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Last weekend something shifted, and it was beautiful. I was able to watch my son Jack play his basketball game from the stands. I went to a live yoga class. My husband judged a barbecue competition, in person. My mom and I went to Target, she hadn’t been in a year! Our church was filled, people sang and awkwardly shared a hug here and there.

It’s been quite a year for all of us. I’m terribly sad for all those who lost loved ones, for our children who missed proms and birthday parties and for our front-line workers that are exhausted.

My instincts at the moment push me to write more words of sadness, regret, upset over the last year. Instead, I’ll exercise a muscle I’ve learned a lot about through my brain surgery and recovery the last six months, being grateful. When asked about how I’m doing lately, I say I wish I could bottle up the immense feeling of relief and gratitude I felt as I woke up after my surgery and realized I was going to be OK.

The following days were filled with physical pain and adjustment but also so much joy! I had dodged the list of bad bad things that could come from a brain tumor, and from having your brain operated on. I was so blessed, and I felt it with every ounce of my being.

For me, this last weekend was like me slowly coming out of surgery and realizing we are going to be OK. I wish we could bottle up that feeling of joy and gratitude as each of us experience it in our own way, the sound of a bustling coffee shop, the joy of chatting with other moms at a soccer game, the call that your grandparents just got their vaccines.

Gratitude just might be the medicine society needs to cure our pandemic woes. Many studies over the past decade have found that people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed. Who doesn’t need that right now?

For the first time as a mom, I have not felt guilty that I am not spending enough time with my kids. Even the dog looks at me like, enough, can I have some space?

We’ve all learned to toughen up this last year and face adversity head on, roll with the punches and adjust to doing things differently on a moment’s notice. That’s a skill set that will stay with our children throughout their lives.

We have learned how to navigate life via Zoom, find a neighbor on Next Door, use Telehealth to visit with our doctor and order our groceries on Instacart. Technology is a burden and a blessing, but hopefully the best of it will stick with us in the future.

Board games have made a comeback, family fun nights are a thing again; family dinners, too! We all know a lot more about how a virus works, and man can we wash our hands effectively now. Our health-care workers are heroes, our grocery store teams are fearless and delivery drivers are single-handedly driving the economy, not just their trucks. We’ve learned the importance of saving for a “rainy day” and stocking up on toilet paper, mac and cheese and hand soap. My appreciation for the great outdoors, fresh air and a buzzing coffee shop has grown by bounds, along with a kid-like anticipation to go to a concert or Rockies game again!

Animal shelters are empty with waiting lists; we’ve saved on gas and car repairs and morning traffic is a distant memory. We can now hop on a virtual class taught at Stanford, for free! We know our neighbors better; can do time-consuming, expensive business trips via video, and have learned that hugging our grandparents is priceless.

I’m grateful for dedicated leaders who knocked it out of the park with a quick vaccine launch; grateful for Elon’s commitment to exploring space (and tweeting fun stuff) and my daughter’s new devotion to baking delicious treats. Fighter jet flyovers, fun with a solar eclipse and live drop-ins on Facebook by our favorite musicians have been a delightful surprise.

So, as much as my fingers have been COVID-trained to type of upset and sadness, I am dedicated to trying a new way of thinking and writing about this historical crisis.

I want my kids to look back with a sense of awe over how our family, our community and our country took the best and hardest lessons of the pandemic and made the world a better place.

Heidi Ganahl is a businesswoman, entrepreneur, author and at-large member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, to which she was elected as a Republican in 2016.

Heidi Ganahl is a businesswoman, entrepreneur, author and at-large member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, to which she was elected as a Republican in 2016.


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