What If You’re Thankful for You?

November is focused on fostering an attitude of gratitude, and I don’t have to scroll very far in my Facebook feed to see a friend with the status that starts “Day 30: thankful for…”

Although I didn’t participate in the meme, I love it when we’re mindful about giving thanks and when we choose to remember that we’re rich.

Now, gratitude certainly won’t stop when we slip into December later tonight, but these “Day 30’s” are serving as my reminder that November is at its end, and I find myself taking stock today. Did I give thanks for all of it? For home and hearth and health? I did, I think.

Except one thing.

It’s a week after Thanksgiving, and I have a persistent thought that pesters and pokes and won’t leave me alone.

See, it’s easy for me to be thankful for my messy, loud, horrible children. They’re my world.

And it’s easy for me to be thankful for Greg. I mean, sure, his steadfast, one-track mind doesn’t always let him notice the naked, bleeding, screaming child right in front of him, but he works hard, man, to keep this whole family ship afloat.

And it’s easy for me to be thankful for a home. And for food. And clean water. And indoor plumbing. And off-brand Spanx. And dry shampoo.

But what if I’m also thankful for me?

That’s the thought that won’t leave me alone. What if I’m thankful for me? 

I don’t know. Is that crazy? Totally nuts? Frightfully weird?

It’s just… what if, you guys?

What if I get invited to the Gratitude Ball? And what if I go? And enter as if I belong, announced at the door by the stuffy butler and everything?

What if I’m included? And not outside looking in? What if I’m not the but anymore, or the except for, or the not quite enough? What if I let myself in rather than list the reasons I should be left out?

And what if we do something radical like that? We mamas. Together and without apology.

What if we allow ourselves to be thankful for us the same way we’re thankful for our children? Or for shelter? Or for food?

What if we, just for today, forgive ourselves for being yelly or bitchy or consumed or spread too thin? What if, instead, we give thanks – noncritical, unequivocal thanks – for being us?

What if we let ourselves rest, for just a minute, from the ceaseless barrage of self-critique?

What if we nurture and soothe our aching souls? And tell our anxieties it’s okay, and we’re okay, and shhhh, we know you’re scared, but shhhh, there, there.

What if we compliment ourselves for our hard work? Without listing anything left undone.

What if we say,

Thank you, God — or thank you, Grandmothers, or thank you, Mystery, or thank you, Love — for this gift. That I am wild, and I am free, and I am, most of all, me, me, me.

And then…

Oh, and then…

What if we wake up tomorrow and do the same thing?

What if we practice radical gratitude every day without leaving ourselves out?

What if, mama?

What if we do?

Might we discover we’re worthy of love? And show our children by example how to love themselves, too?

……….

And so here’s the uncomfortable question. The bold and vulnerable risk. The triple dog dare. Will you share with us in the comments below what it is about YOU for which you’re grateful? 

……….

photo credit Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot at freedigitalphotos.net

ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
75 comments
  1. First off, Beth, you inspire me. Every post either makes me laugh, or think deep; or laugh while I am thinking deep. But the part that you said to forgive our screaming, or bitchiness, or that the house isn’t spotless really, really made me think and have a ah ha sort of moment.

    I am a single mother of two. a 4 yo boy and a 3 yo girl. I am legally blind, and without a job. I can’t drive, and I have a very low income. I live alone with the kids, and don’t have much in the way of a support system. But I keep them fed, and clean, and the house isn’t spotless, but it is clean. They have clean clothes, and they have toys. When I can I take them to do little special things that are free or cost very little. And though I have my screaming moments, or want to at least, I do okay I think. The three words that hurt me the most from them are “:I want daddy” to which I am thankful I can take a breath and smile and say, ” I know, I love you” I am thankful for my patience, even if it isn’t always there, at least it is there some

    But I see your point, Beth. Its so so easy to point out the bad things, and the things we didn’t get done, or could have done different or better. Pointing out the good points is so much harder. It makes me think of job interviews when they ask you your strengths, at least for me I know that I know what I am good at for the job, but that question trips me up.

    It also made me think of an exercise we had to do at church camp years ago. “tell your neighbor why you love them, what makes them beautiful to you, and what you think they are good at. Now, tell your neighbor what you love about you, what makes you beautiful to you, and what you think you are good at.” we were teens so this caused some giggles, but it was really hard to do. Self image was a big deal at the time in the teen ages, so saying what we thought was beautiful about our self was really hard. But great exercise, and yours is too Beth, thank you again 🙂

  2. Wow. This was my first glimpse of your blog and I’m hooked already. My 2 kids are grown but I am only now appreciating the fact that I probably did a pretty darn good job with them (they are the first to tell me so) in spite of the yelling, the depression, the moodiness, the resentment and the lack of silliness I imparted. Now, at the age of 54, I have started being thankful for who I was and am. Mothering is one TOUGH job and I stayed home with my 2 for 9 years which I’d be willing to bet is harder in many ways than working outside the home with other adults, talking about more than poop and Big Bird and arguing about whether the sky is blue or green with a 3 year old. Motherhood is one big guilt trip (at least for me): Am I being too strict? Should I not let them have cereal for supper? Did I make him feel bad when I said NO? Am I not feeding them enough vegetables? Do I let them watch too much TV?…If they don’t turn out happy and successful it will be all my fault. Guilty as charged! Now, I know that I did a good job even without access to that manual on ‘How to Raise Your Children Perfectly’ and that I should be proud of that. I am also proud of many other things about myself as we all should be…..thanks for reminding us. And all you other Moms are doing a good job too because there is no Manual and none of us are perfect.

    1. Welcome to you, too, Beth. (GREAT name! ;)) I should probably warn you that there are more stories about penises and peeing and ways I mess up parenting than there are stories like this one. It’s sort of a wild ride over here… from the silly to the sappy and EVERYWHERE in between. Very, very glad to have you along for the ride. I so value the perspective that Accomplished Mamas (like YOU – and CONGRATS on a job well done!) can offer those of us still in the trenches. Especially the camaraderie and words of encouragement you offered… you probably know from hard-won experience how we mamas soak up words like “I’ve been there. It’s hard. And you’re doing a GOOD JOB.” Thank you.

  3. […] Woosley recently asked her readers the very brave question, “What if I’m thankful for me?” It’s such an uncomfortable question, but one that deserves reflection. Consider the weight of […]

  4. I love this! I almost shed a tear reading it because I ALWAYS forget about myself. I should be thankful for myself, and not worry so much about crossing everything off the to-do list! I should be proud that I was able to cook dinner, type a paper, solve a pre-teen crisis, and entertain two toddlers at the same time. So for today I am thankful for my mommy talents and this BLOG. I will be a regular reader.

    1. Welcome, Jennifer. I’m so glad you’re here, sharing your mommy talents with us. xoxo

  5. Today–I reserve the right to have another list tomorrow–today, I’ve grateful that I have done many, many things that scare me spitless. I moved to Alaska on no notice. I had two babies. I took those babies on a sailboat in the Pacific Ocean. Overnight. More than once. I get up in front of people and lead them in worship even when I don’t feel holy, strong, or good enough. I write and let people read it.
    Over the years, friends have observed this behavior and assumed I’m adventurous by nature and I have argued with them. I’m not adventurous, I just can’t stand the alternative. After years of practice and much deep breathing every time something goes wrong, I’m beginning to accept that adventure has become part of my nature and I’m enormously grateful to myself for making the scary choice to make scary choices. My life would be so boring and narrow otherwise.

    1. Oh, I just adore this, Bethany. As I do your writing. What an amazing testament to the transformative power of choosing to act as though we’re already the people we WISH to be. “After years of practice and much deep breathing every time something goes wrong, I’m beginning to accept that adventure has become part of my nature.” Yes!

  6. this post is good. i read another blog last week about how we, as moms, need to consider ourselves to be beautiful, no matter our shapes or sizes or flaws, because how else can we teach our daughters to see beauty in themselves? we know we should set an example for them in so many areas, but we fail them when we fail to appreciate ourselves.
    thanks for the reminder.
    my daughter occasionally prays to God and thanks him for herself and it makes me smile, but i never do the same. she’s the one setting an example for her mama.
    on that note, i’m thankful that even though i have a child who frequently doesn’t like or appreciate me, i still know i’m a good mom. i’m thankful that i’ve got enough will power and strength to push myself beyond any previously known limits this year and make myself shed 75 lbs that needed to go. i’m thankful that i’m able to write to express the things in my soul that need to escape so they’ll stop rattling around in my brain.

    1. Beautiful! And inspiring. Thank you for sharing. And 75 lbs? WOOHOO! And wow!

  7. I am thankful that I have loads of common sense. I’m thankful that I don’t cry over spilled milk. I’m thankful that I’ve learned many things about myself during these 42 years, including my strengths and weaknesses. I’m thankful that I am able to enjoy my kids and husband (most of the time), and that I have strength of persistance to carry on during the times when I’m not enjoying them so much.

    1. Oh, yes, Jenn. Exactly. I could’ve written this myself. Particularly “most of the time.” THIS is why I love growing older. It make wreak havoc on the body, but my soul has FAR more oxygen. Worth it. Love this.
      x

  8. Wow, I am so thankful that God created You with all your joy and goofiness and transparency about being a mama. And then on top of that you can actually write about it in such a fresh and entertaining way. (Grandma BJ would be proud). I am very amazed that you can do what you do… five kids really is a lot of chaos and a lot of fun! I am filled with joy at who you are. As for your challenge, I am thankful for me in that I was messy in parenting but tried to learn more Godly ways of doing things. I am thankful that I accepted the humor from my husband when humor was not a part of my lexicon. I am thankful we can talk openly. I am especially thankful that my husband, kids, their spouses, and grandchildren are amazing!

    1. I love you, Mom. You’re the very most supportive mama around. I, too, am thankful you were a MESSY parent because you always loved us more than you loved being right. You were willing to admit when you were wrong and ask forgiveness. You were kind and generous more often than you were out of your ever-loving mind… and you embraced the crazy/weird things we threw at you. And THAT is an example I can follow far more easily than the Fake Path of Perfection.
      xoxo

  9. Ahoy! I am so grateful you wrote this post today. Wait, is that not following directions? Like I’m only supposed to be grateful for myself? You even inspired me to write a post on my own blog today, about YOUR blog and how it relates to my cockamamie travel plans: http://www.shakenmama.com/2012/11/bon-voyage.html

    I’ve been enjoying your blog ever since Amber at Crappy Pictures featured your guest post. THANK YOU! — Erica

    1. BON VOYAGE, Erica! I hope you have a WONDERFUL trip full of the freedom to enjoy yourself. Thank you for your kindness and for linking to your post.

  10. The first thing I thought of was how my kids will learn by my example… when I’m always complaining that thus-and-such didn’t get done today instead of talking about all the things that DID get accomplished. Food and shelter and clean clothing and school and groceries and bills and errands and… no small children injured in the process!
    I don’t want them to learn to grow up and always think of the negatives so I guess I’d better stop saying it out loud… if only I could get my head to stop thinking it!

    I’m thankful that I still want to be in touch with God as much as I can (and even then I want to add a caveat that I don’t do as good of a job as I feel I should). It’s HARD to be thankful for yourself when you have to live with yourself.

    1. “It’s HARD to be thankful for yourself when you have to live with yourself.” Heh heh. This is so true. I often think, “But I’m just so sick of hanging out in my brain ALL THE TIME.” Stopping the habitual negative talk is so very tricky, both in and out of our heads. I’ve been trying to treat myself like a friend for several years now. If I wouldn’t say it to a friend, I try not to say it to myself (you know, like “you’re so, so, SO stupid, Beth”). Some days are better than others. Thanks for sharing, Krista.

  11. Wow!
    First reading your post, and then crying through the comments (because they just put me over the edge) makes me thankful that I can be emotional.
    I am also thankful that I have creativity, and that I can show love to others by little snacks, and hand-sewn items that make them realize that they are as amazing to me as I am to them

    1. I so agree, Elizabeth. The comments are slaying me because you all have given so freely of your real, authentic selves. What an incredible gift to women reading here, to know we’re not alone and to take the offerings of wisdom in each piece. Just amazing.

  12. This is a challenging topic. As a mum i believe the way i behave is how my children will behave. So if im not kind to myself and appreciate myself what is it teaching them? I am grateful for my persistence.

  13. I am grateful that I work hard to stay sane and balanced. I have an anxiety disorder. If left untended, it is feral and makes all of us incredibly unhappy. I work harder at this than almost anything else in my life, and I do it because it is better than packing up and leaving my family to save them from me, or better than devolving into true insanity. I’m grateful for how hard I work to stay sane and balanced because when I am, I’m a good mom. I feed and nurture and savour their sweetness and teach and guide and laugh and play and clean and clean and clean (!!!) I’m not perfect, but I’m enough.
    I’m very, very grateful.
    <3
    Thanks Beth, this was a profound post. And a wonderful opportunity to invite myself into the category of "things I'm grateful for." xo.

    1. THANK YOU, Melissa, for sharing the truest truth that we don’t have to wait to be perfect to be grateful for ourselves… working our way through the obstacles IS beautiful. Love this. xo

  14. i am grateful, about myself, that i take time at the end of the family’s day and go down to my sewing room and party for 30 – 90 minutes like it’s my early twenties; crafting, drinking wine or tea, writing letters and making art. i am also grateful (and proud) that i explain what is happening to babies and toddlers. they just want to understand what’s up.

    1. What a beautiful habit, Brenna, to take time like that. Nicely done, mama.

  15. For too many years I lived my life wanting to be someone else. But now, for the last 10 years I’ve felt, I’m thankful I’m ME. I love my life! I love me!

    I love that I’m a person that people can approach and pour their heart out to. I love my creativity, that I use it in so many parts of my life. I love that I’m curious and always wanting to learn more. I love that I’m a great teacher, always engaging my students and wanting a classroom to be fun. I love that I’m loving, in my own special way. I love that I’m a person of faith, ever evolving in my relationship with God. I love that I’m adventurous, moving to Korea at the age of 60. I love that I’m in love with my husband of 40 years. I love that my children are thriving with families of their own. I love that I’m a survivor and a thriver. I’m so glad I’m ME.

    1. BEAUTIFUL, Amy! And an awesome testament to the fact that we’re allowed to love ourselves even if it didn’t come naturally for the first 50 years. Just fantastic. Thank you.

  16. Seriously – thank YOU, Beth! Will you be my best friend?

    I’m thankful that even though I already had two kids and know how much more work each individual kid adds, when I got an email from a teenager in Prague asking me if she could come live with us for a year I said “YES!!”. It has been a lot of added work both physical work and the emotional work that any 16-year-old requires. But the reality is that I love her. And my husband loves her. And my two littles love her. She adds so much to our lives, and I’m proud and thankful that I took the flying leap into loving a stranger because she is now one of my children. And dangit – I’m incredibly proud of that. 😀

    1. Yes. I will be your best friend. Like my friend, Tiffany, says, “We can all have lots of best friends, because they’re all best at something different.” So there’s always room for one more. 🙂 You should know there’s sometimes liquor involved in being my best friend, and I have a potty mouth, and I talk about Jesus, not necessarily in that order but often all part of the same conversation. Also, there’s a story I have to tell you about a time I pooped in my closet. Also-also, I leave parties abruptly to go to bed when I’m tired, even if I’m the hostess. Being a best friend of mine is kind of crazy cakes. Full disclosure and all that.

      Anyway. I adore your Prague daughter story. Being able to open your heart like that? That’s a big deal.

  17. Oh man, is this a hard assignment. I’m so used to putting my daughter and family first, I dont even know where to start with myself. Ok, here goes…

    I’m thankful that I have the guts and strength to finish school while juggling a full time job and a 3 year old. I’m thankful that I didn’t quit when I suddenly found myself a single mom with half the income I’m used to. I’m thankful that I decided those many years ago to marry the love of my life, even though he broke my heart all these years later. If I hadnt, I wouldn’t be the best mommy my beautiful little girl could ever have.

    I’m thankful that I have the will and courage to step out on my own and get us back on our feet. To have the strength to pay off credit cards giant chunks at a time instead of racking up the debt at giant chunks at a time. The strength to eat PB&Js for lunch almost every day instead of going out. I’m thankful that I am stubborn enough not to let this keep me down and that I will fight with every tooth and nail to give my baby everything she ever dreamed of.

    I’m thankful for the courage to start a new career, find a new place and basically start over in the middle of this giant crapstorm my life has been centered around for the past few months. And gosh darnit, I’m gonna do it and do it well!!

    1. And now I’m a blubbering mess. Melissa, YOU are an inspiration. Also, you rock. Also-also, GO, YOU! What an amazing, beautiful, aching message of hope. Thank you for sharing your story here.

  18. I’m grateful that I’m sitting here tolerating the on-off wails of a snotty nosed three year old who has peed himself, pooed himself, insisted on wearing shorts (cold, rainy day), made me listen to 3 Barney videos, turned off my Christmas music, said he doesn’t need a nap, climbed on me, wiped snot all over my clothes, and now must make his own sandwich. At least I can sit down and relax while he’s doing that (brief break to open the package of deli meat). Yeah, I’m pretty awesome today. Tomorrow I’m going to spend the day getting ready for a 7 year old’s birthday party, which will also be awesome. I will take some pictures, and years from now will remember that I threw awesome parties that made my kids feel special, and will hopefully forgotten about the wailing, whining, wiped-snot-on-me days that preceded and followed them.

    1. Sending you mama love and solidarity, Darcie! ‘Cause — ooof — what a day. And you’re taking it like a champ. This is why I’m grateful for pictures; they help us remember the good.

    2. the word on the street from the grandmas is that we will mostly forget the bad days and have mainly wistful, nostalgic memories of when our babies were actually babies, or toddlers or teenagers, even. I am taking their word for it because after days like today it is hard to fathom. 🙂

  19. I LOVE this and I have no problem participating. It feels like putting our oxygen masks on first, kinda weird but totally necessary. And, of course, our kids learn by example.

    I’m thankful that I’ve been able to show my boys (and others around me) that dealing with tough stuff comes in all shapes and sizes. I most frequently use humor, sometimes make an incredibly concerted effort to concentrate on the positive, and then there are the times I look the crap right in the eyes and burst into tears. That’s ok too.

    There are so many ways to deal with life and it’s better to come fully loaded with a bag of tricks. Thanks for doing this. I might steal the idea….

    1. Yes, yes and also YES! “It feels like putting our oxygen masks on first, kinda weird but totally necessary.”

  20. Totally brought tears to my eyes. I keep trying to make sense of my spiritual confusion and, more times than I care to count, it’s like God delivered your blog to me on a platter with a big blinking sign that says hey, hear this!

    1. “I keep trying to make sense of my spiritual confusion.” I smiled that small, knowing smile when I read this, Kayla. This, I think, is my ongoing condition, and I’m familiar with the meddling God who says, “Hey, hear this!” So very grateful for your kind words. Thank you.

  21. I’m thankful for good neighbors who stopped the crazy man from getting into our home on Thanksgiving. I’m thankful that we decided to set our tent up in the dark so we were not home when he was screaming obscenities and punching our window. I’m thankful for the second pane of our window that kept our cats safe inside while we were gone. I’m thankful that a kid named Austin didn’t have to hear this crazy man trying to get to him because he had the wrong house.
    I’m thankful for the healing I’ve done in the past that let me take this last week to need to check the lock on the front door several times a day, that let me laugh at myself for how high I jumped when the mailman delivered a package, for the ability to let myself be not okay and not “should” on myself over when to feel better. “And tell our anxieties it’s okay, and we’re okay, and shhhh, we know you’re scared, but shhhh, there, there.” Exactly!

    1. Wow, Christine – what a terrifying story. I’m so glad you weren’t home and that you’re all OK. And this? “I’m thankful… for the ability *to let myself be not okay*” — THIS is wisdom. Sending you love as you recover.

  22. First of all, thank YOU. I can’t tell you how many overwhelmed mamas I’ve directed to this blog already, and I only discovered it recently. Not to mention how eagerly I await each new post myself, both the thoughtful and the hilarious. Both have an awful lot to give in getting us all a little more easily through this maze of motherhood!

    I’ll take your dare, too. Looking at my life, and myself, I have to say that I am most grateful for my resilience. A lot of things contribute to it, of course, but at the end of the day, the relatively easy ability to say “Well, here we are no matter what, so let’s do this!” in most situations is something I am profoundly grateful to be blessed with. I see so many friends and acquaintances and loved ones and even strangers struggle against the paralysis of fears and what ifs. But my instinct is to find a way to take on and make the most of whatever happens in life, and I can tell you that I’ve had many a wonderful adventure that could so easily have been experienced as a disaster in other hands. Let’s be honest–I’ve got my 99 problems. But the ability to step right over that yappy little dog named worry and head out the door is not one. And for that I am very, very thankful.

    1. Oh, man. Thank you for your “first of all,” Leigh. Broke out the Kleenex. And I love that you named your resilience as worthy of gratitude. YES!

  23. So…is it bad that as soon as I read “off-brand Spanx” I couldn’t concentrate on the rest of your post without speeding down to the comment section to request additional details? Oh…and I’m thankful that you will understand.

    1. Me, too! The off-brand rocks!

    2. Hahahahaha!

      I buy my Assets at Target. And I LOVE that they’re called Assets… makes me giggle every time.

  24. I’m thankful for my ability to “bend space and time”. To leave work at 4:30pm, commute what SHOULD take 45 minutes; and manage to squeeze in grocery shopping, picking up two kids in two different locations, two loads of laundry, cooking, dishes, and a sit down dinner before being in Tae Kwon Do at 7:15pm. (AND spend some quality time with the better half and two littlest littles before bed while helping with homework, getting the older two through baths, and managing to collapse into bed by 9pm).
    The ability to send an “I’m sorry” text message when I stood in the kitchen screaming “Kiss me now or don’t kiss me until I get home” because I’m running late. Or “I’m Sorry” when I’ve been asked (repeatedly) to make sure we can leave by 7am; yet I’m notorious for leaving closer to 7:20am. (Not that I EVER accept the “It’s OK, you try” response).
    The ability to somehow always manage to have the house picked up (even if it’s not scrubbed clean).
    The ability to BE for a full hour in the play place at McDonalds when the littlest little said two new words in speech and the three bigger littles are at church; because the smallest word is the biggest victory (and I can SEE that).
    The ability to make Friday’s special with a $3 movie and a $5 pizza and a “puppy pile” of bodies snuggles up on the couch.
    The ability to make a single sound that has all four littles lined up to go “play nice”. (Thank you mom for noticing that while I’m TRYING to host my first Thanksgiving).
    The ability to “adopt” the neighborhood kids and cart them all around to make sure that they’re “Well Rounded young people”.
    The ability to tune out ANYTHING which would annoy a “normal human” (aka – not MOM) to levels of insanity. (Yes I will play the “mom. mom. mom.” game for HOURS because it means a non-verbal child is saying MOM!!!)
    The ability to read this blog and know… YOU’RE NOT ALONE!!
    Every day that my family is fed, and has clean clothes, and a house they’re happy to bring friends into… I’m thankful that 11 years of being a single mom has made me ME. Because I’m not a single mom any more; and with that came a doubling of children, a quadrupling of laundry, and starting back over with a two year old! I can juggle EVERYTHING in our worlds, and while they may not appreciate it now (face it, I can remember being an unappreciative child! I DO NOT expect them to appreciate a SINGLE THING I do for at LEAST another 20 years!)… Someday they’ll know that there wasn’t a battle on earth I didn’t fight for them, nor an fiber of my being I didn’t utterly, completely, mind blowingly love them with. <3 I am ME, and it is GOOD.

    1. Yes you are! 🙂

    2. This makes me want to stand up and cheer, Marci! <3

      1. <3
        Thank you!!!!

      2. wow…me too! good for you being able to own all that and let us cheer for you. Yay Marci!!!! For real.

  25. No, I don’t think I can do this without bawling my eyes out. Is this even ALLOWED???? Are we permitted to take the time to do this? I can’t, I just can’t – not without thinking on it for awhile. This is a totally foreign concept to me.

    I nominate you for mommy goddess.

    1. “Is this even ALLOWED????”

      I love this, Cathie, and YOU. Because I’ve spent the last week asking myself the very same thing… and it was probably terribly unfair of me to dump it on you and then ask you to respond immediately. But I’m also glad, glad, glad you asked because your question gave me clarity! I thought, “If this isn’t allowed, LET’S CHANGE THE RULES.” Let’s do. Let’s really do.

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