Even This: Finding Gratitude for the Annoying, the Irritating, and the Painful Moments

I’ve always loved this poem.

This is what you have been waiting for, he used to say to me.
And I’d say, What?

And he’d say, This — holding up my cheese and mustard sandwich.
And I’d say, What?

And he’d say, This, sort of looking around.

– Marie Howe, “The Gate”

It made me chuckle the first time I read it and this particular excerpt has always stayed with me. I love how this poet chose such an ordinary and effective object—how somehow that sandwich wiggled its way into my mind with its echoing chorus: “This is what you’ve been waiting for.”

When I’m at my best, I think of this in day-to-day moments as I encounter mild irritants. The kids are squawking at each other. The dog’s paws are all muddy and seemingly water resistant. I open the pantry and a bag of chips falls on my head. I get stuck in a traffic jam.

Each of these moments, on the surface, is annoying, and each of them, deeper down, is exquisite because they do indeed represent what I’ve been waiting for.  The kids, the dog, the house, the meaningful places to go—I wouldn’t want to give up any of it.

Even when I recall sitting with my mother in her last weeks of life, being present to moments that weren’t at all what any of us were looking for, I still sense this underlying exquisiteness. Each moment, on the surface, held only grief. Underneath, however, they reflected what it meant to have been loved, and to get to love then, and to be graced with a heightened awareness of what’s most important and precious in life.

Yes, even those moments, in a strange way, were what I had been looking for.

Karen Horneffer-Ginter has been practicing psychology and teaching yoga and contemplative practices for over 16 years. She has also taught graduate students and health care professionals, along with directing a university-based holistic health care program, and co-founding the Center for Psychotherapy and Wellness in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The aim of Karen's work is to reconnect people with the wisdom of their inner-life by reclaiming what gets lost amidst the busyness of day-to-day life: qualities such as stillness, self-care, creativity, joy, humor, gratitude, and compassion. Her intention is to support people in finding a sense of balance and sacredness in their lives.

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  1. Everyone wants a piece if me,, my son no job,, again. It was both parents. I just want it be over so I just have to worry about me and my Leukemia. I have a brother; older haven’t seen in 20 yrs I want him to take over with mom.

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