It has only been in recent years that I have come to understand how much of my life I took for granted. I was carried, and had a soft place to fall so I didn’t grow in the ways that I should have. However, it takes substantial growth and taking moral inventory to genuinely come to understand—and own—how much of your life you treated so casually. Taking our lives for granted doesn’t necessarily mean we’re selfish or self-centered, or that we aren’t even paying closer attention to the day-to-day-ness of our lives. It begins with one simple idea: underestimating the value of something or someone. And it’s easy to lose sight of that—life has become so, so demanding.
It’s impossible to go about life on a daily basis being exceptionally grateful—so many of us aren’t living in the present. And frankly, even if we devoted more time being purposefully appreciative, it doesn’t have anything to do with losing things, people—whatever matters deeply. Losing people and coming up against challenges will occur whether we take life for granted or not. What I have learned over 59 years is how life gives and takes in amazing ways; yet on a humanistic level we focus so much more on how it takes and takes. And that’s natural.
For myself, as my life reaches its sixth decade, I am less attached to things. Even people. But especially things. It’s been because I’ve lost so much that I’ve had to learn not to be too terribly attached to—in particular—stuff. Now I can see so clearly how incredibly attached I was to consuming, and taking for granted that everything would remain within my comfort zone—family, friends, money. The things that for so long were like borders around my life and made me feel safe. But when we no longer have financial security; and when life feels fragile and extremely unpredictable, you can see that you unconsciously took more than you should have for granted. That knowledge hasn’t been an easy pill to swallow.
But the gift of learning not to take stuff—more so life—for granted is that you begin to peel away the outdated aspects of your life, material things have less of a hold on you, and your mind leans in a direction that has depth. Having a brevé-latte first thing this morning, and bought with a Starbucks card my nephew gave me as a birthday gift would have seemed so mundane five short years ago. But it now means so much to me. It’s my 60th, and I have never, never felt as blessed as I do on this day and at this moment. Both my mother and my oldest sister passed away in their 50s, and with little warning. I had no time to prepare psychologically for their life’s transition. There have been times—especially over the past few years—when I wasn’t sure I would get to this day. The meaning and purpose of why life keeps holding me steady is elusive to me. But I am committing myself to spend the rest of this journey not assuming things, and go a bit deeper with gratitude.