Gratitude and Chicken Sh*t
For the last two months, I have been wanting to write a blog about gratitude. And it’s pretty telling about my state of mind that it has been so hard to get done. Believe me, I see myself as a blessed person with a supportive family and a great group friends. However, even with all the love around me, it’s hard to sustain a feeling of gratitude. At first, I blamed my lackluster emotions on the constant news updates and social media posts about black people dying at the hands of the police. Then the attacks by ISIS. Then the fact that Donald Trump keeps talking. But then, a few days ago, it became clear to me what the problem really was.
It was the last day of school before my daughters’ holiday vacation, and I decided to wake up early and cook the two of them a personalized breakfast in honor of the occasion. In front of Skye (my 10-year-old), I placed a plate of scrambled eggs, toast, and a small bowl of fresh fruit. For Sage (my 7-year-old), I whipped up oatmeal with toast and sausage. I sat down with them at the table and sipped my morning coffee, thinking we could have a bonding moment before school.
But instead, Skye glanced over at Sage’s breakfast selection and asks in a huff, “Why did you make me eggs?”
“You like eggs.” I said a bit perplexed.
“I know,” Skye replied, “but I like oatmeal, too.”
“Yes, I know you do, but I thought you liked eggs more.” Skye poked out her lips and began eating her eggs.
“Can you pass the salt?,” she asked me. “They don’t have much flavor.”
I slid the salt closer and took another sip of my coffee. Sage, recognizing her older sister’s dissatisfaction, grinned slyly then decided to chime in. “Mom, this is the best oatmeal ever!”
I could see where this was heading, and I was starting to wish that I had slept in and told them to eat a bowl of cereal.
Then Skye asked, “Why does Sage have more things than I do?”
For a moment, I began to explain, “Well, I know Sage doesn’t like eggs, and I remembered you stopped eating meat.” As I heard myself explaining, I felt my anger rising. “You know what?” I yelled. “This is ridiculous! I don’t know what’s wrong with you this morning, but right now, you are acting like a spoiled brat. Can’t you just be grateful?”
“I am grateful,” Skye responded quickly, trying to subside my eruption. “Thank you.”
I was glad when they left for school. It was clear I was going to have to get myself together in order to handle the next two weeks of vacation. And this got me thinking. I saw myself in my daughter. I had spent so much time complaining about my house not being clean enough, my husband not helping me enough, and not having the wardrobe that I wanted. Like Skye, I was too focused on what I didn’t have rather than what I did. And that made me remember a story my father once told me.
Years ago, my dad had the opportunity to go to a dinner party with friends and a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks. (It sounds absurd, but stay with me here!)
For fun, the friends went around the table and asked the head monk one question aloud. When it was my father’s turn, he asked the monk what was the key to happiness? The monk looked at him and smiled. Then he surprised everyone with his candor. “You have to walk through a lot of chicken shit to get to the egg,” he answered. Then continued. “A lot of people can’t do it. They get irritated over the shit that sticks to their shoes, or they get disgusted by the smell. They stop being able to see the egg in front of them because they get distracted by things that aren’t important.”
And that is me, my daughter, and maybe many of you –– distracted by the shit we have to go through instead of the blessing before us. I do have so much to be thankful for, including the newest addition to the family, my daughter Siena. My grandmother living to the young age of 90. The most supportive husband in the world. And so many friends and family being there for me through it all. In 2016, I plan to do much better. No matter the hardships, I’m going to keep my eye on the egg. I think I’ll start with gratitude. Thank you for reading!