I have a little strategy to perk me up at times when I get bummed about something related to Max's progress: I browse my Max Gratitude List. It always makes me feel better.
I used to consider things I had to be grateful for mainly around Thanksgiving; otherwise, I'd get sucked into the chaos known as my life. Who has time to frequently be thankful? Who has time to even think on some days? After I wrote an article on gratitude for Health magazine, though, I found out that people who are regularly appreciative are happier and healthier, and I learned some simple ways to do it. That sparked the formation of my Max list.
The list is nothing fancy; actually, it's an email I keep in draft form. Even just starting the list was happy-making. I'm always adding to it, and referring back to it, for perspective. There's no particular order—it's all good:
• Max's determination
• Max's smile, and how it lights up his entire face
• He walks
• He talks
• He's bright
• He's curious
• He asks "Why?" about stuff a lot lately, he never used to
• He's learning to read
• Max's many laughs—the giggle, the squeal, the chuckle, the guffaw, the evil laugh when he does something wrong and we call him on it
• The seizures are under control
• His hair
• His pudgy fingers
• He's usually cheerful
• His sense of humor
• His incredible visual memory
• How concerned he gets when Sabrina is upset
• That he fights with her, so typical!
• The sound of him saying my name, Dave's and Sabrina's
• The way he says "There you go!" whenever you successfully do something
• He's eating and drinking independently
• He's really good at using his iPad and speech app
• We're lucky he has an iPad and apps, and that technology continues to improve
• He's super-charming
• He can ride a bike
• Potty-trained! Day and night!
• How cute he still looks when he's wrapped in a towel after a bath
• He's in a great school
• His teacher is wonderful
• He has great therapists in school and out
• He has a good team of doctors
• The Friendship Circle programs he's in
• He can walk upstairs
• He can drive bumper cars!
• His sensory issues have improved
• He's gotten so into trying new foods
• Even sushi!
• He loves to travel
• Traveling with him has gotten so much easier
• The joy he gets from visiting the fire station
• He looks so cute in his firefighter hat
• The way he lifts his hands up and says "YAY!" when he's excited
• His kisses
• He can hug now, too
The other day, I was concerned about Max's grasp of math. It's not coming easy to him, and I've been asking his teacher for more worksheets to help reinforce what he's learning at school. We'd just finished doing some homework, and I'd gotten sucked into one of those mental tornados in which you start worrying about one thing (eeep, he's still having trouble getting addition) and suddenly you're caught up in all sorts of worries (what's going to happen if he doesn't get basic addition, is he going to fall really behind at school, what happens if he becomes an adult who can't do math, do you really need to know basic math to do OK in this world, will he be able to fully read, how is he going to function as an adult, why are you even thinking about this). I clicked opened my Max Gratitude List. I read down from the top. Bam! Perspective: Max has got a whole lot going for him. He'll deal. We'll deal.
Oh, how I wish I'd had a list like this when Max was little. Maybe it would have been a lot shorter, and it definitely would have been different (back then, I was grateful he had lived). But when despair and anxiety consumed me, I think it would have really helped to have some irrefutable, concrete consolation. There's no denying a list.
Start your own list. I'm telling you, it's like therapy.
This post was sponsored by author T.A. Barron, inspired by his upcoming book The Wisdom of Merlin: 7 Magical Words for a Meaningful Life. It tackles that eternal question: What is the meaning of life? Gotta love that the answer has seven words, including "gratitude." You can preorder The Wisdom of Merlin now, and it'll be available wherever books are sold on March 23, 2015.