I woke up grumpy.
Was it caused by the lingering effects of the argument I had with my beloved offspring the previous night at the dinner table? Was it strange dreams and restless sleep, neither of which I consciously remembered? Was it just … a day?
Whatever the reason, I was no less grumpy an hour later when I still hadn’t been able to solve the Wordle, and the Spelling Bee pangram was eluding me, and I discovered that no one in Buy Nothing was interested in the stuff I was trying to give away instead of sending it to the landfill. Plus, I knew I would need to make a phone call I didn’t anticipate with pleasure. And there were a couple of work tasks that needed my attention but didn’t inspire me. And …
And I remembered what I’ve learned, what I try to model and to teach.
I took a deep breath.
I put down the device that held the frustrating puzzles and the to-do list and the overwhelming newsfeed.
And I chose—because there’s almost always a choice—to bring to mind some less grumpy things: The visit I’d soon be making with some dearly loved people. The dog curled peacefully at my side. The sweet treats on the counter, gifted by neighbors and friends. The warmth of shelter and clothing. The gift of the restorative, slower-paced time between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The growing children sleeping soundly nearby—deeply loved, even amidst the lingering effects of our bewildering argument. The spouse who listened without trying to fix it when I complained about feeling grumpy. (Because, as I saw recently in a wise social media comment (yes, those exist!), “sometimes whinging is an essential part of healing.”)
For all these things and so much more, I give thanks.
Steadily, the tension in my body eased. The swirling negative thoughts settled. And I felt a greater capacity for engaging with the day.
A mentor advised a group of seminarians that spiritual practice is invaluable for religious professionals, because, “A practice that begins as an effort to relieve anxiety eventually becomes an opening to joy.” I have not always had a gratitude practice, but I’ve made an effort to cultivate one in recent years—and joy does, indeed, come. I’m still learning, still practicing—and will be always, I suspect.
New Year’s resolutions don’t interest me. But as we enter this new year—arguably just another day on the calendar, but also a valuable marker of the passage of time—I set an intention … to remember that even on the grumpiest of days, there will still exist joy and gratitude to be found.