Joy in the Annoyingly Ordinary

How finding gratitude and joy takes work after a traumatic event (and normal life)

Eileen Davis
3 min readOct 4, 2023
Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

In November 2021, I watched Brene Brown’s Netflix special “A Call to Courage” and one story impressed upon my mind: Two parents expressed they missed hearing their late son slam the back door. They were grateful for that ordinary yet annoying act. So much so, the parents sometimes slammed the door repeatedly just to remember their son.

As humans, we tell ourselves that our experiences have to be dramatic to really appreciate a loved one. But I can tell you, I’d rather learn to appreciate things the easy way. Even after traumatic events, it’s still hard to remember the little things, even though that’s what you notice.

After my third son accidentally strangled himself, I felt more grateful for the ordinary and annoying things too — like his pestering questions. After my husband revived my son, emergency personnel whisked him away. To prevent brain swelling and damage, medical personnel intubated him and kept him unconscious for two days. We all struggled because we wanted to hear his constant chatter again. Three days later my son spoke to us. When a neighbor and my son’s kindergarten teacher visited, we were all delighted to hear him repeat his common phrases.

A week later, I shared on Facebook how I loved the mundane task of laundry. The laundry felt rhythmic as I put in a load, transferred a load, and folded a load. And my third son’s dirty clothes reminded me he was still alive and with us.

My family and my neighborhood felt a lot of gratitude after my son’s miraculous revival and recovery. It felt so overwhelming and incomprehensible. We were grateful he lived, for emergency and medical staff, for neighbors’ help, and for God’s help.

It’s obvious to be grateful for the big things too, and overlook the little things. I wanted to be grateful for the dramatic things like my son lived. Yet the ordinary mattered more. It was more attainable to comprehend. Yet it was harder to maintain that gratitude.

I want to say that gratitude for the ordinary lasted until this day, but I only have moments of that gratitude. The daily grind often drives away those moments of clarity.

PTSD is a funny thing too. It can rob you of moments of gratitude because anger, sadness, or anxiety can take over. That experience injured our brains, which sometimes causes those memories to repeat.

For example, I felt such shame that I blamed my fourth son for the accident.

We even feel angry at our son/brother because we fear he isn’t being careful enough. As a result, we badger him more than others in the family. Naturally, my third son then reacts with annoyance, dislike, and anger. He is still too young to grasp the full meaning of our explanations too.

So it takes work and frequent reminders to feel the gratitude and consequent joy. We have done counseling, talking through with our family, trauma therapy, and so forth. I am also surprised when I discover a new anger or symptom.

It made me think “What are the ordinary things I would miss?” Third son asking “why?” over and over. Oldest sassing us or begging for Sprite. Second son quietly helping others. Second son burping to ease his motion sickness. Youngest son peeing on the carpet. Youngest son running away so we chase him. Husband playing games with his headphone half off so he can hear us. Husband bugging me for a kiss. (These examples are a year old, so my kids are onto different stages such as being fully potty-trained!)

So what would you miss — or what do you miss — if you lost a loved one? What can we be grateful for now about our loved ones?

It’s the mundane that matters.

If you enjoyed these insights, consider subscribing, pledging, or tipping. You can find me on my blog, Medium, Twitter, and Facebook. I occasionally update these. And thank you for reading this article. May God bless you!



Eileen Davis

I love language and believe every word is a poem. I majored in English language from BYU. I am a mom to four rambunctious boys. I have bipolar disorder too.