What if we can control only how and on what we focus? Could we pay attention to what is not wrong, to what and who we love? That awareness opens doors to gratitude. Gratitude softens anxiety’s grip. What if, when complaining about the unpleasant is easy, we turn our thoughts toward what’s pleasant and away, for at least a few minutes daily, from the blaring, blabbering media? Our brains would spin less.
I remember bedtimes with squiggly toddlers. Feet stomping, their small legs scurried, scuttled, scooted. Thud. Thump. With ruddy cheeks from the bath, skin Johnson’s baby oil fragrant, and pajama sleeves splotched with minty toothpaste, they squirmed. BAM! Their tiny palms thwacked at each other’s bedroom doors. Finally, their sweet voices pleaded, “Mommy, read.”
Crashing through the house, they’d round up their Care Bears, Teddy, and Red Dino, jump onto my lap, cross their arms around their stuffed “fwiends,” hugging them to their hearts, and drop their picture books all over the bed and floor. We’d read. At the last page, their bright eyes stared into mine, “One more, Mommy. One more.”
Hands flailing, the kids then ransacked the shelves to unearth “Good Night Moon,” in which Bunny says, “Good night comb. Good night brush. Good night nobody. Good night mush. Good night to the old lady whispering hush.”
Our children imitated, “G’night Mommy…..” I’d nod and laugh.
They’d echo names of each object that Bunny g’nighted, and then sing-song their own. “G’night kittens. G’night mittens.”
Their tiny feet dashed to their drawers. Finger by finger, they slipped on the black woolen mittens their great-grandmother had knit, “G’night mittens. G’night Memere. Good night air. Good night noises everywhere. G’night toothbrush, g’night night light.”
They g’nighted their furry slippers, the pastel posters on the walls, the gold glittery stick-em stars on the white ceiling.
They’d hop up, sprint down the hall, slide on the rubber soles of their “bunny suits,” bustle to Dad slumped into the sofa, pop into his lap and with their baby-tooth grins beam, “G’night, Daddy.”
Pivoting, they’d scuffle back to me, lean and nestle their shoulders into my belly and yell to Daddy, “I love you.”
They smiled with a knowing we can lose as adults: to notice all that is around us.
They’d say good night to every toy they’d see, any person they’d imagine, any part of their world. They were practicing loving what they had, smacking imaginary kisses to many of their choices. This paved a thankful way to slip under their puffy comforters and into dreams. Our children dozed off feeling into and then speaking what was right, what was ok, in their lives. As adults, G’nighting could change our outlook. Rather than going to bed jittery and jagged, mired in fear of the news, we’d sleep better if we ended our days with, “G’night TV, g’night tea, g’night person I love.” We could build the skill of noting the good around us. We would turn down angst and turn up hope.
What if we resolve to fall asleep each night naming what and who we hold dear? What if we let three or more simple things, or people alive or dead, enter our pre-sleep mind as we nod to them, maybe jot them down before we close our eyes? Sunsets. Friends. Soft blankets. Warm stews. The beauty of autumn leaves. The waves back and forth with across-the-street neighbors. What if we let gratitude fill us as we relax into a sense of contentment? It sounds radical, I know. But right now, we need radical.