It’s been something of a tough winter around our house.
Well, OK, wait. Let me walk that back a bit. The deeper, “more important” truth is that we are all healthy. We have been fortunate enough to avoid genuinely tragic, life-altering setbacks these past few months.
But I’m going to be honest: it’s been a grind-y few months.
Our kids have been waking up more exhausted than usual: more depleted, grouchy, and gray. Our youngest child, 9-year-old Andrew, who heretofore has been something of a good-mood marvel, a gosh-golly tow-headed throwback to a Mark Twain-ian time…even Andrew has been prone to despair puddles of late, bottoming out in meltdowns when confronted with even the most routine obstacle.
Some of this is seasonal, I suspect. It hasn’t been the bitterest-cold of winters - not like that one we had a couple of years ago, when it felt like it was fifteen degrees forever. But it does feel like rain and clouds and chill have stretched somewhat doggedly into the spring.
I’ve wondered how much of our political stress has leaked into our children’s moods. It has certainly disrupted the hell out of my sleep cycle, which has in turn played havoc with my early-morning exercise habit, which has no doubt yielded a consistently grouchier, crankier me. That stuff trickles down, I have no doubt.
My 12-year-old rock star of a daughter Emma came out with this one the other day:
“I wish we had more money.”
It was late at night, after ten. Everyone else had gone to bed. Emma and I were breaking it down at the dining room table.
“I just wish we had enough money to do all the things we want to do, and not worry so much.”
We’re not going anywhere for spring break this year. We had a lucky year last year, and flew off for a few amazing days in the Florida Keys. This year, it is not to be, and our kids are less than thrilled. But I do think they’re using the whole spring break thing as a peg to hang our family’s stresses on. Emma is, at least.
In our late-night summit, she took aim at Shelovian Staycation 2017, wishing on a star for some kind of magic bullet, some lottery ticket that can whisk us all away, not just out of our home, and routine, but somewhere else, psychologically: somewhere stress- and grind-free.
I don’t think it’s the Staycation that’s really getting her down. I don't think it's really even the larger issue of money. I just think we’re all in something of a long, gray, rut.
So here’s my question for you, reader.
Has any of you had any success, even on a small, incremental level, incorporating gratitude-awareness into your family’s life? Be it religion, church, mindfulness, prayer, mentorship, meditation, or charity work…how do you keep yourself and your family in touch with gratitude and perspective?
Have you found your family’s true north? Are you looking for it? Or are you, like me, feeling too swamped and stressed to take the time to search?
I find myself entertaining Luddite fantasies about cutting back: to blow up our current life centered around what we want, and to build a life around what we are lucky enough to have. I shake my fist at their cursed iPhones, like Prospero raging at a storm, dreaming about a Draconian tech-purge; a forced popping of the red pill; an unplugging from the Matrix. But of course, I’ve been wussing out of that battle for years now.
And in my heart of hearts I think I’m really looking for a habit to add, not for amenities to take away.
What habits and routines have you adopted, to keep your loved ones grounded, to keep them perpetually aware of and grateful for your considerable gifts and good fortune?
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