Noticing: What I have in you

written Feb ’19

I’ve been aware on and off for a while that it would be a very good idea for me to have a go at keeping a gratitude journal. But, when it comes down to it, it can be hard to think creatively on the spot beyond the obvious big, generic things in life, so I’ve decided to make a start by dipping into this post over several weeks and using it as a focus.

Interestingly, researchers who have studied the use of gratitude journals advise that focusing on people to whom one is grateful carries further benefits than focusing on things for which one is grateful. I’m so glad of my little car and the opportunity of getting out as and when I need it. But the car will never know that. There is a chance on the other hand that when I am grateful to, or for a person, my relationship with that person will be enhanced, and the two of us might both feel the effect.

I worry a lot about relationships. I worry about what people think of me, but also about how I feel about them. I can find myself trapped in a loop of critical judgement of others, when all I want to be able to feel is love.

It feels important to write about the two characters in my life with whom I spend the most time: my husband and my three month old baby. At work we have run a scheme in the past where every member of staff was encouraged to send anonymous notes to colleagues: those whose work, behaviour or presence had made a positive impact on them in some way. It is easy to go through our lives carrying out thankless tasks; easy but not, perhaps, necessary. If this is true at work, how much more important might it be to take this on board at home? And if I can practice noticing these things quietly, to myself, perhaps I will be better able to practice that awareness and appreciation in my outward actions and manner.

Here is a first attempt:

DH – He will often make efforts to put me first. He is insistent about giving me the option of being the first to have dinner while he holds our little one. He recognises me, and sees the ‘work’ that I have to do.

DD – She can stare at me for a very, very long time. No one else is so interested in my face! She looks up out of the pushchair, or from the floor where she lies relaxed. There is no question, or demand, or particular emotion in her gaze; it is just pure attention.

DH – His favourite job is to hoover the stairs, and he does it with pride. When I’ve spent the week logging the little jobs that need to be done as I track around the house, he comes home and does those he has spotted, without my mentioning it.

DD – Sometimes she yawns her tiny-lipped mouth into a diamond shape, reminding me of a little bird. Occasionally, as she’s feeding, she lifts off the corners of her mouth briefly to have a private smile to herself. But when she gives a big, open smile, her mouth widens into a softly irregular shape, testing all those corners, letting it in.

DH – He interests me. His developed opinions interest me. His knowledge, understanding and experiences interest me. I don’t have to work on tuning in (except when already braindead!)

DD – She is beginning to laugh. All giggling babies sound cute, but it’s not just cuteness that I see. It’s a little person coming to life, suddenly and just for a few seconds, but in an unmistakable way. For in that moment she feels independent from me: it is some quirk in her that has responded to what we are doing together – I haven’t made her feel it, as I perhaps do sometimes when trying to cheer her up.

All of this comes to mind slowly; I have to make a real effort to find room for it. This is the opposite of those feelings that fire up in the moment, which I can often find difficult to control. But it is the things that last that matter, and I hope in starting this record that I can make these observations stick, even if the things I am noticing are themselves fleeting and change from day to day. I certainly cannot boast of anything more than Piglet:

‘Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.’ – A.A. Milne

Image by kaboompics on Pixabay