NYR 19-11: “Be More Mindful.” Part 4 – How To Think.

Back when I first came up with the idea for this blog, I tried to assign NYR’s to specific months in ways that were meaningful. “Be a Better Parent” in June for Father’s Day, “Be a Better Spouse” in September for our anniversary, and so on. So why Mindfulness in November?

Gratitude – I’d like to be more grateful, and I do think my meditation practice helps. And what better time to write about gratitude than Thanksgiving?

We’re heading to West Virginia this week to visit my wife’s family. The drive up with small children will be a challenge but hopefully safe and manageable. Last year when we drove up for Christmas, my oldest watched Frosty the Snowman on her iPad.

The entire drive.

Guys it’s about 5 hours to Huntington from our house in Charlotte. And I’m talking about the Jimmy Durante 1969 version of Frosty The Snowman (as if there’s any other), which is… wait for it… 25 minutes long. I think she watched it 11 times.

But it’s always worth the drive, because once we get there we usually find plenty of things to be grateful for.

I love fall weather, and sometimes I get it.

Sometimes I get the first snow of the season – I like that too.

Other times it’s just cold and rainy, but even that provides a pleasant contrast to the warm house, the warm family, the warm couches with warm blankets in a warm den. Warm naps after drifting off to parades or football or dog shows while my in-laws play with the kids for a while.

Warmth is something to be grateful for. I went to a Room At The Inn meeting a few weeks ago during an unusually bad cold snap. Leaving the church that night and walking to the bus station, it was tough not to think about just how much it sucks to be cold. How quickly it messes with your head. As the wind whipped my face and I rocked on my heels to keep warm I tried to imagine what it would be like to have to do this for an hour, for two hours, for an entire night. I buried my face in the front of my jacket.

And in less than an hour my jacket was off – because I was home with my family, wearing pajama pants and a t-shirt. I think I felt gratitude then, at least for a few seconds. It goes away too quickly.

Last week I was rocking my one-year-old in the glider, my wife was taking a bath, and I was starting to get annoyed because I was getting hungry. I wanted to just put my daughter in the crib and let her cry it out. And I started rationalizing that approach: I can’t rock her forever, she’s just being clingy, she needs to learn to take care of herself.

My one-year-old, by the way.

Then I remembered that she was sick. That she’s usually a great sleeper, and that I haven’t rocked her in the glider in weeks which means that pretty soon the days of rocking my girls in the glider might be behind me. I remembered that, even though I was feeling a little hungry now, some nights I’ve come home from work late and forgotten to eat dinner altogether.

Sure I was annoyed that I didn’t have my phone. It meant that I couldn’t go through my emails or scroll through Instagram or write. But it also meant that the outside world couldn’t get us.

Maybe the glider wasn’t a trap, but a shelter.

And maybe instead of thinking about how annoying it was to have to take care of her in that moment, I could have thought about the fact that she was suffering – and that, along with my wife, I’m literally the most qualified person on the entire planet to ease that suffering. That’s kind of amazing, if you think about it.

That’s something to be grateful for.

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