The baby’s been sleeping badly lately, a regression that could be attributed to a thousand different things. It’s almost certain that I’ll never know the actual cause. We are up, together, in the middle of the night, again and again.
In between one of those moments last night, I coughed – in my bed, in my own room – and wondered if he could hear me. Probably, I thought. And almost immediately, I thought to myself how lucky. How lucky that his hearing is strong; how lucky we are to have a house where we each have our own rooms; how lucky I am to know the feeling of my child finding comfort in me.
Conscious gratitude has long been one of my coping skills. Before it was popular, I kept an occasional gratitude journal, scribbling down the things I was thankful for before I went to sleep each night. During hard periods, it kept me grounded and helped remind me to look at life through a lens of awe.
A few years ago, though, I finally did some reckoning with the limits of that. In pushing myself to always find things I was satisfied with and lucky to have, I was also ignoring the fact that it was ok to be dissatisfied, that it was ok to want more. I stifled my desire by placing the weight of gratitude right on top of it.
Unhappy in my job? Oh, but I am lucky to have one that allows me flexibility. Feeling lonely in my relationship? Oh, but look how good these aspects of it are. Craving adventure? Oh, but surely I can satisfy that with this one small piece of my existence instead, which is beautiful and true.
It was a hard realization, to understand that it was ok to want different things. To have desire. I don’t think, as women, we’re given the message to seek that out, to trust it. We’re told we’re greedy, selfish, demanding. Yet over time I came to understand that it’s critical to listen to that part of ourselves, to acknowledge when we want something different or something more. It’s how we set ourselves apart; it’s how we grow.
It is how we validate our souls; it is how we nourish who we are.
Of course it’s not a bad thing, to be grateful – in fact, I do think it’s one of the skills I am, ironically, most grateful for – but ultimately, it sometimes meant that I wasn’t allowing myself to push myself into new spaces, to admit when things needed to change. I want to be someone who is both aware of how much I have, and who is also in tune with what else can happen, what else is possible.
Now, I try to recognize desire more. I try to speak up when I realize I want something specific. I try to give into the whimsy if I am craving a certain food or activity. I try to slow down and really listen to what’s whispering inside of me, asking for some attention. It is often something small – wearing a certain pair of earrings; delaying laundry for five minutes to read instead; choosing a specific mug in the morning – yet I believe that the practice of those small things give me a greater ability to listen when the bigger needs of my heart start calling.
I fed the baby when he woke up at 5:00, and then got back into bed. I knew I wouldn’t sleep again but I just wanted to feel the weight of my blanket against my body for a few minutes more. I scrolled through my phone a bit, because I felt like it, and then I got up and made coffee, did some push-ups because I wanted to, jumped in the shower because it sounded the best out of everything else I could do in that moment.
It was simple, and easier than it used to be to take a breath and really listen to what I wanted. I was grateful for all of it: the healthy baby, my strong body, the cozy bed, the phone, the shower with hot water, the espresso brewing on the stove. I saw my desire, and I was grateful for that, too.