It is incredibly easy to remember all the hardships that happened over the last year. The loss of job, the loss of dog, the loss of my no-pants writing gig. It’s easy to count the losses and grief. I think those things stick in our craw because they are the times that we learned (or should have learned) the most. All the nice, easy times? That was just God loving us, and we, like most children, tend to take those precious moments for granted.
Over the last year, we moved 1000+ miles away from our family and friends. My husband gained and lost employment. This week, I have over 60 hours clocked in as a middle school teacher and it’s only Tuesday.
It’s been a little hard to look for the good.
So, to jog your memory and mine, here is a list of things that I probably shouldn’t be grateful for, although I kind of am. Despite their bitter appearance, they are where I learned and loved the most.
1. I didn’t get pregnant.
For those of you who know me and my struggles with infertility, this might seem like a non-sequiter. Why would I be so thankful about something that has been such a burden in my life?
The truth is, this was the magical year that I wasn’t sad every month I got my period. I actually moved on. And, truth be told, I started getting used to the idea that I was done making babies. This opened my eyes to other possibilities, like what it would be like to be a foster mom and help children whose parents need help taking care of them. Also, it inspired me to become a dog mom again. Believe me, if you’ve ever had a tiny puppy, you know that there are very few differences between dogs and humans when it comes to up-all-night feedings, poop-cleaning, and general gross maintenance.
2. I’m a single mom.
Here’s another one that is a mixed blessing. I mean, don’t get me wrong. It super-sucks that Kyle is gone for 73% of the week. It means that I must be the cooker, cleaner, worker, picker-upper, homework-enforcer, and put-to-bedder all by my lonesome. And, yes. Sometimes this is very frustrating. Like at about the 8th, “Mom, can you come into my room?”
On the other hand, it has been a great and magical experience. I have learned that I can do very hard things. I have learned an immense appreciation for single moms who do this 100% of the time. I have bonded with my daughter in a new and amazing way. She tells me things about her life. We talk about boys and friends and death. We are good friends. At least for the next 48 hours.
In addition, I have a great love for my husband, and I think he has an increased appreciation for his family. When you don’t see the people you love most for 5 out of 7 days, those last two days are too precious to fill with fights and discord. So, we love each other the best we ever have. We just do it two days at a time.
3. I’m a struggling first-year English teacher.
It was not my intention to go back into teaching. Basically, if we lived in Medieval England, doctors would be knights, McDonald’s workers would be serfs, and teachers would be those crazy naked people who just threw rotten gourds and yelled all the time. That’s a thing, right?
Anyway, I’m very grateful for my naked gourd-throwing experience. Fortunately for me, I have this unique job where I get to teach the smartest English-y students in the school district. I teach these overachieving geniuses how to make mistakes and forgive themselves. I teach them to write and rewrite and rewrite. I teach them that to attempt is better than to maintain perfection. And, I feel good when I have a student who says, “ You’ve taught me how to accept people as they are and stop judging them so much.” And then, I am very thankful that I am such a hot mess. How better to teach youth than with a leader they must learn to forgive and respect, despite her inability to wear makeup or diagram sentences?
4. I’m a weird Mormon.
I know, I know. You’re super-sick of hearing about this. But, let me finish.
This hasn’t been a banner year for the LDS church. People in the general public aren’t too excited about who Mormons are and what they stand for. We have become gay-haters and conservative nutjobs who should be dismissed out of hand as irrational, insensitive, and insane.
As for me, I’m glad to be one of their ilk. This year, I have been given the opportunity to find out where my loyalty and conscience lies. Because of the turmoil in the church I belong to, I have been able to define myself better. Regardless of my personal opinions on a variety of topics, I have found the courage to stand up for the things that I believe the most – God lives, he loves us, he sent His son to save us, and we should not be jerks to each other, even when people are making choices that we don’t agree with.
5. I’m happy…ish
Despite the hard things this year – the loss of jobs, the loss of my wonderful dog, Turk, the loss of my general belief that good things happen to good people and bad things are mostly mythological – I am blessed to be a happy person. That isn’t to say that I’m always chipper, or that I only see the good in every situation. For that, you need to talk with my cousin, Cana. She’s pretty much perfect – in that way where you actually love her more instead of wanting to stab her with a sharpened candy cane.
No, I’m the person who is cool with just feeling the honest emotion when it rears its head. I have been mad this year, and sad, and generally confused by a lot of things. But, when it comes down to the line, I have been blessed with a sense of peace that I’m not sure everyone has. Am I always happy with the situation? Nope. But, I always sleep at night knowing that somewhere, there is a very cool Guy who has this whole disaster planned out.
I am just grateful I get to be a part of it, even if I don’t exactly know how my particular brand of naked-gourd-throwing is helping. It doesn’t really matter. It makes me happy just to know that I don’t have to know all the answers.
Maybe someday I’ll get a handle on the big picture. For now, I am just grateful that there is some incredible Someone that sees me waving down from this bright blue speck and is probably laughing. It’s cool, though, because I’m laughing with Him.
Thanks for everything, Heavenly Father. You’re the best dad in the whole universe.