I was strolling through the garden shop the other day when a kindly Grandma stopped to chat with me.

Okay. It didn’t exactly go like that.

I was chasing my wild, unruly three-year-old twins down the garden aisle as they ripped flowers and leaves from any plant within their reach, sweat dripping down my face, back, and inner thighs, when a woman looking to be in her mid-sixties stopped to engage me in a full-on discussion about my life, my children, and my marriage.

Were the twins my only children? Four girls! What are their ages? What are their names? Why, her Great Aunt had that name before she passed away and, oh, what a battle that was. What does my husband do? We must have married young. On…and on…and on.

The twins ran circles around us and the sweat continued to trickle down my skin. Finally I had answered all of her questions and she ended the conversation with, “Well, the Good Lord has blessed you beyond measure. Make sure you count your blessings, dear.”

I smiled, said goodbye, and took off for the veggies and herbs. At least there the twins could eat the foliage and be certain not to die. As we piled in the basil, thyme, and rosemary, I couldn’t help but feel miffed. What was my problem? I stop and chat with random people all day long. Having twins is like wearing a giant, blinking sign that says, “Please stop me and ask me about my uterus.”

Was it the sweat? The toddlers? The mental tally of how much money I was spending on plants that will die in a few months?

No. It was that last line that bothered me: “Make sure you count your blessings, dear.”

Here’s the thing, I am not an overly religious person. In fact, I am not a religious person at all. Faithful yes, religious no. Our family no longer follows an organized religion and has made sense of faith and life in a way that we are comfortable with. That is my particular choice and path and if yours is different, I am good with that. In fact, I am great with that. 

Life can be hard as all get-out. It throws you curves, kicks you in the bazooka, and makes you claw and scratch your way out of the darkest of shadows. It’s not always a pretty picture and many people depend on their religion to help them through their struggles. Religion gives them peace, comfort, and solace. It can be a really beautiful thing. It’s just not my thing.

So I am not about to attribute certain aspects of my life and successes to being blessed. I would much rather contribute them to hard work and perseverance. My marriage isn’t still intact because it’s been “chosen” or “blessed.” That sounds far too easy. We’re still standing here together because we work at it every single day. We’ve certainly had our fair share of blows over the past 16 years. To attribute the strength of our union to a blessing feels diluted and, dare I say, generic. (While I am on this particular soap box, I don’t believe that the Lord brought my husband and I together. I cannot wrap my mind around him choosing a dirty, drunken frat party as our fated destiny.)

The children I have brought into this world: also work. I worked my butt off to carry them and birth them, and some days I feel like it’s even work to like them! I don’t attribute religious powers to pulling me out of the darkest corners of my mind those five months when I suffered from severe anxiety and depression in my second pregnancy. That was all me. Me, Zoloft, and the best therapist money can buy.

I think that the kindly lady in the garden store was nothing if not well-intentioned and outgoing. I assume that she said what she said because she believes in her heart that my life has been blessed by her God and that makes me the most fortunate of people in her eyes. (Or maybe not. Perhaps she uses “blessed” interchangeably, synonymously, or absently. People do it all the time.)

Regardless of how it was meant, it was certainly not said in malice, and I appreciate kindness in any form, really. The initial irritation faded pretty quickly once I understood what the word meant to someone else.

In this life I have certainly been lucky, hard-working, and determined. Blessed is debatable.