Remember the Gratitude
Swati’s power nap was interrupted by the constant ringing of the doorbell. Her eyes opened, and her brain rang in unison with the continuous ding-dong. Feeling tired, drained, and lifeless, she dragged herself out of bed and made her way to the front door. She peeked through the peephole and saw her best friend, Rhea, standing on the other side.
‘Where the hell have you been?!? And why you haven’t been picking up your phone?’’ Rhea exclaimed and barged inside. She dumped her bags on the floor and threw her arms around Swati, holding her tight and giving her a comforting cuddle.
‘I’ve been so worried about you. I’ve been trying to get in touch with you since last night. Why haven’t you been taking my calls? And where is Isha?’
‘Isha’s at school. This morning was such a struggle to just get out of bed and get her ready. After I dropped her at the bus stop, I came straight home and dove back into bed,’ Swati replied. ‘I didn’t sleep a wink last night. I feel like I haven’t had a good night's sleep in months. Sometimes I feel I should take sleeping pills. But then I stop myself just because of Isha. After all, she is only nine years old. And she’s already so mature for her age. I’m sure she understands everything that's going on, but I’ve just been trying too hard to protect her and keep her away from this mess.’
‘I can’t imagine what you’re going through,’ Rhea sighed. ‘‘Why don’t I make you something to eat, and we can just sit and talk.’
‘I don’t feel like eating anything,’ Swati said, her eyes welling with tears. ‘I’m just feeling so miserable, broken, and lost.’
Rhea went to the kitchen and put a pot of water on the stove. She knew a nice strong cup of tea would help.
‘So, how was Vishal yesterday during the signing of the divorce papers? I bet he looked really miserable,’ Rhea said, heading back to the dining room.
‘Actually, he looked as fresh as a daisy!’
Rhea stared at her friend and blinked a few times.
‘I was pretty taken aback! He was all suited-booted. Hair combed back. Beard neatly trimmed.’ Swati sighed and fell hopelessly into one of the dining room chairs.
Rhea listened with an empathic ear.
‘He looked… happy!’ Swati admitted slowly, gazing at the messy table. ‘And look at me. I feel so stuck… so miserable…I just feel so freaking lost.’
‘Oh, Darling, please don’t beat yourself up. This was no fault of yours; you know that. Your relationship with Vishal was filled with abuse and neglect. You took a stand for yourself and for Isha. Please don’t think you’re stuck. Look at how much progress you have made since you both started living separately. It’s been almost a year, right? You’ve got a promotion at work. Your boss is happy with you. You’re a kind, loving mom… Your parents love you. I love you!’
Swati pressed her swollen eyes with her fingers. ‘I just never knew my life would end up like this. I always thought I would have a happy married life—a successful marriage. And look at me now. I’m a single mom. Trying to figure out my life. Trying to make ends meet. Trying to make Isha’s world complete. Trying to make a successful career. Sometimes I’m just tired of trying.’
‘Shhhh…. Settle down. You’re doing a great job! Stop worrying about everything,’ Rhea said, rubbing her back. ‘Maybe you should think about taking counseling sessions. Or join a club. Or get out of the house more often, go make some new friends.’
‘I don’t need all that. Sometimes I just want to run away from everything. But then I realized what would happen to my darling, Isha. She makes my world go round.’
‘Why don’t you pick her up from school today? Go out for lunch…. just the two of you. Spend some time together,’ Rhea suggested. ‘Forget about the routine. Don’t cook lunch today.’
‘I don’t know,’ Swati whined. ‘Speaking of food, I think I might be hungry.’
‘Why don’t I cook some eggs?’ Rhea smiled gently. ‘You do know omelets are my specialty.’
In due time, the two friends had a bite to eat. They sat on the couch with a pot of hot tea, talking about their challenging lives. Undoubtedly, Swati felt much better after having a long heart-to-heart talk with Rhea. Deep down, she knew she could always count on her friend. Soon it was hometime for Isha. Rather than letting her take the bus home, Swati took up Rhea’s advice and headed for school.
Isha was surprised to see her mother at the school gate.
‘Wow, Mom! You look nice!’ Isha smiled. ‘What are you doing here?’
‘Well…. I thought we could grab a bite to eat,’ her mother suggested. ‘The truth is I haven’t cooked lunch.’
Isha laughed. ‘That’s ok. Is that why you’re wearing your favorite top?’
‘This isn’t my favorite top. I just picked out the first thing I saw hanging in my cupboard.’
‘Oh! C’mon, Mom,’ Isha winked. ‘I know you wore it on purpose. You look nice.’
Soon mother and daughter were enjoying themselves over lunch and later came home to get things organized for the following day. While Isha finished her homework, her mother replied to work emails and prepared dinner. Soon Isha was diving into bed. Shortly she dozed off while reading a book.
After Swati finished her chores, she went to bed next to her daughter. Swati’s mind was bursting with all sorts of unwanted thoughts. Trying to keep her emotions under control, she found herself staring at the fan. Unwittingly her tears began spilling, trickling down the sides of her face and into her ears.
‘I need to calm myself. I need to settle myself. I need to stop crying and get myself under control,’ Swati thought restlessly. ‘Or maybe I should howl like a baby and scream it all out?’
She squeezed her eyes tightly, hoping for the pain to reduce, for those unpleasant assumptions to go away, for the misery to get wiped out, and for her feelings to get washed away. She counted from one to ten to calm herself and then backward.
Just then, Isha switched sides in her sleep, resting her hand on her mother’s heaving chest.
Swati slowly took a deep breath. She remembered her favorite Yoga teacher and began to control her breathing. Swati’s gaze turned upon the gentle, calm face of her daughter. Again, she inhaled deeply and slowly released that breathe. She moved to kiss the top of her daughter’s head. She felt the calm of her breathe, and she began to feel that calm in her own body.
‘Ahhh! I’m so blessed to have you in my life,’ she whispered. ‘But I wouldn’t have had you if it had not been for Vishal. Thank you for Vishal and all the things I learned from you. She paused to breathe. And for that matter, she thought: if it weren’t for my parents, I would have never met Vishal. Thank you, dear parents. Because this beautiful child who is the light of my life would not be here touching my chest if it had not been for them.’
Swati caressed Isha’s cheek and thought, ‘You are my strength and biggest blessing. Thank you, God, for blessing me with such a kind, loving, and understanding daughter. She is my reason to move ahead in my life. She is depending on me to be strong. And with gratitude, I can find that strength.’
Gradually, Swati's mind was released from all her unwanted thoughts. Her body felt lighter. She rose from the bed, grabbed a pen and a scribbling pad, and started writing down a list of every good and positive thing she could think of. As she wrote, her world seemed to open up.
To her great astonishment, she had soon filled pages with her growing gratitude. She found she was able to settle and sleep soundly for the rest of the night.
The following morning, Swati woke to the sound of her alarm clock. She practiced Yoga after months and saw the world with fresh eyes. Her balcony view, which Swati had taken for granted on other mornings, was alive and beautiful. The happy chirping of birds, the slow glow of the rising sun, and her morning cup of fresh tea were all reminders that she was living in an abundant, loving, harmonious world of her own creation.
Just then, she felt Isha’s young arms around her waist.
‘Oh, you’re up so early,’ her mother said.
‘That’s okay, Mom. I like to be with you in the early morning when things are quiet,’ Isha smiled her sweet sleepy smile. ‘Did you get good sleep?’
‘The best sleep!’ and she cuddled her precious daughter close.