How to Feel Gratitude Even When Life Gets Hard

How to Feel Gratitude Even When Life Gets Hard

I try to start my car, nothing happens.

We’re at my daughter’s school and it’s freezing. The wind is blowing so hard I can barely open the car door. My little girl is in the backseat, eagerly waiting for the heat to turn on.

I try again and again and again. Nothing.


I bundle her up in my oversized scarf. Her school is closed, all the parents are gone, it’s about to get dark, the car is at a hydrant, and my phone is almost dead. Panic and overwhelm start to creep in. It was one of those days where everything seemed to be going wrong.

I call for help and pray my phone doesn’t fail me.

Someone arrives to give me a jump start. What should have taken a few minutes ends up taking over half an hour. He tries and tries to no avail, while standing out in the cold, with no coat on. No matter what he does, the car just won’t start.

Nothing is working, but as I watch this man, I fill with gratitude. For his effort, his time and his determination.

At this point, my daughter is shaking. I take her out of the car and walk towards her school, praying someone is still there. I ring the bell, there is one teacher left, she offers to watch my daughter while I deal with getting the car towed. I head back out in the cold, my warm scarf still wrapped tightly around my little girl.

I have no idea how long I’ll have to wait, but as I walk away, I fill with gratitude. For this teacher’s presence, patience and generosity.

I sit in the cold car, the window is all the way down and with the battery dead I can’t roll it up. My husband makes it to the school in record time so I can wait inside.

I didn’t like feeling so helpless, but as I look at him, I fill with gratitude. For his speed, comfort and protective spirit.

And for the next hour, my daughter and I play inside her classroom, during what becomes our windy night adventure…

Learning How to Find Gratitude

Life can be so hard. From simple things like a broken down car at an inconvenient time, to massive health or family issues. And it can be hard to see the gratitude. But the more you look, the more it’s there.

When I became a mother of one, I was drowning in gratitude. When I became a mother of two, I was drowning in overwhelm and exhaustion. I couldn’t see the forest through the trees anymore. I was so deeply tired and struggling far more than I could ever admit out loud.

And then a failed project helped to save me…

Family Calendar

When the holidays rolled around last year, I wanted to gift my husband with a family photo album. I imagined how beautiful it would be, carefully capturing so many special moments. But it was so much work. I had two babies and a job, and I just couldn’t get it done.

I filled with disappointment and quickly made a calendar of photos instead. It was simpler and faster. That was the best I could do.

After I gave it to him and the days rolled on I started making little notes in that calendar. Notes about the cute things the girls said or did. The funny words or antics they used. The small things I cherished but knew I would forget.

Before I knew it, filling in that calendar became my grounding ritual amongst the chaos and exhaustion of life.

With each tiny update to our calendar, I taught myself how to look for gratitude. How to wait for it patiently, knowing that it would come each day. I didn’t dare leave a blank spot on our calendar of life.

Family Calendar

This little calendar has taught me so much. It’s taught me that gratitude can be simple and easy. Just a few short words. Tiny moments captured that create huge shifts in perspective.

It’s taught me that we don’t have to wait for life to be perfect, to be easy, to be less overwhelming. We can find gratitude in every ordinary day, every hard day, every day that pushes our sensitive nerves to their limits. We can even find it in the toughest of relationships.

On the days where life seemed impossible, the demands were too much, my energy was too low and my overwhelm too high, I’d wait to find my special moments. The little moments that would save me from overwhelm and bring me back to what matters.

Because of my calendar, those moments wouldn’t go unnoticed.

Life may not always go exactly as we like and overwhelm may take over at times but the more we search for gratitude, the more it will ground and save us.

photoWhen my car broke down on a cold New York night, noticing each moment I had to be grateful for is what eased my anxiety and helped me remain calm for my little one and turn a frustrating situation into our adventure.

When I can never keep up with my endless to-do list and I have to scratch things off my list not because they are accomplished but because I just have to let them go, I remind myself that failed projects can lead to cherished treasures.

When the house is a mess, the dishes are piled high, the girls need a bath, the dog needs a walk, and I feel so stretched thin, but then my little one runs over and hugs my legs, shaking her body with uncontrollable excitement as she yells “Mama!,” it is my calendar of gratitude that reminds me to focus on how beautiful each moment is amongst the chaos.

Life isn’t always full of picture perfect moments. Nor are the holidays. But the calendar moments are always there when we look for them.

For those who might be feeling weary this Thanksgiving. For those who will sit at the table with strained relationships, for those who might even be sitting alone, perhaps you can look for your calendar moments and see where they lead you, see how they lift you up, see what treasures they unlock.

Each small gesture, each hard lesson learned, each loving moment that doesn’t go unnoticed can transform your outlook, your holidays and your life.

One tiny moment at a time.

For those who celebrate, I wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Birthday photo

My daughter celebrated her 4th birthday this past weekend.


Her sister thoroughly enjoyed the vegan chocolate cupcakes!

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8 Responses to How to Feel Gratitude Even When Life Gets Hard

  1. Such a great reminder for me…I am not consistent with my calendar gratitude moments! I love your idea! It’s been a bit of a struggle lately and to find the good can be covered if one lets the dark rule for too long. Beautiful article! xoxo

    • Liz says:

      Thank you, Lisa! I’m sorry things have been a bit of a struggle lately. I can’t imagine you ever letting the dark rule for too long, as you are such a source of light. Sending you lots of love!

  2. Andelene says:

    Thank you for this post. I am so broken and dead inside. Just maybe your post will leave a tiny spark in my being. Thank you! xxx

    • Liz says:

      I am so sorry you are feeling that way, Andelene. I’m glad this post might have left you with a tiny spark. I hope that spark breeds many more. Lots and lots of love.

  3. Jennifer Sinclair says:

    Hey Liz, I am feeling you! It snowed last night and so cold, and when I woke up my gas was off! I could fix it easily enough . . . but I felt for how cold you felt. I thought how our friends and family are our truest treasure. Thanks for the beautiful pics.

    • Liz says:

      So glad you were able to fix your heat so quickly, Jennifer! Our friends and family truly are our truest treasure, especially through cold weather and times 🙂

  4. Shanese says:

    Thank you for this story. It reminds me of how grateful I need to be in my hardest times in life. I am a single working mom so I can get overwhelmed with the slightest things but this story has shined the light on me. I’m happy that you can see the light at the end of each dark tunnel.

    • Liz says:

      Hi Shanese, I can imagine how overwhelming things must get. I bow down to all single working moms, what you do every day is heroic. I’m so glad this story helped to shine a light for you.

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