community, self help

Me and Brené: Cultivating Gratitude and Joy

guidepost 4

This time is a repeatedly difficult time for me. Two weeks ago I filed a Motion to Enforce Litigants Rights with the family court. It was delivered to opposing counsel. They didn’t accept it. It was delivered again last Tuesday, a day after they needed to receive it according to the court calendar. I assume they did this on purpose to look for a reason to get more time. If they can prove I didn’t properly serve they are more likely to get an adjournment. Now I wait. My husband and I have been trying to conceive for almost a year now and we are in the midst of the awful two week period (no pun intended) between ovulation and missed a period. All of this waiting is taking a toll on me. I know Liam’s father has seen the statements I made in my certification. I know he has seen the relief I am seeking from the court. And I know that he is angry. I received an email letting me know he is working on his cross-motion with his new attorney. That’s how I know.

Guidepost #4 is a big deal for me. I live for scarcity and I have been figuratively and literally afraid of the dark my entire life. What does it mean to live in scarcity? It means that there is never enough. I paraphrase Lynne Twist (introduced to me by Brené Brown) when I say it means waking up and thinking “I didn’t get enough sleep” then going to bed and saying “I didn’t get enough done.” For how many of you does this ring true? Loud and clear for me.

Twinkle lights are the perfect metaphor for joy. Joy is not a constant. It comes to us in moments – often ordinary moments. Sometimes we miss out on the bursts of joy because we’re too busy chasing down extraordinary moments. Other times we’re so afraid of the dark that we don’t dare let ourselves enjoy the light.

A joyful life is not a floodlight of joy. That would eventually become unbearable.

I believe a joyful life is made up of joyful moments gracefully strung together by trust, gratitude, inspiration and faith.

-Brené Brown

There are many things that get in the way of my finding joy and gratitude. For a long time all that I could focus on was what I didn’t have. I didn’t have full custody of my son. I didn’t have a job or a home of my own (I was living on the carriage house of a property while my soon-to-be ex-husband lived in the main home with his father two sisters). I didn’t have family nearby. When getting by on $100 a week I certainly didn’t have enough money. This afternoon I said goodbye to my son and I won’t see him again until Monday after school. He has been home for two nights in the last two weeks. Not being able to hold and smell my little boy and knowing he is with a violent and unpredictable man is sheer torture. It is really hard for me to be grateful for anything or to find any joy right now.

On Monday we were invited to a party at a friend’s million-dollar home with great food and even better people. I was sitting on a step in the heated saltwater pool (rough, right?) and got really sad thinking “I wish Liam was here.” But I stopped myself. I looked around at the wonderful friends I have in my life, at the bottle of Summer Shandy sitting on the table next to my phone and found the courage to say “this is great. Three years ago I never could have imagined this is my life. Yes, I miss Liam, but because he isn’t here I get to relax and have fun without worrying if he is safe in the pool or falling off a stone wall. I am really happy right now and truly grateful for these people and this beautiful day.” A moment later my husband threw his shirt aside and walked into the pool. In that moment I had it. Joy. Unabashed, unapologetic joy. How grateful I am to have this life with this incredible man.

It is not always that easy for me. I will check on Liam while he is sleeping and my heart gets so full of love that it feels like it may burst out of my chest. I reach down to hold his hand and then suddenly it hits me. This visual of holding my child’s hand in a hospital bed, listening as machines stop working. I see and hear the way I attach my ex-husband (in this nightmare he is always to blame for my son’s death, usually by a car crash or drowning). This scene has been so real sometimes that I have actually cried. Maybe in my situation, it is more acceptable or logical to have these thoughts. These thoughts can sometimes alert me to an imbalance in our world that I need to address. It is not farfetched to think that the ex-husband who regularly broke 90 on the Parkway and who has a pool but pays zero attention might cause harm to our son. But that is no excuse for not being grateful for and cherishing the time I DO have with my son. Nothing will ever prepare me for that day if it comes. No amount of rehearsal would make that any easier, so why waste this moment of possible joy?

Checking on Liam, or sweeping him into a tight hug, or brushing the hair off of his face is very conflicted right now. On one hand, these are the things in my life that I love most. On the other hand, I can’t help but think of the cross-motion that is coming. I predict that they will ask for full-custody and ask for psychiatric treatment for me. I am scared. There is always a possibility that this is the time I lose my son. Every time we have gone before our family court judge I have lost time with my son. I am terrified to face a new attorney on whom I have no information or history. But if I focus on that fear then I am losing sight of the reason why I continue to go back to family court to fight. Every night when we all sit down to dinner we start by joining hands and reciting “we are grateful for this food because food is good.” I like to call it my atheist’s rendition of grace. Sometimes it strays to “we are grateful for this food because Star Wars is awesome” or “Liam is home” or “tacos are delicious.” After, Liam eagerly starts “My most favorite part of the day was…” then he tells us what he was most grateful for so far on this day. Often times the thing he is most grateful for is “seeing Mommy when I was at school and giving her a hug” and in that moment I am so grateful that even my narcissistic ex can’t bring me down.

So I will continue this practice of gratitude with my family. Last week someone cut me off and I started to get really upset. Driving in the car alone I said aloud, “find your gratitude… I am grateful for my boss who…” A short laundry list later and that jerk in the BMW didn’t even register. It worked right away. The tension in my upper body and jaw dissipated and I was smiling and back to listening to “All Things Considered.” Yoga is a practice. I practice singing. These are practices because there is always room for improvement. We practice gratitude in this house. Sometimes, like right now, it is a real struggle to continue that practice but I find that regularly practicing gratitude allows me to better recognize and embrace the everyday moments of joy.

Today I am most grateful for watching my husband teach Liam how to ride a bike and for sitting around tonight with a room full of old German men, listening to them tell dirty jokes.



The following PDF  of the below image is linked to all posts related to my journey with Brené. Enjoy the trip! 10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living 

10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living

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