I feel shortchanged. A major milestone in my life has gone unrecognized for a whole year. But first, some background.
It happened to me when I was babysitting. I was in high school. Every friend can tell me how old they were, and where they were, when it happened. Yes, it’s that important.
I’m talking about when a young girl gets her first period. Whether the recognition is private or a family event doesn’t matter because it’s still momentous in a girl’s life.
Then the majority of us spend the next thirty to forty years wondering why we were so anxious to join this particular club (babies aside). But sooner or later – voila! We’ve been kicked out, except we don’t realize we’re out of the club until a whole year later.
In case you’re not there yet, or are unaware, you’ve reached menopause status after you’ve gone an entire year without a period. While we are having our last period, we don’t get to appreciate that it’s our last period.
And who wants a party a year after the fact?
Imagine if we knew. We’d get on line to buy our last box of products and we’d be so giddy that all the other middle-aged women in line would understand, wink and give a thumbs up.
Of course it’s not a happy occasion for everyone, and I do not mean any disrespect for those who experience a deep sense of loss when menses end. But even an occasion that brings grief should be marked by a defining moment rather than a slow fade.
When reflecting on this injustice, an important reality occurred to me. We rarely know when it is the last time to experience anything.
The last time we’ll see a loved one alive. The last chocolate ice cream cone we’ll ever eat without consequence or guilt. The last time we see our favorite team win a championship.
How much do we take for granted while living our ordinary days? Why do we reflexively assume that there’ll be a tomorrow filled with the blessings of today?
Every warm ray of sunshine on our face could be the last. Every trip to the beach could be the final vacation. Every hug, smile, “I love you” could be more special than we know. This realization – that there are no guarantees, helps me stay grounded in gratitude.
Even the chores I hate to do become permeated with meaning and poignancy when I consider it might be the last time I do them.
I don’t like cleaning the litter box, but it means I have cats that snuggle down for a nap on my lap. I dread the day the litter box ends up at the curb. So I scoop without complaint.
I don’t like food shopping, but it means I have a family to feed. I can’t imagine a dining room table without the frequent rearrangement of place settings to accommodate kids who come home to do laundry and stay for dinner. So I stand in lines and haul countless bags of groceries into the house without grumbling.
Sometimes I get cranky when I am bone tired and there’s more to be done. I doubt I’m alone. But I try to reframe my grievances and see these chores as privileges. They become wrapped in irritation only if I’m not practicing awareness and gratitude.
It’s not easy to do. But it infuses beauty and meaning to the mundane.
I distinctly remember the days and weeks following 9/11. As we grieved together, do you remember feeling acutely aware of our vulnerability and the preciousness of life? I do.
And I remember wishing I could live everyday with the same clarity and intention.
But time sometimes fades the impact events like these have on our lives, and we return to a mindset that assumes our tomorrows.
It is a false assumption.
So, for today, I pause, savor, celebrate, and give thanks.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
A rainy day? Wonderful. I’ll listen for thunder and take the opportunity to curl up with a good book instead of running errands.
A sunny day? Wonderful. I’ll go for a walk, listen to the variety of bird calls and notice the changing landscape as spring paints my surroundings in green, pink, yellow, and white.
And while I’m walking, maybe I’ll consider throwing that party I missed out on.
If this speaks to you, please leave a comment and share how you stay grounded in gratitude!