Gratitude & Reflections for 2011
This time of year people are usually doing two things: reviewing the year that has passed and making their “best of” lists or looking to the year ahead and making resolutions. I don’t really go in for those, since it seems like they’re usually broken by the end of January, and I don’t need a broken promise to myself to make me feel guilty — I’m a mom, I already have plenty of guilt-fodder!
Instead, I like to reflect on the last year and make note of what I’m grateful for and then use that to mentally and emotionally prepare for the year ahead. So this will be a bit of a different post for me, waxing sentimental, but it’s the first time I’ve written them down (in no particular order), a good exercise actually.
- Our family stayed pretty healthy in 2010, which can never be taken for granted, but especially when you’ve got two little people in the house who are somewhat accident prone!
- Cool new jobs for both Jin & I (within our same companies). In this economy I think everyone’s thankful for their job, but to have a career you like and where you can keep learning, surrounded by interesting people, is icing on the cake. I love working in digital marketing, especially how dynamic and relevant it is to the culture.
- I got to keep my part-time working arrangement. I absolutely believe that for our family, my working three days a week the past four years helped to make our marriage, family, and girls a little happier and easier to manage.
- We got to spend lots of time with both the Johnson & Chang extended families, due to Dad Chang’s 70th birthday and my brother Aaron’s marriage to Malene. The time spent with family away from home, and particularly in settings as beautiful as southern California and remote Alaska, was very calming. It really got me thinking about what it’s like to live in and appreciate the present, without obsessing about what’s next, what else needs to be done, what else you could or should be doing, or what you might’ve done differently. Really changed my outlook, even long after we’d returned.
- Celebrating the kids’ birthdays, Evie was two in March and Lauren was five in November. It’s the best to see them growing up and making friends and becoming more confident and more themselves. It’s true what everyone says, they grow up too fast. The strange paradox of parenthood is that time gets even more slippery. Sometimes a day or week can feel endless, but then the year’s up and it seems to have gone by too quickly. That’s why I’m so grateful for #4, since it helps me savor some of those long days.
- Celebrating our 7th year of marriage – and most of it happy! But seriously, not much to say about this except that it’s not something I take for granted and most of these other things wouldn’t be too meaningful, or wouldn’t happen at all, without this one.
- New and old friends and the luxury of time to spend with them – whether it’s happy hours with co-workers, dinners to celebrate a friend’s birthday, or a girls weekend away, taking the time to connect with my friends and having people in my life who also prioritize our friendships when everyone is so busy is what rounds out an already full life.
- Great school for our kids – We’re going on year four with Family Child Development Center (FCDC) in Plymouth, near my work, and sometimes take for granted how lucky we are we found it. The teachers and staff are like a second family. The care and concern they show our girls, and the time they take to get to know each of them as individuals is invaluable. It’s in this environment that our girls have learned so much. At our dinner table conversations we’re always impressed with the things the girls say they’re doing at school. We know it’ll be hard for Lauren when she leaves next year for kindergarten!
If this all seems a little too Pollyanna for you, check out this article from the Wall Street Journal that talks about how an “attitude of gratitude” may actually improve your quality of life and psychological well-being. As someone who has started to practice this, I think it’s intuitive and does make a difference. Gratitude is especially important for me since it balances/curtails some of my more materialistic tendencies (see most of my blog posts!). Not that it’s so wrong to have or want nice things sometimes. But, the acknowledgment that having those things is a privilege and somewhat meaningless in the broader scheme of things (i.e., none of it actually makes the “highlights of the year” above) is crucial to ongoing happiness. You’ll hear more about this in future posts, as I’ve read a few books that are pretty inspiring in this area too. Here’s to another year of lots to be thankful for in 2011!