“When you believe more in what you don’t see than what you do see, you won’t see what you do see, and you will see what you don’t see.” – Michael Bernard Beckwith
As I wrote about in my blog post here, in an effort to stay sane with my two children home this summer, I challenged myself to look for one thing to be grateful for every day and to share each moment on Instagram and Twitter.
In certain ways, there were down sides to this challenge.
For one thing, I became worried that the challenge was creating the same effect on social media that I hate by only showing the highlight reel of my life. I had multiple friends say, “It looks like you’re having a really great summer and keeping busy.”
Alas, my life is not always, and some might even argue rarely, “Instagram-worthy.”
Right now, as I write this, it’s 2:00 p.m. and I’ve yet to shower. There are dishes in the sink, I have a mild headache, and I’m wearing yoga pants covered in dog hair. This moment is just as close to reality as the snapshot of my family having fun at Sea World. It’s just not as socially acceptable to post on Instagram.
I also felt like a phony on the days when I was in a terrible mood yet had to post a moment of gratitude. On the day that this story happened, you better believe that I was not in a grateful state of mind.
Moreover, posting on social media every day goes against my personality on every level. No offense to those that post daily and love it, but I couldn’t help but feel self-conscious that people were thinking, “Enough already, Kristen!” I felt overexposed and was afraid that people would view my daily posts as attention-seeking behavior. (I have these same feelings and fears about writing this blog.)
When I started to notice an inability to capture on Instagram the moments that I felt the most gratitude, and I felt I was capturing them even less often on Twitter (that 140-character limit has got to go!), I felt as though I was failing the challenge. Many times, when I was feeling most grateful, I didn’t have my phone on me, and even if I did, it would be difficult to catch the moment on film or the picture wouldn’t do it justice. This is because moments of gratitude and moments of love are internal experiences.
The perfect Instagram picture might be from an event that will make a wonderful memory, but gratitude arises more from the emotions stirred by an event than the event itself. Sometimes the emotion can be difficult to capture with a picture.
Midway through the challenge, I figured since I was failing at capturing moments of gratitude on film, I should at least start writing them down. Here is my real-life highlight reel:
The moment I played airplane with Peyton on the kitchen floor and her laughter was music to my ears.
The time Parker walked up to me, placed my heart shaped jewelry box over his heart and said, “You own my heart, Mommy.”
The time Tom and I stayed up until midnight having a philosophical conversation. (Deep talks are my jam.)
The moment Peyton was sick on the Fourth of July. Even though I felt terrible for her, all she wanted to do was snuggle on the couch, and all I felt was overwhelming love.
The time Parker and I cried together on the couch while watching Pete’s Dragon (he’s tenderhearted like his mama).
The moment Peyton and I had a giggle fest while I gave her a bath.
I had myself consciously notice every time I said, “I love you”, or it was said back to me between family and friends. This was fun, because sometimes we say it out of habit, but when you bring awareness to it and feel gratitude for the meaning behind the phrase every time, it’s a beautiful thing. I’m going to keep this habit.
Even though in certain ways I failed to accurately depict my daily gratitude on social media, by bringing my awareness to all I feel grateful for, it brought my attention to the fact that all that I need, and all that really moves me, is always readily present. Most of it takes place within the space of my home. Even though I of course still had bad days during the challenge, practicing gratitude increased my overall level of gratitude, and that surely makes the challenge a success.
It was also uplifting to be able to thank people out loud for moments of gratitude. If it had not been for the challenge and bringing my awareness to these moments, I likely wouldn’t always express my gratitude to my loved ones.
I’m grateful to have fun experiences in my life, but when I really stopped to notice what about the experiences made me feel grateful, it usually came down to human connection. When I’m at Sea World, I might be feeling amusement, but I’m not feeling joy over watching the animals. What brings me joy is watching my children experience joy at Sea World. I’m not grateful for the fun of a play date with friends as much as I’m grateful for the human connection made when I get to converse with my friends.
What I’m most grateful for can’t be seen with the naked eye or captured in the perfectly filtered Instagram photo. What I’m most grateful for is love.
Life really is about the #littlebigthings. In fact, I must share this passage from “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown describing individuals that have experienced a tragic loss of loved ones: “The memories that they held most sacred were the ordinary, everyday moments. It was clear that their most precious memories were forged from a collection of ordinary moments, and their hope for others is that they would stop long enough to be grateful for those moments and the joy they bring.” Often, the ordinary is truly extraordinary.
Since the moments we experience the most gratitude are the moments we are experiencing the most love, and human connection, and joy, these are the moments I am after. God knows this state of being isn’t a constant and it never will be, but as a takeaway from the challenge, I want to work on continuing to notice these moments and feeling thankful for them.
This week, my family is going on our annual family vacation before school starts. Technically, my gratitude challenge could have lasted another week, but I want to be fully experiencing the moments of gratitude during vacation instead of trying to capture these moments on my cell phone.
I’m okay with the fact that my ordinary life isn’t always Instagram-worthy. In some ways, the very moments that aren’t Instagram-worthy are the most extraordinary moments of all. We live in a world that places too much emphasis on fun, and image, and how things look on the outside, but in reality, life is lived on the inside.
It’s what can’t be captured on Instagram that truly matters the most.