I read my cousin’s Instagram meme about gratitude and it was the last question, “What have you done today that showed your gratitude?” that propelled my initial response of “I have no idea.” This probably isn’t good.
Then the idea of passive gratitude struck me; I think we spend a lot of our time having gracious thoughts about love, nature, people, but often they are in the sense of reception, not of giving back. Yes, we will donate some extra money, volunteer for things sometimes, but I don’t know when I last planted flowers because I was grateful for the air I breathe that plants clean or to God for making them. I mainly just wanted to have a better looking yard so my neighbor Pam believes I’m not a decrepit hermit who decorates with windblown trash and my kid’s shoes on the porch. ‘Ho, there, nice brown sticks from last season!” Pam would say, “Those stumps sure add some character to your dirty siding!” I appreciate Pam’s lies about my yard. She makes me feel like being the mum of six kids is a good excuse not to mulch. Pam looks past the fact they’re all teenagers who feed themselves now, and that makes her fantastic.
Passive gratitude comes with thoughts of appreciation with missed moments to act on what we are grateful for. My mother-in-law died this week, and I am bombarded by my passive gratefulness for her and all the times I wish I could have back to go show her, not just tell her. She took the hurricane that is Juno for us pretty much whenever we wanted, she made food for me when I was being a baby or lazy, she loved unconditionally. I know she knew I was grateful, but did she know how much? Did I show her enough? I will live forever answering “most likely not.”
So what to do, yeah? In grief we make resolutions not dissimilar to our New Year, but they tend to last a little longer, I think. Right now I will keep my house cleaner or spend more time with my children; I say I will laugh more and help those in need. I will create a home my husband doesn’t roll his eyes at or regret. I will I will I will. I will love God and my mother better. I will call my little brother an idiot less.
Do not be afraid to self-care, one of my little sisters says to me. Is it selfish to show gratitude to ourselves? I don’t know yet. I am grateful to myself for responding to biological functions and for going to bed an hour earlier. I am grateful to myself for what I don’t do often, like tailgating and honking my horn for probably minor, unintentional infractions. I could be nicer to myself by not speaking so harshly or judging myself, but that will come in time. When someone dies you always hear someone say to tell everyone you love them before it’s too late, but I did/do that, and often. But I want to live and say it as though I am not just grateful for what they are to me, but what I can be to them. I want to show it. I want to show myself by finishing a manuscript and believing I can succeed. I want to show gratitude for myself by removing negative people and things that make me feel bad about myself from my life without worrying about leaving an empty space in people who aren’t grateful for me. Is that selfish? I still don’t know. But what I know is my The Mother taught me it’s possible to be selfless and take care of self, to live a life of love and also be so loved that when you leave Earth, that’s all people remember of you.
Rest in peace, my lovely one.