Driving down the road to my morning of errands, I’m weighted heavy by my daily routine. To drive the same road to the same grocery store to buy the same items, to wait in the same line, to fill and empty my cart only to load my trunk and then to empty it again. The car—gas, the bank—tapping the same buttons, waiting, waiting, waiting. These are the thoughts of a distracted mind as I wind down the road.

I want to be where I’m going already, to have gone and to have returned home. My mind skips ahead and finds frustration in being held back. Nothing seems worthy of the day’s time.

The sunlight falls sharply in front of me. I raise my hand like a visor keeping out the spotlight that ticker tapes my repetitive life. It’s a billboard reminding me, you’ve done this all before. Sunlight spills through the changing leaves, setting a pattern on the road like an unfinished puzzle. I stare at the dappled spaces. Even the New England seasons seem repetitive as I get older and time feels shorter. We just finished winter, didn’t we?

In the brightness, I don’t see the bicyclist beside me until suddenly I do. He is right there, too close, almost in front of me. My heart stops with my car for what could have been, what almost ruined everything. I breathe myself back. And, in that moment, I am so very, very grateful.

I release my foot and begin to drive again. As I do, I notice the colors, the shades of red, yellow, and green, like crayons dangling from bent tree branches. They remind me of autumn vegetables—a cornucopia of pomegranates, acorn squash, and zucchini. Suddenly I feel thankful for the way the light flickers as I wind beneath the trees, for the dance of it all. I pray another thank you for what almost was but wasn’t, for the beauty that accompanies my daily routine, the beauty I almost ransomed in my quest to avoid the drudgery. Suddenly I remember to be thankful.

And, too, the monotony of my errands—food shopping, banking, filling up the car—they all seem less burdensome. What else did I fail to notice?

As I drive, I challenge myself to name other things, not the least of which is the freedom to go to a grocery store and buy food for my family. The luxury not to have to choose between bread and milk but to buy both and ice cream too. The car I drive, the fact that I can drive and I can walk, and that I have a loving family. I remember the abundance in my life, and I vow to save this feeling.

There’s a curative power in this being grateful. Things that seemed burdensome become instead blessings. This is the road to a healthy heart. This thankfulness awakens feeling.

I continue to list my blessings. From the tiniest—the buzz that the scent of cinnamon brings to one’s nose, to the much bigger—the warmth of loving children. The challenge is contagious. I vow to list these things every time that feeling of boredom threatens to derail me.

Suddenly, the inconvenient rain becomes a soft and gentle wash. Harsh winters become a cuddle by the fire. And, routine becomes safety. It’s like wearing tinted sunglasses to look at the fading leaves. They look pink even while lying in dried-up piles along the road.

And then, there’s more to be thankful for. Always more.

Julianne Palumbo

Julianne Palumbo’s poems, short stories, and essays have been published in Literary Mama, Coffee+Crumbs, MomBabble, Kindred Magazine, Poetry East, Mamalode, Manifest Station, and others. She is the author of Into Your Light (Flutter Press, 2013) and Announcing the Thaw (Finishing Line Press, 2014), poetry chapbooks about raising teenagers. Julianne was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2013. Her essay will be published in the upcoming HerStories Anthology, So Glad They Told Me. She is the Founder/Editor-in-Chief of Mothers Always Write, an online literary magazine for mothers by mother writers. You can find her here: http://www.juliannepalumbo.com/, https://www.facebook.com/JuliannePalumboAuthor, https://twitter.com/JuliannePalumbo and http://mothersalwayswrite.com/