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Gratitude of the Familiar

“When one’s expectations are reduced to zero, one really appreciates everything one does have.” – Stephen Hawking

Coming home from time away is one of the quickest routes to realizing just how lovely your daily life can be. Even the smallest of details in life, like washing your dogs has a kind of tenderness that is easy to overlook. The truth is that it is the most familiar pieces of our life that are the most cherished when life throws a wrench into our lives. It is the intimate details of living that we so readily take for granted that feel like perfect pearls when they are lost to us.

Traveling is one immediate way that reminds me of the pure comfort and pleasure of my own bed, the calming view from my bedroom window, the breathing, purring, licking sounds of my animals near me in the night.  Even things like dishes stacked and running out of dog food can awaken the heart to just how rich and full your daily life actually is.

My children have always figured big into how I experience my time. Yet as any mother would remind you, the days drag by and the years fly by. In the constant demands of growing up and growing old,  much of what is most familiar can easily turn tedious unless you are reminded of how brief the time we have with our kids actually is. For this, I leave my computer saver to an endless showing of old family pics that often catches me off guard. Times that feel so recent and vital to me are demonstrated as years away by the teeth coming in or falling out and the favored t-shirts long out-grown by multiple kids now.

Treasuring the familiar parts of life are a window into being fully present to the time available to you- the here and now.  Now when I get lost in thought or senseless worry, an old behavior that I used to use as a fear mechanism to jolt me back to my senses comes in with a gentle caress. What if this were the last day, the last moment of any of this?  What would I want to say, to remember, and to hold.

Last night on the way home, I tuned into an old country twang of the singer recounting the best years, the most tender caresses, the most heartfelt goodbyes and I realized that if only we would think of our lives right now this way- it would change everything.  Even the most challenging relationships lose their edge when faced with the truth of their brevity.