The day before New Year's Eve as I was preparing for our journey home and packing our car at my mother-in-law's house I couldn't help but feel annoyed -- the kids received way too many presents, my husband had not packed his stuff fast enough, the car is dirty, the garage is cold. Finally at 9 a.m. when everything and everyone was loaded into the car, I realized through the error message on the dashboard that this car is not going to take us anywhere that day.
My husband and I launched into action (a comfort zone for both of us) trying to find a certified local mechanic in an unfamiliar town during the holidays, unloading and towing the car, researching alternative transportation options and alternative holiday plans for the six of us.
This was a challenging year for me. It wasn't a bad year really, just a personally challenging one. I was trying to do too many things -- balancing client work and launching a women's initiative, planning a remodel and family vacations while finding time to volunteer in the kids' classroom. I felt overwhelmed for most part of the year and to be honest pretty miserable at times.
As I was waiting for my husband to return with an update on the fate of the car and the rest of our holiday I felt predictably nervous because of the guilt (what if I had damaged the car?), nervous because of the unknown (what are we going to do now?), and nervous because of all the dependencies (do we need to cancel and change all our plans?)
Then I received the first text letting me know that the earliest the car can be on the road is in two days after thousands of dollars in repair costs. My heart sank a little more. When my husband called I hesitated to answer the phone, but his voice sounded joyous with no trace of anger.
"Honey, we are so lucky!" he said.
"We are?" I felt confused.
"Sure we are... just look around. We have so much -- we are healthy, our kids are healthy, our parents are healthy. We have a car, we can go to places and when it doesn't work we can pay for the repairs."
He is right, of course, but he certainly changed his tune from just a few hours before. "I didn't know that sitting in a repair shop for hours can positively alter one's perspective..."
"It wasn't the repair shop," he laughed. "Do you remember the sign I liked at the restaurant we ate at yesterday?"
Yes I do. It was at Mama D's Italian Kitchen in Manhattan Beach, and they had written out the "Gratitude Rules" in chalk on their board. The same "Gratitude Rules" that circulated on Facebook a short while ago which starts with: #1. Early wakeups = Children to love; #2. House to clean = Safe place to live; #3. Laundry = Clothes to wear... My husband took a photo of it, and was talking about it since.
When he got back from the shop, (without the car), he gave me and the kids a big hug and repeated how lucky we are for having each other and for this happening at his mom's garage instead of on the road somewhere. He had repeated this at the rental car place that afternoon as the kids and I set out to continue our journey without him, and repeated it on the phone late at night as we were trying to figure it out if he will be able to spend New Year's Eve with us or not.
So early this morning as I am lying in bed sleeplessly with both kids curled up next to me snoring while their little legs periodically kick me in the back, I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude. I am grateful for those early wakeups, grateful for those kicks in the back, grateful for my husband and kids, grateful for being together, and grateful for being alive. I am grateful for the wonderful people in my life and grateful for those who I do not know personally but who work tirelessly to keep me and my family safe, healthy and warm -- car mechanics at the repair shop, our local policemen and firemen, the engineers at the gas company, all the doctors, delivery people, garbage collectors, shopkeepers who I see often but rarely say thanks to. And I am realizing that feeling this much gratitude feels deeply rejuvenating, which is exactly what I need more in my life. So instead of fancy resolutions and intentions, all I want and need for the new year is more gratitude...