Gratitude Amidst Grieving

I have been feeling pretty despondent over the past couple of weeks, and it has been difficult for me to cobble together even the tiniest of positive posts lately. After a period of hibernation, and greatly reduced productivity, I finally got myself back to full steam at work yesterday. I did this by focusing on the glimmers of happiness nestled between those black clouds above my head, their brightness like threads holding together an old quilt.

There are many things that have been worrying me about the world around me, but I can only make sense of them, and deal with them if I take into account the good things in life as well. So here is my list of things and events that have made me happy over the past week, and helped me hold things together better.

  1. Date Day
    Every Veteran’s Day, my husband has a day off work; this is a particularly momentous occasion. You see, there aren’t many days in the year that my husband doesn’t work. To sweeten the deal, the kids had school, score!! I played hooky, and the two of us went into DC with absolutely no plans, and no huge bags containing snacks, wipes, band-aids, and discarded hoodies/coats/hats/boogers. We wandered around in a relaxed state with no whining in our wake, eating whatever and whenever we wanted from food trucks, and having long, uninterrupted conversations about pretty much everything. We also discovered a hidden treasure (number two on this list). Both of us had started that day in a state of post election despair, and we benefited greatly from spending the day this way together.  I want more mental health days like this!
  2. The Textile Museum
    We discovered the Textile Museum (how have I, a textile design graduate, never visited this place before?? I’m blaming the kids). The museum is a little gem, it has the friendliest staff I have ever encountered, free tea and cookies, and the Bingata exhibition of robes from Okinawa is absolutely stunning. Yes I actually wrote that, I’m a geek, a textile geek. I don’t visit museums and galleries as often as I should, but when I do, I feel inspired, and like a young art student again (despite my husband talking about Mr Miyagi during the whole exhibit). Oh, and I came home with some pretty cool freebies for the kids. I came home, and started working on my painting again.
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  3. Mail from England
    Our wedding anniversary is in November, my husband’s birthday is in December, and then there is Christmas and New Year. From November onwards, for the briefest of periods, we start to get more exciting stuff in our mail box from friends and relatives that we miss deeply. Presents,cards and letters start to liven up the normally depressing pile of junk mail and bills. Snail mail at it’s best.
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  4. Books
    A little escapism never hurt anyone. I have been relying heavily on books to lift me up since around kindergarten. Right now I’m reading Polly Shulman’s The Poe estate, and Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowlands to myself, and the most hilarious Mercy Watson series to my son, who is a first grader.
    In addition to this, I have turned to books to help my kids to make sense of what is happening around them better. My local library has thoughtfully stocked the shelves at the front of the library with books about inclusion and equality, for kids. I have been using them to talk to my kids about the importance of kindness, and inclusiveness, and am so amazed by my ten year old’s capacity for empathy . I’m very grateful to the librarian who curated those shelves.
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  • My Kids
    Yes, I know that I just wrote about the great liberation felt during my daylong date without kids – every parent needs that from time to time. Despite this, my main source of joy is my kids (they are, indeed, a double edged sword). They are delicious, and they make sure that you never really have the time to mope. With kids, time just keeps marching on and you can’t stop for a break. My six year old is teaching himself Spanish, French, and German (it’s hilarious), and has the ability to make me snort with laughter a few times a day; the ten year old  believes in Selkies, and sings Rapper’s Delight with all the wrong words. Enough said.
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There is a lot in my life to be grateful for, and a lot in the world that needs to be worked on. As a parent, teacher, and human being, I intend to keep striving towards building a kinder and more empathetic world, starting with myself and my children, but not ending there. Helen Keller once said “We may have found a cure for most evils; but we have found no remedy for the worst of them all, the apathy of human beings.” It is important to keep moving forward; it is important to feel deeply, and to not forget to advocate for the important things in this world.

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