When Gratitude is Hard

In response to all of the people who say, “I don’t know how you do it…”

First, you could do it too. You’d rise to the occasion, just like I did.

Second, you are doing it, whatever it is right now, whether it be crippling anxiety, a season of hard firsts, divorce, illness. Step back and realize that it may be a painful mess right now, but you’re doing it.

Third, sometimes this whole parenting a kid with a disability guts me open and I can do nothing.

When given the choice of Go Big or Go Home, I go home. This is the story of how I did both and how Going Big felt so good.

I had a concert this week and I was so excited to be singing gospel music with 200 amazing women. It’s the kind of music that starts in the center of yourself and projects hope and joy through your entire being, not allowing you to stand still. Bring it.

When we started to rehearse last wednesday, I just closed my eyes to take in these beautiful voices surrounding me. Then the lyrics hit me, “It’s a new season of power and prosperity,” and I felt so heavy and couldn’t block out the sounds and leave fast enough. So, I went home.

It is a new season for me. I’ve survived other seasons by practicing the posture of gratitude, holding tightly to small things while experiencing great pain. But some of the things I’ve been grateful for, many of Aidan’s big accomplishments, have been stolen by his bad-ass brain. We’re entering a new medical season where I will hand my boy over – put him on a slab, cut into his bones, drug him, immobilize him for months, my precious boy whose biggest joy is to move. Hurt him to heal him…. take to give.

I cried about all of this with my husband after rehearsal. I’m pretty sure I said I was done being a mother and that I hated gratitude. My beautiful man was amazing as he held me and made all sorts of hopeful promises. I cried it all out and went back to living in my head where it all made sense.

And when my concert began Saturday, that music brought me from my head to my heart and I began to unravel. I knew I was sharing space with strong, amazing, broken, hurting, healed women who had more pressing pain, but there I was, with nothing in particular except everything. I decided to Go Big. I cried onstage, offstage, at the bar, in the audience, for almost five hours in front of hundreds of people, with stage lights on me, I cried. Not delicate tears, but big sloppy snotty tears. We sang about new seasons and second chances and inside I was screaming, “Screw you, power and prosperity, and screw you, another train that left me behind.” And then we sang “After the storm cloud passes over, everything will be alright,” and I wanted to beg my singing sisters to keep singing until it was true. Sway with me, sing with me, stand with me. Sing into my son’s brain, sing it to the doctor’s scalpel, the MRI machine, sing when they take my son’s wheelchair, sing it to his seizures and side effects…

And here’s what happened when I decided to Go Big…

One friend grabbed my hand when my hardest song started to say I’m with you. Several other women rubbed my back while we sang as if performing and crying and singing all belong together. A friend who noticed that I dashed out of rehearsal wrote me a card that said, “I’ll be singing for you.” Another medical mom who made the herculean effort to come to my concert, took my hand later and simply said, “I get it.” This is the richness of doing life together.

In her pre-concert pep-talk, our director spoke words of Whole Living, or what I’ve called the deep and overflowing well of joy and pain. Holding a place for each of these is abundant living. These women, those songs, the tears and swaying, this joyful and healing community….for these gifts, I am grateful.

This post was nominated for a SWAN award.

SWAN International blog post award

Shared on Ellen’s blog.

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19 thoughts on “When Gratitude is Hard

  1. Wow. This is an incredibly moving post. Honest, raw, and filled with its own kind of grace. Your honesty, your tears (and I can relate to those snotty sobbing great gobs of tears), and your choir sing out and resonate truth. Thank you for speaking (and daring to sing!) it.

  2. Now I have to go back and look at some of your other writing .. you are a beautiful writer! I found you through you linking this on Ellen Stumbo’s shary/linky thanksgiving thing.

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