A comment on the most powerful force in the universe

(Yes, this is a repost from yesterday.  I’m trying to make sure my new toy works.)

I posted something on my Facebook the other day, and a few people noticed it, but I wanted to discuss the real meat of the intention here in more detail, especially after it triggered a wonderful conversation on the side.

To give a little background, my life is really, really weird right now, mostly in terms of contrast.  I’m doing most everything that I did before, but because the kids are living elsewhere, I have more time to complete daily chores, get some writing done, etc.  My motivations are still the same – work my butt off, try to find reliable work, write like mad on the off-chance that something sticks and I can make a career out of it, etc – but my whole attitude about it is different.

And it’s not that I don’t love my kids, because gods know I do with every fiber of my being, but I think they inherited a bad habit from years-gone-by (another way of saying “other dominant influences in their lives“).  This particular bad habit is not present here with the Saint, which might be why I notice it now.

(I’m sure there’s a better way to say that, but let’s get straight to the point.)

The most powerful non-tangible force in the universe is not love, nor is it will, nor is it anger or hatred.  The most powerful force in the universe is gratitude.  I’m sure there are whole books that discuss this (and I’m sure I’ll end up writing one myself at some point), but for now, I wanted to share this with you. Gratitude is acknowledgement that someone has done or said something for your benefit, despite the effect on themselves.  That means that regardless of whether or not they benefited from an action, your gratitude comes from what positive benefits were visited upon you.  And that means that in a mutually beneficial arrangement, the good deeds do not “cancel each other out” – they double.

I was thinking back over the years, and I realized that I used to say “Thank you so much” an awful lot.  I started to wonder if it had become noise in the background, that the people I said it to didn’t hear it anymore.  I know that my underlying emotion was still there because saying “thank you” was not a habit so much as a natural impulse.  I said it often because I felt it often.  Even now, I try to dress it up sometimes, use different words, try different praise phrases (“You did so fantastic!” or “Great job!” or “That was freakin’ awesome!”) so that it doesn’t turn into a broken record.

One of the things that I think exacerbated the caregiver fatigue I’ve developed with Littlest Man is that there was very little if any gratitude shown for what I did.  Yeah, it’s my job as his mother, but whoever said that being a mom was supposed to be a thankless job can get bent.  In a fire.  In hell.  Unless you’re getting paid a lot of money or receiving some other material benefit – and most of the time, even if you are – there is not a huge motivation to accomplish anything unless some gratitude is shown in return.

But, here’s where it gets tetchy.  If you have to turn around and tell someone that you need them to express gratitude, it’s almost guaranteed to be false or empty or hollow.  I tried having this conversation with my teens, letting them know that their attitudes were making it harder and harder for me to want to meet their needs, even beyond the ridiculous amount of time I was spending in the whole trying-to-make-ends-meet thing.  They didn’t express value at the work I was doing, which made it harder and harder to want to do the work at all.  That whole “nothing is good enough” thing?  I can’t stand it.  And, of course, pointing out that they had fantastic benefits was useless.  Somewhere in there, they lost their sense of gratitude, and I can’t give it back to them.  They have to find it themselves, to understand and appreciate the value of what they have, who they are, who I am, etc.

Oh, sure, everyone has the “surly ungrateful teenager” thing (at least, everyone who has kids), and it’s not like I did anything to pull the rug out or anything, but given the circumstances, it was a vicious blow to my confidence and determination.  This is all purely a matter of observation.  I’m curious if the change of environment is going to impact their sense of gratitude at all.

For me, I’m pretty sure that this one thing is what has made this transition into the amazing experience it is.  There’s a teeny, tiny part of me that feels guilty that I don’t have my entire brood right here, but at the same time, if that’s what was supposed to happen, they’d be here.  There would be a way for that to be real.  And someday, I’m sure it will happen again.  Right now, everyone is taken care of adequately without my direct assistance, which is an obvious and enormous relief.  And I find myself in a place where little things do not go unnoticed.

It’s surprisingly new for me, and it feels good.  I suspect that this is why some houses are spotless and some, not so much – not because the “spotless moms” are somehow imbued with superpowers but because maybe someone looks at the finished dinner or the folded laundry and says, “Wow! Thank you! This looks awesome.”

Such powerful words… it’s too bad more people don’t use them.

Which reminds me:  Thank you so much for taking the trash out this morning! ^_^

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