There I was, sinking lower in the chair, even as I held an expression of attentive listening. There was a lady speaking to us from an armchair on the video we were watching at our local MOPS meeting (MOPS: Mothers Of Pre-Schoolers, i.e. a ready-made tribe for ladies in the trenches). The topic of the day was around gratitude. She leaned hard on the arm of her chair, and told us funny stories alongside her own real stories of stress and shame.
Then she turned the spotlight on us.
She asked us to do a gratitude challenge.
“Here’s what it is ladies,” she explained. “Text someone every evening for 14 days. You’re going to text anyways, so it might as well be doing something productive. (cue snickering moms) In the text, list off three things you’re thankful that happened that day. It has to be sent to the same person, so they can be expecting your text. That’s it.”
She said that if we did that for 14 days straight, it would raise our overall happiness level for the next six months. I didn’t catch the science behind this claim. But, just like flossing or praying, I figured practicing gratitude was never a bad idea.
Of course, I didn’t want to participate in this challenge or anything. My life had plenty of challenges already. A trip to Costco with my toddler tests the fabric of space-time and Jesus’s grip on my very soul. No thanks.
But then the video ended, and the fearless leader of this dear MOPS group stepped up and announced we were going to do this. We were to write our first name and cell phone number on a piece of scrap paper shaped like a bird, and drop it in a pastel-painted bucket. We would each draw an anonymous name. She would then be our “secret sister” for this gratitude challenge. Most ladies chimed around with pleased sounds.
I was trapped. Trapped by gratitude.
I dutifully drew a name out of the bucket, and quickly scanned the name tags on shirts I could see from my seat, trying to match a face with the name and number on the bird. Nothing.
Do you know how hard it is to be flaky to a stranger you are going to see again?
Whoever drew my name may or may not know who I am. I’m still new here. So this is basically my first impression to my secret sister: fourteen days straight of unfailing gratitude. No pressure.
But then something weird happened.
That night, after I sent my text, and set up an alarm for every night to do the same, I felt good. Like this may not be a trigger for performance anxiety. Maybe.
The next night, I skipped the text altogether, because my husband and I were out on a rare date. So I sent my text in the morning. I got a reply of “Love this!” from my mystery sister. I was sort of expecting “Where the heck have you been?” Huh.
The next night I was staring down the sink full of dishes with slumped shoulders, and hearing my daughter cough like she was coming down with something. DING went my phone. I slowly grabbed it, and went to send my gratitude text. My mind was blank. I kept stealing glances at the sink of dishes: like it was going to sneak off with my wallet or something.
Then I remembered: My toddler had slept in that day. And I had a Saturday with my husband at home with me. And he finished installing our new front door that had been years in the making. I smirked as I sent the text. Then I turned my back to the dishes and walked into the living room to play on the floor with my kids.
I would never have crawled onto the floor without that text reminder.
That text interrupted my slumped posture at the sink. Something happened in that moment that I ‘m still trying to figure out. Those miserable dishes may never get done.
It feels like we are all looking for that moment of change:
From pain to relief.
From tired to energetic.
From timid to brave.
From not-enough, to more-than-enough.
From sad to happy.
The thing that’s the most interesting to me are the moments: the exact moment when my attitude changes from grumbling to grateful, and the catalyst for the change.
So here’s to catalyst texts.
Here’s to change.
And here’s to practicing gratitude for a happier tomorrow.
I’ll keep you up on my progress!