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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Choosing Gratitude

A couple of weeks ago, I read a blog post bashing the so-called gratitude movement. The author targeted the book,  Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (which, incidentally was a book that I intensely disliked) and basically said that it is another book in a long line of attempts to subjugate women to more inequality in the world. In other words, gratitude is another way that men are working to subvert women to their evil machinations of inequality. It makes a great conspiracy theory, doesn’t it?

I responded, arguing that gratitude isn’t about the subjugation or degradation of humans, but rather that it allows people to transcend tragedy and gives them strength to endure tough situations. The author and I kind of talked circles for a bit, when I gave up. I would be the first person to say that there are still some serious problems that women face in the world: domestic violence, sexual abuse, rape, etc. But I absolutely disagree that gratitude contributes to these serious social problems.

I’ve thought about that blog post for a while now. It has rumbled through my mind as I’ve carried on through life in the past two weeks. The word, “gratitude” pulsed through my mind as I lay on a table, watching my ultrasound and hearing the deafening silence where a heartbeat of a 13-week fetus was supposed to beat. It was a strange reaction, not that I was grateful for that terrible moment, but my 13-month son sat beside me in his stroller, and I could only feel moments of relief and gratitude that I had so much as I was facing a loss that hurt so much.

I subsequently miscarried a few days later, in a torrent of pain and blood. As I lay weak and exhausted in my bed, mind almost numb from what had just happened, waves of gratitude for my husband’s loving and tender care engulfed me, soothing the hurts that throbbed in my heart.

I’ve held on tight to the notion and practice of gratitude as feelings of anger and frustration have threatened to toss me overboard into the jaws of the proverbial whale, burying me in the sea of anger forever. If I let go, I don’t know if I would ever emerge from that dark abyss. And so I choose gratitude: gratitude for prayers to ease and calm my heart, gratitude for hospitals and good doctors and blood transfusions, gratitude for 5 beautiful healthy children, gratitude for a wise Heavenly Father who gave my  husband time to get home from a far-off country to help me, gratitude for good friends, gentle words of understanding and sympathy, and gratitude for so much goodness which permeates my life. 

I choose gratitude, not because it takes away my pain or makes me content with my life, but because it makes this more bearable. My feelings of gratitude remind me that there is hope and a promise of happy days to come. And it allows me to find joy in the present, to laugh at my kids’ antics, read a ridiculous recipe and find pleasure in the absurdity of it, to appreciate the accomplishments and happiness of friends and family, in short to carry on with hope.

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So it’s Women’s history month. . . I’ve read several different blog posts about noteworthy women. Fascinating to read. But the whole idea of Women’s History month makes me feel conflicted. On one hand, I totally get the idea of celebrating the legacy of women and the often unwritten legacy of women. I totally appreciate the sacrifices of women who fought to change the nursing standards (Florence Nightingale), women who fought for the vote (Susan B. Anthony), or articulate Mormon women who fearlessly contributed to women’s causes.  However, the idea that we have to celebrate women on a grand scale who contributed in a large way to politics or nursing or whatever kind of begs the question: what about the women who lived quiet, ordinary lives. The kind of woman that we only see a few lines written about on a gravestone. Perhaps we can’t measure their contributions, but I suspect that their influence was far greater than we can even imagine.

When I look at my personal history and think about the people who have shaped, influenced and molded me, I don’t think of the big names in politics, business, or technology, or even General Authorities. My list of women who impacted me will never get written up in Time magazine. But that doesn’t demean or belittle their contributions to my life.

There is my mother who grew up very poor. She had to work while a teenager to help her family. She learned how to make bread when she was young because her father liked how she made it. She made bread once a week to last the entire week. She was a good student and had a scholarship to college, but turned it down to move with her family. She married my father, a widower with three daughters, and built a life with him. I don’t remember my mother playing a lot with me when I was young, but I do remember the piano lessons she paid for so that I could have 12 years of lessons. She let me experiment in the kitchen as long as I cleaned up my messes. She has always been there supporting me in my endeavors.

My paternal grandmother was a working woman and worked at a court house when I was in elementary school. She was very intelligent and a hard worker. She had a witty sense of humor and was a real fighter.

My young women’s leader when I was a Laurel really shaped me. A month ago, I read the card she wrote to me when I graduated from high school. Her advice was spot on. I don’t know if I appreciated her then, but I sure do now.

My second grade teacher was wonderful. She had us write in a journal everyday in class. I treasure that battered notebook as I read my thoughts from my 8 year old self.

The women who became my friends at BYU. I am still in awe of their collective and individual intelligence. I always felt elevated when around them. Even today, as we juggle families across the globe, I appreciate the things they taught me as a freshman.

There are many more but I need to go. Perhaps another blog entry. . .

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