I have hit a few bumps in my life. Most of us are intimately acquainted with bumps: The washing machine dies just as you’ve overspent more than a bit on Christmas, and you don’t discover this situation until, of course, the dirties have piled up to a measurable depth on the laundry room floor. Merry bumpin’ Christmas.
It felt at some points like single parenting was one long bump of guilt, inadequacy, fatigue, loneliness and stretched finances. Running your own law practice can feel the same way, particularly when opposing counsel is a litigating shark on crack, and your client insists you make nice-nice.
In one of my trips through the slough of despond, my oldest sister brought up the topic of gratitude. She suggested that in cases such as these… I might consider starting where I honestly could, with perhaps a little thank-you to the Deity or the Universe for the ability to breathe on my own, or to walk upright unassisted through my day. To sleep when I was tired, even if I couldn’t sleep long enough. She challenged me to search around in what I felt to be an oppressive darkness, and light one teeny, tiny honest candle over something positive: gratitude, relief, humor. Something. Anything honestly positive.
I have clients for whom a public guardianship has been decreed by the Court. These are adults who have lost all their buttons, and worse, all their family worth the name. Decisions regarding their care must be made by the local Department of Social Services. These folks have no one left who can be trusted to consider their welfare. Nobody. In such circumstances, it is perhaps a mercy they also generally aren’t very aware of their surroundings. One client was named Hiram, and he’d been institutionalized and comatose since the age of fifteen. He was eighty-six.
They scare the daylights out of me, those guardianship cases, and they give me a flashlight to go looking for my candles in the darkness.
I am grateful for the ability to breathe clean air on my own, the ability to chew my own food, to tend to my own hygiene. You bet I am. I am grateful I have a child who’s similarly blessed. I am grateful I have a trade, and a family who loves me. I am grateful for sunshine and pets and a mind that spins fairytales for grownups even as I drive to work.
If I make the effort, pretty soon I can find some honest gratitude. Not guilt, nor obligation, but happy little doses of gratitude.
Writing for me is like life. I get into dim corners, the words slow down and don’t sparkle, the whole business gets sticky when I want it to be light and easy. So I start with a word, a single word or a phrase that feels honest: “Once upon a time…”
I didn’t say it had to be original. Then I fuss it up to sentence status, focusing on honesty. “Once upon a time, he’d wanted an intelligent wife.”
So if you’re in a dim corner, a dark corner where you can’t even see the unlit candles, consider borrowing a little flashlight of honest gratitude. If you’ve misplaced yours, you may certainly acquire one of mine. You will find them at the bookstore.
To one commenter, I’ll give a signed company of “The Black Hawk,” by Joanna Bourne, a book for which I’m really grateful. What are you grateful for?