I have on educational kinds of toys vs common toys and I want to remember to communicate clearly with my kids that we do have some money, but it’s important to me that we get a good value and spend on things that can expand our minds or benefit our lives the most.

So I mention this just as an investigation of a possible reason that I’m struggling so much to be grateful, just because I wasn’t exposed to gratitude growing up in my particular family. Even though they tried to force us, and succeeded in forcing us, to say thank you, without showing true feelings of gratitude, I didn’t learn that aspect of humanity until much later in life.

After three weeks I can say that gratitude could have been in my life sooner, there is no part of me that isn’t compatible with it, it just didn’t happen to be a skill I learned sooner.

The parenting class I am taking hasn’t been very helpful to my life, but I’m very commited to trying to treat my daughter with dignity and respect and also protect the rest of the family from being hit, kicked or yelled at by puting her in her room if she wants to do those things. I would rather talk to her, I would rather hug her, I would rather calm her if I can, but sometimes she doesn’t allow for any of those things to happen, sometimes if she starts kicking she just won’t stop and even hugging her causes her to scream and try to bite. It’s interesting that the gratitude challenge has helped me parent her much more than the class has.

Because my daughter is very mischevious I’ve been pushed to yelling and being rude (though I’m working on stopping) and that led me to look up why I am rude and I found that there are two types of rude people, hot-headed and mean. Based on the descriptions I found I am hot-headed, so is my father, my sister, my husband and my daughter… but when we are targeted for mischief, we get angry, when we get angry we get rude. When we ask for something rudely that’s complaining and that degrades all our relationships. It’s a cycle that keeps happening in my family. When anyone is hungry or grumpy we complain and then we like eachother less and less. I’m trying to cut off the rude part of the complaint and at the same time accept the person’s feelings of wanting help behind the complaint. The reason why I’m trying is because of gratitude. A long time ago when I was walking I complained to my mom that my foot was wounded and I wanted a bandaid, she scolded me, but another lady gave me a bandaid. I have this geniune gratitude for that bandaid to this day, because it gave me so much faith in humanity, that there are many good people, that we don’t have to do everything alone because many people are out there who would help another person for no other reason than to help.

This post is very tangled, but that is how gratitude affects me, it has really affected just about every part of my life, from how I feel about writing (grateful to have met my first goal), to my connection with the farm we started this year (grateful to eat food that seems to be offered by the abundant forces of nature), to how I feel about my loved ones on a day to day basis (more patient because of the gratitude others have shown me), to how I feel about washing dishes (because it’s an act of helping those I’m grateful for)… so there were two things that helped me one was a quote I can’t find right now that I thought was Maya Angelou about if you wholly accept who you are then what others say will stop bothering you and another was Marcus Aurelius’ quote “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” I wake up to that quote everyday and it’s really helped me get through this gratitude challenge to begin the day with gratitude.

Follow Up: Last night I couldn’t remember the quote I wanted was actually: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” – Marcus Aurelius. Meaning if I was born with the same experiences and DNA as the person I am judging, I would have also been that person, we are not better than ourselves wherever we are… we are all unequal, given different strengths and challenges. That quote got into my head and helped me stop judging people after about 30 years of being judgemental.

Also one thing special happened, I lost my purse and all my money. I told my husband and he was very supportive. I was a $2 purse and $1 of cash, so I was really lucky there. It had a sunblock stick, a lip gloss, an ID card and 1 debit card. It was the best wallet loss ever, still I was confused and embarresed. Basically my purse was laid flat in a paper grochery bag that got thrown out at the dump. My purse was the same color as the bag and small. I usually have a designated place for it, but these things happen and will continue to happen. The situation was really nice because all my loved ones gave me empathy and took care of me without shaming me that I was careless. Suprisingly, loosing my wallet was a very poitive experience this time, it showed me that I have support in my life and can get help from others. 🌻

Song for this post.

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