by EMILY ORTON on NOVEMBER 23, 2016
Will you be my wife?
Erik says he’s the only guy he knows who asked a woman to marry him without already knowing what her answer would be. He didn’t have a job. He hadn’t talked to my parents or his. There was no fanfare. No speech. No dramatic gestures and no ring. Just this bold question that I wasn’t expecting.
It’s not that I never thought about it, but Erik had told me early on that we’d just be friends. We’d been friends for three years at that point. Two great friends. Sitting on a carved stone bench. In a manicured park. That August evening was lit by 288 feet of glowing marble that formed the D.C. Temple. It was built the same year we had been born. So Erik and I and the temple were all 21 years old.
"Yes," I said. So, we’re doing this. I don’t know what the next step is for most people, but for us it was to grab our Franklin day planners out of the car to make some plans. Since I’d considered this option a lot on my own, I had ideas about the logistics of potential housing, jobs, budgeting and how we could get started from next to nothing. Erik started to tense up.
"That’s all important stuff and we’ll have to figure it out. What if we start by making a list of things we’ll be able to control no matter where we live, or what jobs we have, or how much money we make?"
Okay. First things first. Gratitude, generosity, faith, loyalty and character all made the list in various forms. I never seen this in RomComs, but that list became the foundation for our marriage and family. We promised each other if we were ever discouraged we would earnestly ask ourselves, Are we feeling grateful? Another bold question.
We put the gratitude question to work a lot. We came to realize that a sink full of dirty dishes meant we’d had plenty of food that day. Gratitude. A pile of laundry meant we had clean clothes. Gratitude. Homework meant we had the luxury of attending college. Gratitude. In the ensuing years, being stuck in traffic meant we had a car and time to think or talk. You get the idea.
Now it’s science, "[If] you can find any authentic reason to give thanks, anything that is going right with the world or your life, and put your attention there, then statistics say you're going to be better off." We’ve been experimenting with it for over 20 years. When our children are cranky, I pull out a ball. We sit on the floor and roll the ball back and forth. With each roll, we say something that we’re grateful for. In particularly stubborn cases, we make a written list.
Gratitude is like an emotional massage. Shoulders relax. The gaze softens. Our hearts begin to feel light and hopeful. Optimism returns. Gratitude is the pragmatic practice that keeps us buoyant through all kinds of life experiences. As our daughter Lily says, “Probably we can do this!”
Happy Gratitude Day!