on effort, the verb

A few weeks ago I received the nicest compliment I think I’ve ever received. I hesitate to even call it a compliment because I don’t really like compliments and I get embarrassed easily when I’m singled out for some reason. I think that’s a little different than showing appreciation – I really make an effort to show appreciation to others, and I try to be gracious in accepting it, while fighting off my first instinct – which is to deflect gratitude –  because I don’t want the attention.

It was after a trivia night event at the girls’ school, and I was talking to two close friends I’ve known for years. One had hosted a party on New Year’s Eve, and the other attended, bringing a beautiful spread of food with her to the event. When she arrived at the party with the tray everyone started gushing, and so she told them (and me, in this conversation), that her New Year’s resolution was me – she wanted to bring my level of effort to things that she’s involved with, things that she cares about, to people that mean something to her.

My face started to quickly color (as it easily does), but I listened to her and tried not to squirm. Later that night, I was still glowing. I told M about the conversation, and I tried to explain just what it had meant to me. She wasn’t describing some sort of gift or talent that I possessed that she wanted to master as well. She wasn’t holding up any particular thing as some standard that she wanted to meet. She used my name in her resolution as a verb – to describe how she wanted to look at opportunities around her to bring some extra effort to, because, as she said, why not? Maybe this is what it’s all about.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m really trying to look at the things that I do and participate in this year as an action, as a verb, rather than as a static thing, like a list of resolutions or accomplishments. But listening to my friends describe me in this way – mulling over their words still – I’m realizing that all the things that I do, that I like to do, and enjoy doing, are really extensions of gratitude for me. I try to express my gratitude to my body for letting me stretch and move through beautiful places and fresh air. I cook because I’m thankful that I can – that I have access to good ingredients and tools and enough space to make mistakes, and some success, and that we get to enjoy the results. I make things for others because it is the best way that I can share my appreciation for the support and care that they return to me tenfold.

It’s taken me a long time to get here, but I’m starting to understand that I can’t put all of my effort into everything. I don’t have an unlimited amount of time or energy or resources, but I try to delegate them in ways that bring joy to moments that deserve them. Other things slide, but we eventually catch back up. My family gives me the space to experiment, and hopefully I show them my gratitude for this as well – for the space, and for the extra help with the dishes.



I’m already embarrassed and hesitating to push publish, so I’m deflecting to you. Maybe you might share something someone said about you that really made your heart sing, or your thoughts on effort (not showmanship), and how we show love and appreciation to others around us.

Have a great weekend. I hope you know how much I appreciate your presence here.

5 Responses to on effort, the verb

  1. This kind of made me tear up because way back when I first started reading your blog–when I was pregnant with Caroline–I remember thinking, “I want to parent my kids like that.” People talk a lot about priorities, and we all have a limited number of hours in the day, so really paying attention to what you make time for and what you let go of is important. I second her compliment. You’re basically my idol. 🙂 You and Beyonce.

    The best compliment I ever got is when my best friend from high school asked me if I’d be listed as the legal guardian for her daughter should something ever happen to her and her husband. It still makes me cry to think about the level of trust and faith and love that implies, especially in regard to motherhood which is (obviously, as you well know) pretty fraught for me!
    Brooke recently posted…Conversations with Zuzu, Part VIMy Profile

  2. Me and Beyoncé?? Wow.

    Thanks for your kind words and friendship.

  3. At work I feel a strong responsibility to my/our clients and so it meant A LOT leading up to maternity leave to receive heartwarming, complimentary emails from them (and know that they’re in your capable hands ;).

    Dave has said in the past that living with me is like living in a hallmark card. That I use “thank you” too often. I’m currently doing my best to use it sincerely, and often, as he has leapt head and heart first into his new role of Dad to take care of Toby and I.

    • I have more heartwarming things to share from those people you work for next time I see you. 🙂

      I appreciate all your “thank you’s” throughout the years. Missed you yesterday, see you soon. Happy Pi Day and anniversary!

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