Parenting

Gratitude

Matthew 6:1-6

Take heed that ye do not your alms before med, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

Therefore when thou doest [thine] alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites [are]: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou has shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

The air was unusually warm for December. The sun felt good on my face as I ran through my neighborhood. The familiar path beneath my feet was a welcome distraction from the stress of the day that waited for me at home. My right knee ached slightly with each step, but I was glad to be outside.

My watch notified me that my husband was calling. Mid-run. He never calls when I’m running unless there’s a problem.

I answered.

“The school just called. Our daughter is suicidal and we need to pick her up. NOW.”

I’m fairly certain that in all my years of running, I’ve never pushed myself to run home harder than I did that day nearly a year ago.

What followed was one of the longest days of my life that ended with us leaving our daughter in the hands of professionals who would keep her safe for almost 10 days. Then, therapy. Medication. And more therapy. And worry. So. Much. Worry.

A few months later, I sat in the same waiting room in the same hospital with another daughter. The pandemic was in full swing and I couldn’t do anything other than scroll through Facebook while I waited for them to tell me what I already knew.

They would be admitting her.

I started a gratitude journal not long after that.

May 26: I’m grateful that sidewalk chalk arrived, we already have dinner, and the kids are healthy.

There are more blanks in my journal than there are entries. It’s been a rough year.

Yesterday, my newsfeed filled with #givethanks. At first, I thought it was timely. Thanksgiving is only a week away.

But then, it started to rub me the wrong way. People I didn’t know I was friends with because they never post anything were all posting about being thankful for their family. It was like Day 1 of gratitude testimony meeting. I could almost hear them all in a child’s voice…

“And I’m thankful for my mom. And I’m thankful for my dad. And I’m thankful for my cat. And I’m thankful for…”

I keep going back to that day in the hospital. Sweaty hair stuck to my face. Pacing a waiting room for hours. Worried calls home to confused children asking them to cook dinner and keep the house together until we could get home. Hugging my husband in desperation. Whispered reassurances we hoped were true.

Worry. Stress.

And gratitude.

True gratitude doesn’t come with a hashtag. It comes in the dark moments when there is nothing else. Can gratitude heal? Sure. It can heal you from the inside.

Does it cure a pandemic? Or suicide? Or unemployment?

No. It doesn’t. Does it make it bearable? Sometimes.

If any of my #givethanks people make it this far, I hope you’ll think about your gratitude in the darkest of your days and share the hard shit.

Not the basic stuff everyone can say. The things you are grateful for when there’s nothing left. And please, don’t share it with a hashtag. Tell your family. Tell your friends. Tell people that matter to you, not the Facebookiverse.

Those days in the mental hospital? I was so damn thankful for professionals that helped us keep our girls alive.

Today?

I literally wrote down that I was thankful for a new day. And that’s it.

Toxic Positivity:

The excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. The process of toxic positivity results in the denial, minimization, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience.

A few weeks ago I sat at my desk staring at my cursor blink for almost an hour. 9 months into the pandemic and our 15-year-old daughter was upstairs hiding under her bed sobbing. I told her the bad news…no you can’t go back to school. The school district says there isn’t space.

This year is so fucking hard. Am I thankful for my family? Every day. Are they the most challenging humans I know? Every day.

So sometimes, I’m thankful for sidewalk chalk, or my cats, or my goofy dog. And sometimes…

I leave the gratitude spot blank in my journal because I can’t find the light in the darkness.

And that’s ok too.

2 Comments

  • Angela

    Thank you for sharing this. I’ve only learned the term “toxic positivity” in the last year or so, and it’s helped me come to terms with understanding it’s ok to NOT be ok.

    • Stacey Bishop

      It’s a newer term for me as well, but one that has been healing to learn about and understand. It really is ok to not be ok.

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