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September 11, 2023

Embrace The Haves Instead of the Have Nots

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.

Embrace The Haves Instead of the Have Nots

Many years ago, when my mom was admitted into hospice, she turned to me and said, “I need to write a long gratitude list on a short piece of paper.” She smiled her unique wry smile, always playing with words,  and I held her hand and understood. She wanted more time to live and learn and laugh–but she also wanted more time to be grateful. Grateful for all that she had known and experienced.

This lesson still rings true on my journey today, at 56 years old and an official “empty nester,” with two in college and a big house I ramble around in with three cats. I am grateful, I practice gratitude, but sometimes, when the weeks are long with work and the red tape of bills, calls to make, appointments and schedules, I forget this gratitude and I focus on what isn’t there instead of what is.

And what isn’t there? A long list–if I let it be this way.

My kids are gone and don’t “need” me anymore. They are walking their paths, solving their own problems. This is a special loss I wasn’t prepared for in life–and one no one really talks about. But also I don’t have a huge savings. I don’t have the travel schedule I wanted. I don’t have a second home in the mountains–my lifelong dream–and I don’t have anyone “special” to share it with.  I don’t have the novel finished that’s been stewing inside me for forty years. I don’t have, can’t have, won’t have. All the negative contractions in language put before the haves and the having.

Mom used to call this “stinkin’ thinkin” but I call it “sinkin’ thinkin” because it sucks you down and into a swirl of thoughts just chasing each other in the dark. Before you know it, you’re lying in the bed an hour later, drowned in a whirlpool of scarcity.

Then I remember spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra’s words at an event I attended many years ago. He said, “What you Focus on will Grow.”  and this could not be more true. Think about it: focus on the good things in your day and you see more of those good things. The sun creeping in your window, the birds at your feeder, the sweet text out of the blue from your friend just checking in.

If I focus on my haves, gratitude is nourished. I have my health, two smart, creative kids, my family, my close friendships. I have running water and strong coffee and cats that have food and rain when the garden needs it. I have a car that works (for now), clothes to wear, and something to do when I get to work. I have a smile to give to someone who doesn’t have one. I have my eyes to see and ears open to  hear messages for this day. And as I think about these haves, they grow like beautiful wildflowers inside me, scattered across my internal landscape, reminding me of richness and color in my life.

So when I wake up and hear those “not haves” calling me, I remember my mom’s gratitude list she wanted to write. And how I’m to write it now for her and me –truly embracing all I am and all I am becoming– watching my life flourish in a mindset of gratitude.

What I focus on grows, and all the things I have fit on the longest piece of paper in the world.

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