Guest Post: The Gratitude Project

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

We were happy to host fellow mom blogger Tara Pringle Jefferson on our site last year with a guest post, “A Young Mom’s Lament.” Well, today we are quite pleased to have Tara back with another post.

Take it away, Tara!

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Last November I was at work, busting my hump to finish the relaunch of my company’s website. I was about a week or so away from completion and I was so excited about adding this new project to my resume.

It was a regular Wednesday, so when my boss called me in to her office, I assumed she wanted an update on my progress. I had all my notes, but grew suspicious when our HR manager came in the office as well and closed the door behind her.

“Tara, I wish we had good news,” my boss said, carefully. “But we don’t. Your position has been eliminated, effective immediately.”

I was stunned.

I had heard the rumbling about financial trouble a couple months before, and our president and CEO had made it a point to stress during an all-staff meeting that there would be no layoffs. Silly me, I took the man at his word, so this news came as a shock to me.

I gathered my stuff slowly and my coworkers came up to me as word spread quickly. Six people were laid off, one in each department. It wasn’t hard to figure out who was who.

“Oh, Tara, I’m so sorry,” they all said, with the tone of voice that is usually reserved for paying your respects at a funeral.

I shrugged off their pity. “I’ll be fine,” I said confidently. “Hey, on the bright side, I’ll be able to sleep in tomorrow!” Yes, I was cracking jokes as I packed my stuff.

As confident as I was that day, the reality in the days that followed were completely different.

I was sad. Deeply, deeply sad and confused about where my life was headed. The uncertainty made me crazy. Even though I hadn’t wanted my job to define me, it had in a way. I loved the feeling of being able to provide for my family.

But while I liked the paycheck, I didn’t like the fact that my former job took up all my time and I only saw my kids for two hours or so on the weekdays. I decided then to begin on the road to self-employment. I wanted to spend more time with my kids and be my own boss for a change.

While I was all gung-ho about my decision, the transition wasn’t easy.  I was constantly stressed about money, my inability to keep the house clean, and whether I was spending enough time with my kids as I tried to manage my workload.

The stress of this adjustment was taking its toll on me, and I wasn’t a good mother or wife or friend or … anything. I was constantly cranky. The monotony of each day began to wear on me.

It soon became clear: I needed to make some changes if I was going to thrive as a work-at-home mom. I got inspired by my friend Denise’s post, From Grumbly Hateful to Humbly Grateful, to make a list of all the things I was grateful for.

Then I took it one step further, vowing to appreciate all the little things in my life, one day at a time.

The way it works is this: You know how one small thing can creep up and ruin your whole day? Well, I was attempting to turn that on its ear and allow those small pockets of happiness to power me through even the toughest of days. Now before my feet hit the floor each morning, I quietly anticipate something good happening to me that day.

That first day I was stressing about a bill that was past due. An unexpected medical bill that was $100 and some change. I had set it aside because I hadn’t figured out which pot of money I was going to take it out of. Then the phone rang. It was, of course, the billing department from my daughter’s physician’s office.

Expecting them to hassle me about it, they instead asked if I’d like a 10% discount and an additional 30 days to pay the bill. Um … yes?

The next day I took the kids to the store while the skies were a bit threatening, and managed to make it home just before the skies opened up with torrential rain. The next day after that I was cleaning and found a $50 JCPenney gift card stuck on top of the TV stand, inside one of the cards our friends had given us as a housewarming gift almost two years earlier.

These little incidents—not getting stuck in the rain, finding a gift card, getting a discount on a bill—aren’t really big events at all. But by acknowledging these instances, it forces you to acknowledge that more things are working in your favor than you might care to admit.

So when I inevitably burn dinner or get a flat tire or my son jumps up and down on my last nerve, I am much calmer now because I know my next “something good” is just around the corner. This daily gratitude exercise has helped me get centered, and in turn has made me a much better mom, wife, friend and daughter.

I’m learning to refocus my energies on the things that give me joy. I’m learning to be one of those “glass half full” people when, by nature, I’m pissed if the water isn’t spilling over the top.

I had to learn to take control of my happiness. It’s not something that just happens or that other people can grant you. Happiness is a decision. Making the choice to be happy is something we all must do or we run the risk of being unnecessarily burdened with challenges that don’t belong to us.

I chose to be happy. From now on, my first reaction to the stress in my life will not be despair, but instead patience in knowing that the storm is temporary.

In a way, I am glad I got the boot at my job all those months ago. If I hadn’t, I probably would have stayed on the treadmill of stress, getting nowhere.  But now, I see my life clearly. I’m home with my kids, and I’m grateful for being able to make that choice.

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Tara Pringle Jefferson is a freelance writer, blogger and PR professional living in Ohio with her husband and two kids. She’s managing editor of BlackAndMarriedWithKids.com. She’s also the author of Make It Happen: The Young Mommy Guide To Creating The Career You Crave. Check out her blog, The Young Mommy Life, for her insights on what it means to be a mom, wife, student, writer, and about three other labels she’s too tired to remember.

3 Comments
  • 1
    YUMMommy says:

    Great post! I am learning to be more grateful for the simple joys and little blessings that come into my life as well. It’s amazing how more I can enjoy my family once I set my mind to being happy.

  • 2
    Gerri says:

    Beautiful post, Tara.

  • 3
    Kanesha says:

    Great read! You have taught me so much. One of the things you have taught me is to look at the postive in everything.