Tell Me Good Things to Think About

Don't worry, be happy

“Tell me good things to think about while I fall asleep.” For years, this was the near nightly request of my firstborn, a sensitive and anxious child.

I’d prop myself up with Firstborn’s head against me, my hand resting on their back, as I murmured a recitation of everything good in the world that my brain could conjure at that moment. I would talk about puppies and kittens, individual varieties of colorful flowers, the interesting shapes of clouds, fun games and toys, whatever books and movies my kid was interested in at the time, their friends, comfortable clothes, lightning bugs. The list would go on and on. I’d keep talking, my voice soft, until I heard the rhythm of breathing that announced the arrival of sleep. The prime years for this were between the ages of four and eight, though the request still came at less frequent intervals right up to about age fourteen.

Being un-churched, I suppose this was the form of our evening devotion. It started as a way to help an anxious child calm enough to sleep. But it also became a comforting ritual for me.

I know the advice to count your blessings seems hackneyed. But if I really do it, it helps with my own anxiety and depression (my offspring come by this trait honestly.) The key is, though, I can’t just think of one or two things and flip a switch inside. For me, for it to be effective, I have to keep thinking and adding to the list, literally for as long as I can until I run out of ideas or fall asleep. Usually, it’s fall asleep. Because this is how I’m now soothing myself at night when the problems of the world loom. I tell myself good things to think about while I fall asleep.

In helping someone else, I inadvertently created a gratitude practice of benefit to myself. Funny how that works.

Thanking Those Who Came Before

group of people making toast
Photo by fauxels on

Where would I be without, well, everyone else? My goal for this Thanksgiving day is to notice and appreciate on a continual basis, to realize how much of what I have, what allows me to survive and thrive and experience joy and convenience is due to all of the people who came before me.

Take my home. The land where my home is built once was part of the Osage region. I am grateful to the centuries of people who maintained the land and area, keeping it healthy and in balance for generations to come. I am thankful to the builders of my house, both the family that paid for it to be built more than 100 years ago and the workers who provided the labor. I’m thankful to the other owners and residents of the home, who did maintenance and made improvements through the years before we came to live here.

When I took a hot shower this morning, I thought of the folks who planned and built our city’s infrastructure, allowing us to have water come right into our house with the turn of a tap. I also thought of my husband, who recently replaced a valve after we weren’t getting hot water in the shower.

I put on my jeans, mindful of the fact that someone invented jeans, other someones sewed this very pair, and somewhere along in the course of human history, somebody designed the first zipper, which caught on and made for a very convenient item of clothing.

The brussels sprouts I’m roasting in the oven as I type were grown and harvested by others, and I thank them. They were transported and put on the store shelf by other people. The baking sheet I’m using was manufactured by someone somewhere.

Almost every last thing I have and do was made possible by the efforts of other people who came before me somewhere in the process. And the air I breathe is supplied to a large extent by trees. So I thank the trees, too.

If anyone reads this, thank you for reading, connecting and contributing to the world in whatever ways you do.

Gratitude App

Some time back, I put a journaling app on my phone. Then I discovered I don’t like writing much on my phone. It’s tedious and slow and I have fat thumbs. I make even more mistakes than I do on my laptop and have a harder time correcting them.

But I’ve put the app to good use, nonetheless. I’ve come to think of it as my gratitude app. I don’t compose long accounts of what’s going on in my life. But it’s a good place to note, on a regular basis, my appreciation for my blessings, big and small. I find a small note of gratitude is the exact right amount of phone typing for me.

Often it’s as short as “New shoes.” Sometimes it’s longer. “It’s good to have a safe place to sleep at night. Bed, pillows, blankets.” Once I mentioned fresh fruit and then noticed I’d done the same thing only a couple of days before. And I had an epiphany. It’s okay to express gratitude more than once for the same thing. I’m allowed to feel appreciation every single time I eat fruit. In fact, it’s good if I do.

So, looking back, what has merited my appreciation this year? A partial list:

*We need this rain.

*Husband repairing the bedroom door hinge.



*My journaling app has begun to stalk me. It’s a little creepy. (Oh, okay, not so much gratitude there. I ran an update and suddenly every evening at 8:00 my phone dinged and asked me “How was your day?” Just fine, HAL)

*Figured out how to change setting on journaling app so it doesn’t creep me. Yay!

*It’s nice to have glasses rather than stumbling around, groping my way through life.

*My $5 bread machine and thrift stores.

*Citizens who care about society

*Piano tuned!

*My old lady cat is thirteen years old and still going strong

Old lady cat.

*I discovered a TV show called “The Librarians”

*Fresh garden spinach

*My weigela are loaded with flowers







*Fun game of Crazy 8’s with my mom and my oldest kid

*Found eight forever stamps I forgot I had

*Everyone got along on vacation

*I have a huge supply of ink pens

*Good checkup at the dentist’s today

*At work, I sometimes get paid to write

*I could have cake later if I want. I mean, the option is there.

Isn’t always a day to be grateful when you know you could have cake? Seriously. Happy Thanksgiving.

Life is Good

Life is good, and I can thank a friend for reminding me of this. I can get pretty stressed and down-hearted at times. But thank goodness for friends who can empathize just the right amount and then refuse to let me wallow.

The other day, I was lamenting to a friend about my problems and how difficult my life seems to be. I asked “Does it ever get simpler and easier or does it keep getting harder and more complicated?”

I suppose I was going on a bit. Because she reminded me of a previous conversation of ours, one in which we had shaken our heads over adolescence and its angst. We had shared our bemusement over the exclamation by a middle-class American teen from a stable family, who attended a good school and yet was able to say, with appropriate amounts of drama,  “Nobody’s life is harder than mine!”

My friend reminded me how I had raised a skeptical eyebrow and said, “Really? What about a homeless, starving child in the streets of Calcutta who has scurvy?”

I don’t aim to say that middle-class American teens don’t have real problems that should be taken seriously, or that I don’t have real problems. But I needed that nudge to realign my perspective.

Yes, I spend a lot of time chasing paperwork for my mom – because I still have a mom. She’s still alive and loves me and can tell me so. That’s perspective on the daily details.

On the bigger picture, I’m fighting off a mid-life crisis in which I ponder the disappointments of things I thought I would have had or done and now I’m realizing time is running out and I’ll probably never have or do them. But the list of things I have received and experienced is so long, and many of them were blessing I never anticipated. So maybe the disappointments left room for the unexpected blessings.

Stress and disappointments are parts of my life, but only part, not the whole thing. I’ve heard you should count your blessing, but when I really put an effort into, I’m not sure I can. The numbers might not go high enough. I wrote in my last post that I’m experiencing a lot of endings in the season of my life. But for something to end, it has to have happened in the first place. I’m trying to hold onto an attitude of thankfulness for a good thing that happened more than disappointment over it not being eternal.

Nothing goes on forever. Not the good times, but also not the problems. As one of my aunt’s used to say, “Trouble don’t last.” In this holiday season, I’m realizing my life is pretty good. More good than bad.