Thank the Universe!

“I am the luckiest girl, because I got so many presents for my birthday!” This was the response I got from my four year old daughter a couple of years ago after she stopped singing in the car about being the luckiest girl. My child was genuinely feeling blessed and happy about all the gifts she had received from her family on her birthday. It not only brought a smile to my face, but also got me thinking about how “lucky” she was to feel so blessed that she could sing about it. I knew in that moment that I wanted all my daughters to wake up every morning feeling like they could sing about all their blessings.  

Several years ago, my husband told me that by 9:00 am he knew it would be a good day or a bad day at work. This seemed virtually unfathomable to me since, pre-pandemic, the girls were off to school and out of the house by 8:30 am, having forgotten any morning drama by the time they got home at 3:00 that afternoon. But now I get it. By 8:00 each morning, I now know if we are going to have a good day or not. Most days in our house, we can officially say it is a “good day” if we all wake up on the right side of the bed in the morning. If we can get through breakfast without a dustup and hopefully add in some laughter, I know it will be smooth sailing until we all reconvene for lunch.  However, sometimes, I have someone coming downstairs very put-out about the day being a school day, or someone was forced awake by a loud sister, or somebody stole a “cannot-live-without-it-shirt” the other one “needs” to wear. Any of these minor infractions can set us off changing the dynamic of the house for the day.  Only now, with the passing of time do I understand the ebb and flow of our family: when to leave one alone, when to press on, or when to question what it is they can’t live without. This is because what I really want for them is to feel blessed, or at the very least grateful for, something in their lives each day. For at least a moment, I like them to feel taken care of, not by me, but by the world in which they live.  

After that terrific car ride with my little one, I decided I was going to help all my daughters get to the point where they were present in the moment and grateful for something as incredible, yet seemingly insignificant, as the smell of a rose or the cuddle they receive from a favorite teddy bear. I wanted them to literally and figuratively “stop and smell the roses,” hopefully taking in the incredible miracle of the rose itself, and cherishing it as a gift. I realized this was a huge task, and potentially another one of my crazy experiments that I have often undertaken with my family. But with three growing young ladies, all practically the same age, it seemed necessary.     

When I first explained my idea to the girls, my oldest daughter gave me some guff, as she usually does, so I asked them to look outside and watch a bird flying outside. To really witness the incredibleness of the bird’s flight. I must have used the word “amazing” quite a bit because they will often say, even now, “oh that bird flying is so amazing.” But they understood from my “amazing lecture” that nothing, not even a bird in flight, should be overlooked. My children were starting to understand that they could find beauty and meaning in everything.  

Then, we started a “Thank the Universe” morning ritual. Once all the girls were up and moving, I would ask them what they were grateful for that day, and we would make it a point to have different things each day. We would all gather together facing the sun and “Thank the Universe” for that which we were grateful. Even if we were running late, we would take the time to stop, be present and say our thanks. Our thank you always started the same “Universe: we are grateful for all that we have, and we look forward to the miracles this day will bring. We are grateful for…” (Several times last winter, the girls were very thankful for the snow storms we had and their school closures! Nothing is off-limits).  This morning ritual, no matter how rushed, harried or mildly upset from the morning, allowed us all to take the focus off ourselves and center it on the world around us.  It gave my daughters a chance to pause and purposefully remove their negativity even for just a moment so that they could be present.

Today, our “Thank the Universe” ritual is slightly different.  It is a moment of pause and no longer a fill-in-the-blank for the girls.  It is a request for a moment to stop, be present and remember gratitude.  The girls now appreciate so much more than they did pre-COVID. They aren’t just thankful for the bird flying or the snow on the ground. During COVID, we all have become so much more appreciative of the many things we had taken for granted. The goal, of course, is that we don’t forget and we appreciate life as the gift it is. My daughters still complain about doing their school work, the forceful wakeup or the stolen t-shirt, but I like to think they realize all of this in perspective now. They appreciate how truly blessed they are and for that, I Thank the Universe!

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