It is with great pleasure that I get to share Maren’s thoughts on gratitude with you today. I met Maren when she lived in the Bay Area, a bit after her daughter Leah was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome. She is a wife, mother, blogger here and here and master crafter on top of Boston Marathon runner, piano teacher and amazing friend for the short list. While we only lived close to each other for a brief season, she and her fabulous family will be forever close in my heart. Enjoy!
Gratitude is a funny thing. It’s ever so easy to say we are grateful for any number of things. It’s especially easy to say we are grateful for that laundry list when those things are in abundance or are working just as we had planned. However, at least in my own experience, we often don’t feel that same intensity of gratitude for whatever it is we were “grateful” for until those things are left hanging in the balance.
I never knew how grateful I was for a strong, supportive family until I moved away from college. Or how grateful I was for a network of friends until one day, they were gone. I never knew how grateful I was for strong, hard abs until I had a c-section and those abs were ripped apart. For shelter and a fridge brimming with food until I had to start paying for said shelter and food myself. The list goes on for me, as I’m sure it does for you. Some items are big, some are small. Some we are aware of now, and some will be added to the list once they are taken away or not working as we had hoped.
But one of the items at the top of my list is my body.
I’m a religious person. I believe my body was created by a loving, compassionate God. And other than my twice disconnected abs, I have a body that works rather flawlessly. This isn’t to say my body is perfect in its proportions or physical worldly beauty – I’ve had my share of crying sessions over my freshman 15 and acne on picture day.
But, cellulite and cankles aside, I have an incredible, working, healthy body.
When I was a young girl, my legs carried me effortlessly across the hopscotch outline painted on the pavement. My hips shimmied their way to the preschool hula hoop championship. My blistered hands swung me across the metal monkey bars with ease.
As I grew, my skin stayed mostly clear of the dreaded teenage acne – and when it didn’t, my body eventually healed itself of those blemishes. My body has participated in countless basketball, softball and volleyball games. My legs have carried me through tumbles in gymnastics and pliés and relevés in ballet, and later hundreds upon hundreds of miles leading to a handful of half and full marathons.
My fingers have gracefully moved across ebony and ivory keys playing endless scales, Chopin concertos and Scott Joplin rags. My mind carried me through AP classes and a nearly perfect GPA in high school and college, graduating from both with honors. I’ve had no major illnesses, injuries or infirmities. And my body has conceived and carried to term two beautiful, incredible little girls.
I can say, without hesitation, that I don’t say any of this to boast. At this point in my life, I can say these things with complete and utter humility and gratitude for a working body.
The reason I say these things with such intense gratitude is because I have a daughter who can’t.
And yet, despite the fact that her body doesn’t work the way she would like it to, we both still live every day with gratitude. Gratitude for the days her fingers grasp onto the stair railing, for the moments her legs carry her where her brain actually tells them to go. Gratitude for her otherwise good health. For her teachers, family and friends who help her do the things that alone, she can’t.
My husband and I just finished reading the Helen Keller story to my daughter. We both felt that while Keller is a great example to anyone, she is an especially great example to someone with a phsycial, bodily trial. In the book, she says, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
That pretty much sums up my outlook on gratitude. In the same way we shouldn’t refuse to do something that we can do, we also shouldn’t refuse to be grateful for the things we actually have.
We have all been given different blessings. We have all been given different bodies. They all work differently not only in what they can do, but how they do those things. I am grateful, every day, for my body. And, because Leah’s doesn’t work in the same way mine does, I am now also grateful that my body works well enough to take care of her. To lift her, clothe her, feed her, bathe her. To comb her hair, push her on the swings, turn the pages of her favorite books. And if I’m really lucky, I’ll get a slobbery kiss, a bright smile or sweet hand squeeze from her in return.
I never imagined I’d be so grateful for something as small as a hand squeeze. But gratitude is a funny thing that way, and I’m happy to add items to my laundry list.