ike an Oscar winning actress, I can tap into a wide range of emotions. I admit it: I’m highly reactive and emotionally flexible. But one emotion I tend to keep at arm’s length is gratitude. It’s not that I forget to say “thank you” — I never do, and I’m often grateful to those around me. It’s just that I rarely feel true gratitude in regard to my own life. I try practicing gratitude, but then life intervenes, I lose focus, I forget.
Tragedy is the one thing that invariably brings me around to gratitude.
And tragedies have been everywhere lately. It shames me to say it, but I’ve never felt more grateful because, among other things, I am not:
A Syrian refugee…
A victim of Paris terrorism…
A statistic in the aftermath of gun violence…
I’m alive and kicking. And loved. And financially stable. And my kids are happy. Essentially, I have it all.
Gratitude for these things can bring me to the brink of tears. It cuts to the core and leaves me feeling naked and vulnerable. Maybe that’s why I avoid it.
As a parent, gratitude is a rabbit hole of sorts. Being grateful makes me aware of my own mortality and examine what I want to impart to my kids, and how.
It’s being thankful that makes me thoughtful.
I’ve have taught my kids manners and how to ride a bike. I’ve trained them to brush their teeth and pick up their laundry. I’ve begged them to listen to rules, pleaded that they do their homework and advised them to behave.
But sometimes I ask myself what do I really want them to know and to feel after I’m long gone? Some reflection led me to a top-10 list.
1. I want them to know that we’re human and make mistakes. Life isn’t defined by how you behave in times of success but how you act in moments of hardships, complication and failure. I want them to keep going. I want them to be proud of their efforts.
2. I want them to know life is full of fun and interesting moments. I want them to seek those moments and live for them. I want them to appreciate those times.
3. I want them to know that everyone is the star of their own movie. People are more concerned about themselves than they ever will be about you, so learn to build up confidence. Go get everything you want in life.
4. People are both awesome and awful. Find the awesome and ignore the awful. You’ll never regret it.
5. Love yourself. If you do, you’ll be loved. You’ll also love others easily. It’s simple physics: water seeks it own level.
6. Be the right mix of selfish and selfless. Don’t give too much or take too much.
7. Get pedicures. Having clean feet is essential and prevents fungus.
8. Give your life partners the freedom to be who they are. Love is the opposite of control.
9. Always have a goal. If you do, you’ll always have something to look forward to.
10. Never forget 1-to-9.