I’m notorious for following bunny trails. You know, following that tangent spurred by curiosity that leads one all the way down the rabbit hole. Somebody mentions Chihuly and suddenly I’m hours deep into glass blowing techniques. Mention organic gardening and I’ll lose half a day looking up best practices and resources. Ask me about chalk paint. I dare you. You’ll learn more than you’ve ever wanted to know. The researcher in me follows trails and, honestly, I love the journey of getting lost.
But, after reading the following Chinese proverb, I realized there is a whole maze of bunny trails I too rarely pursue. I don’t know why this maze escapes my conscious focus, but I do know that now, starting with this month-long journey down the gratitude trail, I will joyfully follow where it leads. I will think of the farmers that grow my food, the truckers that leave their families to haul it to my local market, and the clerks that stock the shelves. But I can and will even follow this trail back to the plants and soil that nourish my body. I will give thanks for the clean water that starts as rain, and I will give extra thanks to and for all parties involved in the gift of my morning coffee.
Yes, when I think about all the blessings in my every day, I will follow the bunny trail straight to rabbit hole of deeper gratitude.
A week ago Friday, my smartphone died. Just croaked and despite many desperate attempts to revive it, including a full system restore, time of death was called the following morning while standing at the phone kiosk in Costco. Though I initially resisted retiring my old, ever-dependable flip-phone 3 years ago I , like many people, am very attached to my smartphone. It stores all my contact information. It is the number clients use to reach me. It is my primary method of contact with my college-aged daughters. My husband and I usually text once a day to say hello, and I can’t count the number of times a day I go online to research something or reply to emails while shopping, at the coffee shop, or waiting to pick up my daughter. Suffice it to say, waiting to get a replacement was not an option, which is the only reason you’d find me at Costco on a Saturday.
Since it was pretty clear my phone had sent its last text Friday morning, I spent that evening researching new phones and double checking our plans. Despite the fact my daughter (away at school in Missouri) told me her phone threw occasional fits, my husband and I initially decided we would replace only mine on Saturday, not all 4 we were eligible to do. Armed with my research and a decision in mind, we entered Costco shortly after opening with the hope we’d miss the chaos and be in and out in a hurry. Such are the dreams of this brown-eyed girl.
We waited at the kiosk while the 2 salesmen worked with other customers. I wasn’t exactly sure why, but I felt my stress level begin to rise. I took several deep breaths as I watched the aisles start to fill and tried to filter the rising noise level. “Ground yourself,” I repeated and let out a deep sigh of relief when only 20 minutes later it was our turn. That’s when things got tough.
The gentleman who called us over offered a kind smile and, as I shared my phone dilemma and our intentions, he listened with concern. However, once he began talking, his words came too fast and soft, they mingled with the sounds of the store and I struggled to understand their meaning. I focused on his lips to help decipher the garbled messages but, the increasing number of carts moving about kept distracting me, forcing me to look away from the salesman. A heavily perfumed woman passed by, and though I tried to ignore it, the distraction was too great as I mentally worked to purge the scent from my nose. There was mention of promotions and rebates and combined offers. I fell further behind in the conversation and felt my stress level begin to rise. I squinted against the bright lights and visually busy phone screens in attempt to limit the sensory input. I tried to breathe, but it felt like I was drowning. I was supposed to make this decision. I had done my research. I managed our account. I should understand what he was saying and what password he was asking for, but none of it made sense. I turned to my husband, desperate pleading in my eyes, tears forming in the corners, and mouthed the words, “I can’t understand him. I don’t know what he is saying.” His blank stare told me he didn’t understand me, and I felt like I was imploding from sensory and emotional overload. Though I’m accustomed to being in control and articulate, I failed to express what I needed and I felt stupid in front of my husband and a total stranger.
My stress suddenly began to morph into agitation and, I felt the anger rising. I felt angry at the sales rep for talking too fast and too soft, despite my pleas he slow down and speak up; angry at my husband for not understanding my dilemma; angry at the swarming shoppers; and, above all, angry at myself and my injured brain.
In about 6 weeks time, a year will have passed since I suffered my 4th concussion. In the lapsed time, I can’t count the number of times I have said, “But mine wasn’t that bad,” when discussing my brain injury. The truth is, it wasn’t, when compared to the many who suffer catastrophic brain injuries. The other truth is, it was bad enough to impact my life and the lives of my children and husband on a regular basis. Nonetheless, the other day as I drove away after dropping my daughter off at school, I felt a sudden wave of gratitude. I was driving, something I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do again following my accident. Driving offers the freedom to go shopping, to deliver my daughter safely to school, to go to work, or meet a friend for coffee. I can enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of areas outside my yard and neighborhood. Because my brain injury wasn’t “that bad,” my children and husband regained a part of their normal lives when I regained a part of mine behind the wheel of a car, and for that I am grateful.
What are you grateful for today?
(P.S. 4 hours later, and with the help of the other salesman who wrote everything down to aid in my processing, I did eventually walk out of Costco with 4 new phones and my sanity that day, and I’m grateful for that, too!)