On how gratitude is getting me through these strange times

I started practicing gratitude back in 2008, long before the marketing of such feelings and things like gratitude journals were even a thing. I was mid-twenties, had split up with the boyfriend I thought I would marry, graduated and landed a great job, but life was moving so fast nothing was familiar.

So it was when I travelling in New Zealand as part of a friend’s wedding celebrations that I started to notice little things that I was so grateful for – watching pretty little birds flutter by on my hike in Abel Tasman National Park, a good latte and eggs benny (New Zealand has an amazing cafe culture), and having a job with one-month paid vacation per year that allowed me to travel to far-off places. Despite all the changes and unsettledness, there was so much to be grateful for.

More than 10 years later, I continue to practice gratitude consciously and sub-consciously. This practice has helped me through some tumultuous and wonderful times.

Like 2020.

Since lockdown began, I have had this gut feeling that this time is a blessing in disguise and that something great will come from it. With the current state of the world, there is a lot to feel when reading the news, not least anxiety and uncertainty. But also there’s a feeling of hope I feel too.

Perhaps all of this unrest is creating a path to right some of the injustices and inequalities certain communities feel. And to reveal holes in the system that need to be corrected. I’m looking forward to receiving the September issue of Vanity Fair, edited by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

I’m also discovering that the gift of time I suddenly received is a luxury I hadn’t known previously given my intense work schedule prior to March 13 2020. That said, I’ve always been grateful that for the past nine years I have slowed down and spent summers in Canada at friends’ cottages near Ottawa before venturing to my family’s house near the shores of Lake Huron. My weekdays would be spent working remotely as required, while evenings and weekends were for family – eating fish and chips on Friday evenings, going to markets, wine tasting, beach days and family get-togethers.

As the temperatures climbed in June and the reports of new cases and news of extending the lockdown surfaced in Morocco, I began to lose hope that I would make it back to Canada this summer in time. I wasn’t worried so much about beach days and market days as I was about my Dad. He was fighting a courageous battle and was running out of treatment options.

And so it was with immense gratitude I secured a seat on a last-minute flight organized by Royal Air Maroc and the Embassy of Canada in Morocco on 4 July 2020 from Casablanca to Montreal. I was even more grateful that I managed to secure a ticket within 45 minutes of the embassy’s announcement and that one of my closest friends in Marrakech joined me for the journey as she made her way “home” too.

With three-days notice, I packed up approximately 75 kilograms of clothes, special keepsakes, and approximately 12 handbags and organized my arrival in Canada (which wasn’t just a question of getting myself to the airport on time, ensuring I had my passport, and booking an uber on the other side this year). I was going home indefinitely given the status of international travel and this time I didn’t care about the wine tastings or fish and chips on Friday night by the lake. I just wanted Dad time with chats about the state of the world, my latest ideas, and some lasting advice he always provides.

And I am grateful I made it.

My Dad passed away on 20 July 2020.

The gratitude I feel for arriving and completing my quarantine before his passing cannot be put in to words. I was my Dad’s little girl and I’m beyond grateful for all the memories we have, despite feeling an absolute void in my life every single day.

Given the current state of the world (and travel), I’m grateful that I have time to grieve and mourn, surrounding by family and friends without having to race back to Morocco or somewhere else. I’m beyond grateful for family who provided me with a house in the countryside where I’m staying for the summer (and possibly beyond given the situation in Morocco). The gratitude I feel for visits with friends and family, some of whom I’ve not seen in decades, and sharing of stories warm my heart.

I’m grateful for the seasonal fruits and vegetables available in August in Ontario. Sunny days at the beach and stunning sunsets are on that gratitude list too. The editor who commissioned me to write a full-page spread in a glossy travel magazine last week may never know how much writing that article provided me with a connection to a lifestyle that seemed so far away.

And I’m grateful for a good latté.

Because gratitude is about the big things. And the little things.

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