You know that feeling? The one where when someone asks you how it’s going you have to physically restrain yourself from releasing a deluge of information including but not limited to the health of your children, the location of your spouse, and your crazybusy (yes, one word) schedule in the days to come and those just passed.
I hate that. For several weeks I just couldn’t shake that unbalanced feeling.
So, one morning while the kids were eating breakfast and Michael was messing around with the hole in our screen door that was letting entire colonies of mosquitoes into our home, I decided to attack that feeling head on. I snuck into the other room and onto the internet searching for solutions to “feeling out of balance.” Google had several suggestions:
Yoga. But I’ve never been very flexible.
Meditation. But I’ve never been very good at sitting still.
Tightrope walking. But I’m not crazy.
I was just about to give up – my family was getting suspicious of my 3-minute absence – when something caught my eye. It was a headline that said something to the effect of “Gratitude, Nature’s Cure All.” Apparently, a heaping spoonful of gratitude is all an unbalanced soul needs.
Though I could hear the noise level in the kitchen rising, I anxiously kept searching. I wanted gratitude strategies. Something I could implement in just a few seconds at the beginning or end of each crazybusy day.
I scrolled swiftly and found a link claiming Oprah attributed her massive success to a gratitude journal. Jackpot! Just then I heard the unmistakable sound of a cup of milk crashing to the floor and the cry of a toddler and I knew I had just seconds to spare.
‘For 16 years, every night before bed Oprah writes down five things she is grateful for that day,” the article said. Practical and quick, I thought. Totally doable. I’m feeling better already.
“Kindra,” my husband appeared in the doorway having given up on the mosquito war. “What are you doing?”
“I’m trying to be more grateful!” I exclaimed frantically. Michael merely raised an eyebrow. Off to a great start, I thought.
However, I spent the rest of the day on a gratitude roll, making mental notes of things to record. That night I ceremoniously pulled an untouched journal from a stack of journals I have collected, and numbered five lines.
I am grateful for:
1. My adoring husband.
2. My precious son.
3. My feisty daughter.
4. My work.
5. My friends.
56 seconds later, I closed the journal. Done! And while I didn’t necessarily sense an increase in balance, as I lay my head on the pillow, I started planning my very own “Favorite Things” episode.
For three whole days I lived an efficiently gratuitous life; spending 56 effortless seconds before bed jotting down my five items. Then came the fourth day.
The fourth day was a crazybusy imbalanced blur. I’ll restrain from sharing the details.
I crawled into bed that fourth night crabby and exhausted. Just before I passed out thought to myself, “Oh shoot. I forgot to be grateful.” I sat back up, hastily pulled my journal off my nightstand and numbered the lines.
I am grateful for…
2. Iced coffee.
I stopped at three. I didn’t have time for this. It was dumb.
I immediately abandoned my gratitude strategy – it just wasn’t working. And I was pretty sure if I sat down with Oprah and asked for the truth about her gratitude journal she would lean forward and in a throaty whisper say, “Oh honey, I only made it three days… ain’t nobody got time for that.”
These thoughts and others raced through my mind that Thursday morning while I drove my three year old to preschool. Per the usual, he talked the whole way – the only person on the planet who can outtalk me. On that particular Thursday, the one-way conversation centered entirely on the color turquoise.
“Oh! Look Mama! I just saw a turquoise car! Did you see that turquoise car? Mama! Did you see that sign, that sign was turquoise. Oh! Mama! Look at the sky, the sky is kind of turquoise. The ocean is turquoise too. Oh! Mama! Look at that gate! It’s… it’s… TURQUOISE!
“Mama!” he crescendoed from the confines of his car seat. “Mama! There is just so much turquoise in the WORLD!”
He paused. Then slowly, quietly, thoughtfully said…
“This is my world. My beautiful, turquoise world.”
There was breathless wonder in his voice. He was completely overwhelmed…
I pulled into the parking lot and sat for a moment.
I was doing gratitude all wrong. I was trying to manufacture it, or simply retrace or recall it – but that’s not how gratitude works. Gratitude takes us by surprise. It overwhelms us and fills us with wonder. In its truest form gratitude can’t be captured on a list or strategically felt it in less than a minute. If I wanted to shake my imbalanced life, tallying good things at the end of an otherwise disconnected day wasn’t going to straighten me out. I had to engage in my own turquoise world and from the confines of my crazybusy days, be aware of its beauty.
That night I pulled my mostly untouched journal from the nightstand and instead of writing five things, I wrote about the one time I drove my son and all his gratitude to school. It took me 30 minutes. And for the first time in a long time, I felt my balance return.