July 8, 2021

The Gratitude Lessons I learned from my Brave Momma.

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Having an attitude of gratitude is not always easy to attain.

Some days, I wake up with a spring in my step and joy in my heart. Other days, not so much. It’s on those days when I hear the voice of my wise momma, cutting through all my self-pitying, self-loathing, and selfish noise.

“It’s okay to feel that today sucks, but look at all you do have,” she states knowingly.

Despite the fact that some days feel less like a walk in the park and more like a half-run through a muddy path, strewn with fallen gnarly trees, while fighting off scary bugs and hungry lions, I have the ability to see through that muck at what I do have—thanks to my momma.

I’ve learned, through the wisdom of my momma, how crucial gratitude is. It has changed me for the better. I find gratitude attitude to be one of the most important tools in my life. It’s a simple, powerful step that shifts what I have into more than enough.

It’s too easy to fall into a self-woe pattern when I look around and take stock of what I don’t have. It turns out, though, that it’s just as easy to look around and take stock of what I do have. It’s taken many years, and a lot of repeated lessons from my wise momma, for me to finally realize this truth.

In the pre-Netflix era, when I was a young girl and we were limited to watching whatever happened to be on cable, my momma, sister, and I were lazing around on the couch one rainy Sunday afternoon, channel surfing through what seemed to be a bunch of no-good shows. In the midst of those 20 channels, momma had announced, “That’s a good movie; let’s watch it.” And so, we watched the romantic journey of Miss Birdee Calvert in “Hope Floats.”

It’s an adorable show filled with several actors and actresses who quickly became favourites of mine. About halfway through the movie, Romana Calvert murmurs to her granddaughter, “My cup runneth over.” At the time, I didn’t realize that was a passage from a Psalm in the Bible, which made it even more special.

Sometimes, I feel as though that Psalm is a theme throughout my life. When I’m making Thanksgiving dinner for my family, when I’m snuggling with my cat, when I’m watching my nephew toddle around his playpen, when I’m going for a walk, when I’m doing the dishes, a quiet voice passes through my mind, whispering, “My cup runneth over.”

Contentment with what I have and disinterest in wanting more are lessons passed on to me by my momma. Even after almost 30 years, she still passes on that same lesson on a semi-weekly basis. The moment I feel an urge to give in to the negativity that seems to be all around me—wanting what I don’t have or wanting things now—there is momma.

“Arista,” her gentle but firm voice softly reaches my ears, “remember to look at what you do have.” And, as if by magic, what I have is suddenly more than enough. My eyes are opened wide to see a cup spilling over with blessings. The things I lamented over not having just moments before become irrelevant because I can suddenly see that what I do have is so much better than what I don’t have.

Dissatisfaction with the “have-nots” in my life is even something to be grateful for. The time spent not having just makes the blessings even sweeter, if or when I do receive them. The automatic receipt of something I want doesn’t have the same effect or feeling as waiting, working, dreaming, and, finally, receiving it. The process is something to be grateful for.

My momma doesn’t try to sugarcoat life; she knows better than anyone that life is difficult—that it isn’t fair, and that the continual struggle of not getting what you want is heart-breaking and challenging. She’s taught me those realities.

Still, despite (or maybe because of those struggles she has faced), she is the best person to pass on the lesson of gratitude. My momma could easily sit in a pile of self-pity and tell me all about how she has struggled, how she doesn’t have the things that she should have, and how she doesn’t have enough. But never does. Instead, she sits next to me in her rocking chair and tells me about how blessed she feels.

My momma chooses to talk about what she has and how grateful she is for it all. I imagine this isn’t always an easy thing for her to do, but I can only hope to emulate her strength as I go about my day.

There are moments when the realities of life and the grief over what I don’t have threatens to overwhelm me. There are moments when I am so downtrodden that I can’t seem to think of just one thing to be grateful for. The next moments are what matters, though. They are the moments when I realize “my cup runneth over,” and if nothing else, I remember I have my strong, beautiful, wise momma.

That’s more than I need and so much more than I deserve.


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