My youngest son turned eighteen this week. Five days before his birthday, he left home, marking a significant turning point in both our lives—for him, the start of independence and life as an adult; for me, a sudden transition to “empty nester.” Now, I sometimes find myself standing still, looking around with a lost, empty-handed feeling, as though I’ve left my purse somewhere.
My oldest and youngest children were born 19 years apart, which means I have been a non-stop parent for 36 years. More than half my life. And one or more of my four children have always been with me.
For years, holidays have meant togetherness, activities, special meals, and gifts. Heartwarming chaos. But my children have grown up, moved away, and begun families of their own, and it has become increasingly difficult to bring us together. I have taken for granted that I am the center of my family’s world. This is no longer true (was it ever?). Now, they are each the center of their own worlds and families, and it’s my turn to come to their homes, celebrate the holidays on their terms, find my place on the edges of their lives. I don’t mind. It’s the natural progression of life — yet I find myself emotionally unprepared.
I am suddenly aware that I have taken the constant presence of family for granted.
Then tragedy strikes others’ lives. Shooters come to a mall, an elementary school, a workplace. Together, we wonder what this world is coming to. We understand that we have taken our safety in these familiar places for granted.
These experiences cause me to wonder what else I’m taking for granted, how else I’m going about my life half-blind to the privilege of my experience.
This week’s journaling prompts are designed to help explore this topic of “taking for granted.”
- What does “taking things for granted” mean? Freewrite for ten minutes on this topic.
- Close your eyes and let your mind roam through a typical day. What people, things, and activities do you assume to be a natural part of your life? What would life be like without them?
- Choose the person/thing/activity that would be most difficult to do without — the one that takes your breath away to think about losing. Write about all the gifts that person/thing/activity offers you. How can you remain aware of those gifts?
- Why might it be important—even healthy—to take some things for granted?
- Synonyms for “take for granted” are “trust,” “rely on,” and “have faith in.” Does considering these words change the way you perceive “taking for granted”? How?
- Have other people taken you, your presence, or your efforts for granted? Write about one of these experiences. How did you become aware that you were taken for granted? How did it feel, and what happened?
- In your life, what is the opposite of taking for granted? And how do you express it?
Join the conversation — leave a comment. How has taking something or someone for granted — or being taken for granted — affected you?
And Don’t forget the 31 Days of Gratitude Challenge. Share your daily gratitude between now and December 31, 2012.