Life Lines

Blessings in the Middle of It All


One recent Saturday, my oldest and dearest friend posted on Facebook that she was at the hospital waiting to get a blood transfusion—her second in about a week’s time—to try to restore some of the energy that is being zapped by her ongoing battle with cancer. Meanwhile, I begrudgingly worked on my list of chores, always looking ahead to the next thing and that magic moment when everything on my list would be checked off and I could finally enjoy my weekend.

As I drove home from the grocery store that afternoon, I had an epiphany, an Aha! moment, no doubt prompted by thoughts of my friend, who is facing cancer with her usual optimism and cheerfulness, even as I grumble and complain about the mundane things she would probably love to be able to tackle, if only her health and energy were restored.

Suddenly I felt awash in gratitude. I started ticking off all the things for which I should be grateful. Not the usual things, like vacations or celebrations, but ordinary things, the stuff that surrounds me most of the time, the things I typically take for granted, or, more likely, complain about. My blessings flashed before my eyes, and even after I got out of the car and dragged the grocery bags into the house, I was still buzzing with the beautiful reality of my privileged life. Here’s the Cliff Notes version of that list:

• For the privilege of spending my Saturday morning cleaning toilets and sinks, mirrors and showers in our three bathrooms. What a blessing it is to have the energy and time to do the work required, and to have the bathrooms that make life so much easier for a family of five (even if one lives away from home most of the time).

• For the privilege of going to the store on a Saturday afternoon to pick up groceries, most of them not necessities (real maple syrup, anyone?) and some of them complete indulgences (hazelnut coffee). What a blessing it is to not only have the money to buy what I want but to have the car to drive to the store, the ability and agility to get around quickly, and the option of choosing between three large supermarkets in town.

• For the privilege of running up and down the basement steps throughout the day to do load after load of laundry. What a blessing it is to have an efficient washer and dryer that lets me clean our clothes any time of the day or night, and, while I’m at it, for my family’s clothes that feel overwhelming when they are overflowing the hampers but are anything but when we need a warm sweater or a comfy pair of leggings or a dress shirt for a business meeting.

• For the privilege of spending a sunny April day raking my yard, pulling weeds and trimming shrubs until my legs were sore and my arms scratched up. What a blessing it is to have an outdoor space where my family can play and rest and eat dinner under towering oaks and alongside busy yellow finches and red-breasted robins.

So many blessings disguised as chores or burdens or just another item to be checked off a long list. To people who don’t have the means, transportation, energy, time or ability, the many things that get in the way of what I imagine could be a happier life are the very things that make my life so easy to manage and, as a result, happier, if only I’d take the time to notice. The blessings are there. Always. We don’t get to happiness after the laundry and the shopping and the toilets; happiness is right there in the middle of it all. How is it that I always seem to forget that?

Mary DeTurris Poust is the director of communications for the Diocese of Albany and the author of six books on Catholic spirituality.   

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