By Lacey Dixon
A day spent fishing.
Homemade whipped cream.
A new notebook.
I have great respect for gratitude. Its power can transform moods and strengthen relationships. Nothing can brighten someone’s life like a genuine thank you.
This past year, though, I told God on numerous occasions that adding comfy socks, delicious coffee, or my son’s laughter to my gratitude list didn’t reap the same endorphins: they fell short. I wasn’t grateful for the little things when I was in the middle of what friends were calling a season of growth.
I learned I was good at gratitude when I already felt grateful. It didn’t require a stretch. Feeling and expressing gratitude becomes a lot more challenging when your footholds erode.
My sense of self as a mother and career woman started to take on a new shape, and I began to feel momentum again. Then it became apparent that the work-parenting balance wasn’t balanced anymore. We needed a change to make the calendar less ugly; we found ourselves forcing the pieces to fit too often.
I left my job, convincing myself that the elements of a new role were ripe for feeling gratitude: I could have a new challenge, grow as a person, meet new people, and embrace a beautiful city. I could be home more nights with my son and be challenged in a host of new ways with a new job.
That proved far too true. I wanted more responsibility, more independence, new skill development, new strategies for processing information and adapting communication, and a faster pace. But I got all of it simultaneously. I’d shake some gratitude from the days like I was attempting to find bubbles in a half-flat soda, but the truth was I felt more like a lethargic caterpillar than a svelte butterfly. I couldn’t be grateful for the energy to spin extra plates. Today became my plate. I had to narrow my gratitude scope significantly.
God’s timing in mysterious. The necessity of a singular focus might have saved me when my dad had heart surgery during my third week at my new job. I spent time cursing, challenging, pleading with, and making demands of God. While I could write volumes of gratitude lists on the experiences and conversations I’ve had with my father, I wasn’t grateful. I was greedy. I wanted more time. I wanted him to know his grandson. I didn’t want my mother or my sister to be in such pain.
I felt like the leaks in my boat were clearly adding up to a sinking ship.
Even when Dad made it through surgery well and began the road to recovery, I was rattled. I continued to navigate my new job without knowing what the big picture looked like. One day at a time to someone who tends to plan months or years in advance felt like fear and failure.
I grew impatient and annoyed with what now felt like excess, and I started stripping it away. The world looked different, and I acted differently than I had in the past. I grew physically stronger just running or lifting or stretching with no needed race registration. I ate food mindfully but without a specific goal in mind. I met people and truly listened to their stories. I took new paths to work in the morning just to learn the roads. I found I wanted less quantity and more quality.
A curious thing happened when I just lived the day. I didn’t miss the adventure of days and nights on the road like I thought I would. Long-distance friends and past coworkers stayed in touch. More evenings were filled with date nights and conversations on the deck. Weekends meant playtime. Dad healed. I began to see myself change.
One day, I was scrolling Proverbs 31’s website and read a meme that both stopped me and has since stayed with me: This breaking of you will be the making of you. A new you. A stronger you.
I asked to be a better mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, and coworker, and God put me in the position to do that. He knows how, and he’s not going to give me the quick answer. I need to quit asking. I’ll figure it out one day at a time–and be grateful for how he’s changed me.
If you don’t see Lacey Rose Dixon taking photos or writing, she’s thinking about it. So far, she’s called Minnesota, South Dakota, and Michigan home, and her passport gets itchy for stamps. Lacey loves scuba diving with her hubby and crawling after her little man. Follow her @laceyrosedixon on Twitter.
Photograph © David Zawila, used with permission