Lately, I have been incredibly stressed out and overwhelmed. It seems like no matter how hard I try, I just get farther behind. I wonder if grad school is even worth it. Do I really want this degree that much? It seems like the best thing to do, but more and more often, I find that I really just don’t care. I’m burned out, the joy is gone, and I just want to quit.
When I woke up this morning, the stress hit me full force. I struggled out of bed while feeling sorry for myself. I worked myself into a tizzy trying to get things done as quickly as possible. I absentmindedly scarfed breakfast while I hastily graded papers. I fought the rising sense of panic as I considered the things that should be done but aren’t. I wished fervently it would all just go away.
However, on the way to school, my perspective began to shift. The sunrise this morning was absolutely incredible, and while I usually leave it home, I was fortunate enough to have my camera with me. Though the pictures are beautiful, they cannot begin to do justice to what I saw. I was filled with wonder, and for the first time today, I stopped to take a deep breath and simply enjoy something.
I promptly forgot that cleansing breath and gorgeous sunrise when I got to the office and delved back into my pile of work. Any sense of peace I had found moments earlier vanished as the stress flooded back. But then, on my way to class, I found a dime. I nearly missed it in my rush to get where I was going, but there it was, all covered with dirt, just waiting to be noticed. Even worse than almost missing it, I very nearly ignored it since I had given myself just enough time to get to class. Yet, I stopped, I bent to pick it up, and as I brushed it off, a smile slowly spread across my face.
You see, finding a dime is a big deal. I have never quite lost the childhood wonder of finding coins, so my husband and I have a little jar just for coins that we find on the ground. Someday, when it is filled, we will do something special with those little lost coins. So, for me, finding a dime was hitting the jackpot. In a day where people rarely carry change, we hardly ever even find pennies. But today, in the middle of my stress fest, a dime was sitting right there just for me. As I held the dime, I remembered the sunrise, and in that moment, I realized that I have been so caught up in my workload that I have forgotten to enjoy the little things in life.
In that moment, I determined to be more aware of the many little things each day that are worth noticing. There is so much to appreciate, if only I will take the time to do so. Since I made that decision, today has seemed unusually full of little things to appreciate, but I think it’s mostly the result of my shifted perspective. The more I stop to notice, the more aware I become of things I usually dismiss.
This exercise in appreciation has been liberating. I’m finding that though the to-do list remains, the stress is not nearly so oppressive. I feel lighter, and smiles come more readily. Gratitude is so good for the soul.