“What a year!” That’s all we keep saying – “What a year it’s been!” And it’s true, it has been quite a year.
This blog is about gratitude. I’d like to begin with some of the things that happened for me in 2020 so that I can lay out how powerful gratitude is and how gratitude has really has supported and shifted my mindset.
There’s no other way to begin than with the real story. I lost my father to COVID-19 on May 8, 2020, in New York City. He was swept up in what I call the COVID Cyclone. The virus-storm that tore apart NYC. It was a fury of germs that swept and took thousands of lives from us. This is the city I grew up in, my home city.
My father was a young 80-year-old, a vibrant, intellectual, talented, loving soul. While he was a high-risk candidate, he was also going to live for at least another decade.
All the stories you hear about how physically painful this virus is to a person who has it, the stories you hear about how in the beginning no one knew what to do, the stories you hear about how torturous it is not to be able to visit with someone in the hospital when they’re dying… these stores are 100% true.
My father’s journey with the coronavirus lasted six weeks, half the time he was in his apartment on the Upper West Side being cared for by his partner, Susan, of 25+ years, and the other half of the time he was hospitalized. He spent his last day surrounded by a stellar and loving medical team. As he was passing away, gathered around his bedside this loving medical team played classical music and held hands around his bedside so that he was not ‘alone’ as they watched his heart stop beating, and as he drifted away.
At the same time, 3000 miles away, kid-grit was being called to serve. We were developing content and creating a space for educator wellness. We knew that the field needed help in supporting staff, so staff could support kids. We put our heads down, dug our heels into the ground and began creating content to heal and support educators who were working with kids who had no technology, who were confused, and probably frightened. kid-grit wasn’t the only company that began supporting educators during the pandemic crisis, but we were front and center and we were busy. We had grit! This was a positive distraction from losing my father.
Here is how I got through it… At kid-grit, we practice what we preach.
I begin speaking gratitude into my days as a practice. Gratitude can be done in different ways for different people— for me it comes with speaking it into the air, and doing it whenever I feel like it, whenever the moment hits me.
My mornings can look like this. As I lay in my bed, I say “I am grateful for my bed, I am grateful for my ability to sleep (even when I wake up five times tonight), I am grateful for my mother and my stepfather, I am grateful for my father‘s girlfriend – the love of his life, I am grateful for soft sheets and the ability to rise.” While I am making my coffee, I say “I am grateful for the smell of these beautiful coffee beans, I am grateful for my patio where I sit and start my day slowly in the fresh air, I am grateful for my apartment that gives me shelter, I am grateful for my resilience and grit that have helped me pay my rent for 14 years, I am grateful that I have my own apartment, I am grateful for the fact that I don’t have a roommate, and I am grateful that I am working– I am grateful that I am providing work for myself.” This activity of speaking gratitude into the air, helps keep me present and gives me the ability to be creative. It changes my perspective and mindset because I choose to think this way. And I cry when I need to, don’t kid yourself. And then, I wake up and begin again.
In September, I found out that another remarkably close friend of mine, who is my age and married to one of my best friends, had died of cancer. He has two beautiful children; he is a soulful, artistic, and talented man. This was so shocking and painful, again. He lived in New Jersey. This news, combined with the awful state of our nation, and months and months of being in a kind of isolation, could have put me over the edge. However, instead of sitting around and being anxious, I went into action. I decided to fly to the East Coast and take care of myself by seeing all the people I needed to. I needed to process. This is another example of practicing what we preach, to have the self-awareness to move into action to take care myself. I got everything I needed on this trip, and for that I am grateful.
For the past 10 months, my days have been driven by our mission to serve educators and students across the nation. We have done it and have much more work to do. It’s like a calling, I have never been more connected to my why. We know we can help support students, staff, educators, and administrators with grit, empathy, life skills, wellness strategies, and social emotional learning techniques so that everyone can navigate their current situation and their futures with ease and skillsets. And for that I am grateful.
While my experience is my own and should not to be compared to anybody else’s, if you’re reading this, I ask that you find gratitude for the fact you can to do something as simple as read a blog, have a computer or other device that you can read on, that you can read. That you have family or a friend, that you might have had a break during the holidays and food to eat over the holidays, and that you are loved. If you don’t know that you are loved – I LOVE YOU!
I implore you to use gratitude as a practice as we head into what will hopefully be the last months of this unimaginable time in history. Welcome 2021~
We can do it! We can stay strong and live well. We can take care of ourselves and each other more now than ever. We can live a loving and grateful life. It starts with your eyes opening each morning, taking a breath, and saying “I am grateful for….”
Now, go love someone!
This blog is dedicated in loving memory of Mark D. Gabor and Matthew Smith. Thank you for showing me how to love, be creative and stay gritty!
For breakfast, I had coffee, coconut oil, cream, and stevia.