Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Small Bit of Gratitude

Earlier this week I had a rare day when I commuted by myself—driving home late after teaching a high-energy class.  I was listening to a radio show about gratitude and gratefulness.  I admit, I am one of those angry women who sometimes scare people—including my sisters, my partner, my children and myself. And since having my daughters, I’ve now become also an angry mother—fiercely protective of my children like a mother bear.  But my rage is unfortunately also directed at my children in non-productive ways, especially when they throw temper tantrums or cry relentlessly or somehow remind me that I can’t just up and leave for that hike I’m itching to take.  I’m downright pissed that my mothering journey is both what I feared and not what I hoped.  My parenting is clumsy and comical and tragic and inexplicable, often with major cultural clashes in the kitchen, family room, and bedroom with my partner about our parenting styles.  I’m furious that I have a child who is four still in diapers and who still takes a bottle three times a day.   I’m mad that my daughter can’t sit by herself, even a minute, so I can tend to others in the family. I’m infuriated that my living room is cluttered with large, inelegant equipment for my daughter making it look more like a Physical Therapy room than a comfortable place to sit and read or play a game. I’m outraged that stem cell research is so debatable.  And why is the house always so messy?  ARGHHHHHHH!

What does my rage have to do with gratitude? 

It’s easy for me to stew in feelings of anger.  And there is something powerful and passionate to be an angry woman (still trying to figure out what that is....).  But when I heard David Steindl-Rast, a highly-respected Benedictine monk and author, speak on the radio this week, I was forced to admit that I have much to be grateful for in my life. I had a few quiet minutes driving alone in my old beat up Honda along the shores of northern New York and Vermont.  Brother Steindl-Rast advocates the notion that gratefulness is a daily practice that may positively change not only personal lives, but the world.  He doesn’t suggest there are not problems in the world, just that we often overlook those small things for which we may have gratitude.  So here is my attempt today to be grateful for all that is going well in my life. 

 I am grateful for:

  • Having the opportunity to watch Sylvie’s friends from last year gather around her at the first day of school.  Last week she was beaming to have familiar little people flood her personal space!
  • Surviving (relatively unscathed) 6 weeks of radiation treatment. My cancer is undetectable at this point.
  • Finding two enthusiastic and competent young women to be Sylvie’s PCAs for this year.
  • A great team of special educators who are strong advocates for Sylvie to ensure she will be included in the classroom and will be able to travel safely on any road trips her class takes this school year.
  • Community Supported Agriculture.
  • Sunshine.
  • Students excited to see me back teaching.
  • Free New York Times.
  • Being a mom.
  • Sweet cards from people I hardly know via the USPS.
  • Lake Champlain in September.
  • Radio shows that talk about gratitude and charity.
  • The return of women’s roller derby around North America.

In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” –Br. David Steindl-Rast


When Kirsten isn’t wishing she were a roller derby queen (which seems like a totally appropriate place to be aggressive), she works as a professor of Communication Studies at the State University of New York and is the mother of 4-year old twin girls.


  1. I feel gratitude about a lot of things as well. But on my down days my gratitude list is sarcastic and rude and snarky because that feels right for me as well as my truly grateful moments. Sometimes I am just grateful that I got up and did it all again.

  2. I'm grateful that I read your post today.
    It gives me pause to think about the positives, and not constantly rail on about the challenges.
    Time to just accept and move on. It just is.
    Tomorrow I can start yelling again.

  3. I'm grateful to share posting duties with you today. We seem to be striking some similar themes.
    I'm reminded, as I read the quote by Steindl-Rast of a more pop-culture mainstream reference - Sheryl Crow's "Soak Up the Sun" - "It's not having what you want; it's wanting what you've got."
    And also: totally with you on Lake Champlain in September.

  4. What a wonderful reminder -- that it is gratitude that makes us happy. It's a choice/or mental emphasis -- to see things that make us grateful. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Kirsten,
    This is beautiful. Thank you!