Gratitude is difficult when the world seems to be falling down around our heads. It is difficult to find gratitude in crisis. It is difficult to find gratitude when we feel threatened. It is difficult to find gratitude under stress. But it is especially during these challenges when we need gratitude the most.
Practicing gratitude is uplifting. Even seeing people who seem to have less than we do being grateful can be inspiring. Knowing what we have to be grateful for is like finding a lifeline in a troubled sea. When we most need something to hang on to, an active practice of gratitude gives us just that.
Thanksgiving is a highly charged holiday. There are the family dynamics. Mixed families, blended families, new relationships create conflict over who gets to be with who when. There is finding table talk that doesn’t push buttons, make judgements, and generate huge arguments. There is the food both, expectations and execution, and issues of tradition versus lifestyle.
Thanksgiving is also highly charged politically. Not just with the family table, but the actual nature of the holiday itself. What we celebrate is the coming together of the European settlers and the Native Americans. The reality of that relationship is not nearly as peaceful or generous. Even now at Standing Rock Native Americans on their land with their supporters are being treated in ways that have the United Nations, the ACLU, and Amnesty International making statements against our government’s actions.
I am reminded again about the power of gratitude, and so I write reminding you. Let’s all take a moment, many moments, this week and dig deep into the things we do have to be grateful for.
I am grateful for all the people who work peacefully and diligently to preserve my civil rights, my breathable air, and my drinkable water.
I am grateful for all the people who work to ensure I have good, healthy food available to me especially all winter long.
I am grateful for all the people who are actively kind to others, who help those in need, who work with populations (in prisons, the mentally ill, impoverished families etc.) that I am not equipped to help.
I am grateful for the small opportunities I have to do my part to bring kindness, and caring, and loving support into the world.
I am grateful for the support I receive (from family, friends and strangers) just to be able to function in this world.
I am grateful to have a platform and readers who support my work. – Thank you!
What are you grateful for?
This was not my family’s Thanksgiving. I don’t know that this has ever been my family at Thanksgiving. But it’s the picture many of us hold in our minds of what family gatherings “should” look like.
As my parents age, and particularly my Mom, she becomes more vocal about how much she would like to see us be her vision of family when we get together. I suspect it’s one of her personal “measures of success”, perhaps as a parent or maybe just as a person. I know I catch myself occasionally looking for that ideal to affirm my own sense of accomplishment.
I’m pretty sure my Mom never had a Thanksgiving that picture perfect growing up. But I think she remembers it that way. Rose colored glasses and simpler times often shade our memories, especially where our loved ones are concerned. We would love to be able to paint that picture for my Mom, to enact the “perfect” family united.
There are no scripts for that kind of drama. And even if there are, they are often impossible to recreate. For instance I believe my Mother’s scene truly requires a bird she cooked, her stuffing, her wild rice. Except no one else can make it “just right” and it’s really too much for her to do it herself without creating an enormous amount of stress that isn’t part of the picture. I think all that pretty china, silver, and tablecloth get swept up and disappear without anyone washing (or breaking) dishes, or doing laundry or getting crumbs on the floor.
The reality of this Thanksgiving was no more “perfect” than any other. The smoke alarms went off when the dressing spilled in the oven. The turkey took an extra hour to cook. Dad made the “wrong” bread (delicious, just not the kind we expected). In the end, though, everything was tasty, everyone had plenty to eat, and there wasn’t a major fight.
We’ll all remember this Thanksgiving as Norman Rockwell perfect. I suppose that’s something to be thankful for.
November has been a very stressful month, and it’s not over yet. Some of the stress has been in a good way, so I’m grateful. I’m grateful for having the opportunity to speak at the Minneapolis Women’s Club at the Women of Words event. I’m also grateful to have the opportunity to speak to our local Ostomy Society. What a great bunch! I’m grateful to the people at both presentations who took the time to tell me exactly why what I have to say had such a strong impact on them.
I’m grateful, as always, for my time at Gilda’s Club. I’m putting in an extra shift this week, stepping in for another greeter. Since Thursday is my usually day I’ve got a “day off” so I suppose it’s not really extra. Besides, there’s a social event this morning so I would be there anyway!
I’m grateful that I’m not hosting Thanksgiving. The family I grew up in has two generations under it. I’m a Great Aunt. The crowd is getting too big for us all to be together in one space. It’s bittersweet to break it up. At the same time I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend a little more intimate Thanksgiving rather than all the noise and chaos. I’m grateful, especially after this summer, to still have both of my parents. I’m grateful both of my children will be there.
I’m grateful for all the things I say I’m grateful for in my speeches. Telling my story means I am revisiting points in my life where I had reason to be very grateful, for people, for circumstances, for support. It’s challenging for me to open up that way, but it’s also a great reminder of how blessed I’ve been.
I’m looking at the Syrian refugees. I’m looking at the shooting (by the police) of a black man just a few miles from my home that’s threatening to turn Minneapolis into Ferguson. I’m looking at the bombing in Paris. I have so much to be grateful for, so much bounty, so much privilege, even my stress seems minor in comparison.
So I give thanks and stand in gratitude and pray for healing around the world.
I’ve started to write today’s blog several times over the course of the holiday weekend. I had a follow-up post about gratitude. I had a post about family and relationship dynamics. I always have the option of a post about food, and this year in particular with the huge Thanksgiving meal a challenge after my bariatric surgery. I had a post about the weekend and going to see comedian Josh Blue.
I don’t want to finish any of them. In fact the only thing I really want to do is crawl back into bed under the covers. It’s Monday. It’s COLD outside (the windchill is hovering near -15 and the temps are just above Zero). I didn’t get to sleep in all weekend. It’s the post-holiday let down.
There is some comfort in returning to routine. The problem is that between Thanksgiving and Christmas/Chanukah/Winter Solstice/Kwanza all routine gets thrown in the trash (along with the excessive packaging). There is a LOT of cleaning to do. There is a LOT of cooking to do. There is a LOT of decorating to do. And then there’s shopping, and wrapping, and writing out cards.
Since Thanksgiving was so late this year I’ve been able to keep my head in the ostrich hole for almost the entire month of November. Now I’m somehow surprised that it’s December and I’m not ready! Somehow I don’t think going back to bed will help.
As we come up on Thanksgiving my Facebook feed is starting to fill up with commentary about “The real history of Thanksgiving.” Most of it is true, and most of it I am familiar with. America was built on the backs of people who shared their labor and their knowledge. Rather than responding with gratitude, our white European fore bearers appropriated their gifts and made sure their stories written out of history.
So I want to take some time to be grateful. I am grateful to be able to live on this bounteous beautiful land.
I am grateful for wild rice, and corn, and pumpkins and all the food that is indigenous. I’m grateful to see tribal people standing up for their land rights against fracking and pipeline building, knowing how destructive those technologies are to the environment. I’m grateful for the people who share the history not taught in our schools and who tell the stories of the downtrodden.
I’m grateful for the immigrant cultures that have brought so much variety to my life. I’m grateful for fried rice and tortillas and collard greens.
I’m grateful for print and color patterns and architectural wonders that were never a part of my European heritage. I’m grateful for literature with points of view that are different from my own, but which make it easier for me to shift my own perspective. I’m grateful for the music, the meditation, and the technologies that make my life easier and more pleasant.
I have been blessed in my life with the opportunity to travel. I have been in positions to decorate my home with artwork from other cultures. I have had the opportunity to work and play and truly get to know people whose upbringing was very different from my own.
I’ve recently started an online meditation series Headspace. As I move through the meditation lessons they ask me to reflect on who else benefits from my practicing these techniques. Trying to build a business speaking on spirituality I ask myself, “who do I serve? Who needs to hear what I have to say?”
I think the cultures and people who supported the development of this country had that attitude.
“How can I help? Who can I serve?”
I think our culture has an attitude of “What do I get out of it?” I’d rather live with the former.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to try.
Another year and another post titled Thanksgiving. In past years I’ve written about my family traditions and about gratitude. Doesn’t that sum up the holiday in a nutshell? Family and thankfulness, what more is there to say? Still it is the job of the writer, be they blogger or novelist, to find new stories to tell, new things to share.
I write thank you notes. Not like you’re thinking “thank you for the lovely present” but genuine thank you notes. Every once in a while I’ll be inspired to write thank you for being you, for all the things you do for me, for being in my life kinds of notes. I was driving in traffic last week, alone. That gave me some time to think. I arrived at my meeting almost half an hour early. That gave me some time to write. I started a thank you note.
This note in particular is almost a “fan girl”note. I’ve met Teo, spent a little time talking to him, let Orion spend a morning with him and taken a workshop from him. But, even though I’d like to think we’re friends, I don’t really know him. Teo is a public figure among Pagans. He was an ADF Druid and wrote a blog with a wide following. His Spiritual journey has led him to return to an exploration of Christianity and a relationship with Jesus as Divine. He continues to blog about his Spirituality through all the transformative experience. He’s taken a great deal of flack for his choices.
My letter begins:
I want to start by saying thank you, yet again. Thank you for being kind. Thank you for being open and honest and willing to share. Thank you for being honorable. Thank you for living the path of someone truly called by Spirit.
As I write I am struck by the notion that this is a love letter. Not in the romantic sense, but in the sense of unconditional love. I can’t express gratitude without it. My heart is open and it is love that comes out, in the form of thanksgiving.
When I wrote about the Women and Spirituality Conference I talked about working with the ancestors. I told about my experience in the workshop meditation holding my ancestors in unconditional love. This is currently my daily practice, to spend 5 minutes a day simply holding my ancestors in my heart, in love. I am overwhelmed by gratitude. My heart is open and love comes out, in the form of thanksgiving.
My father pulls the turkey out of the oven every year and carves it. He often gets credit for the cooking, but that truly goes to my mother. In my household food is love. Dad makes bread, Mom makes stuffing and gravy and wild rice and anyone who shows up is always fed to bursting. I am lucky, and grateful to still have my parents. I am overwhelmed, with food and gratitude and love. This is Thanksgiving.
Here we are again coming upon Thanksgiving. This is probably the holiday that’s the “biggest deal” in my own family of origins. Sure we celebrated birthdays and Christmas and all of those things in one way or another. My child self would never have given Thanksgiving a “higher place” than waking up to presents from Santa under the tree. And yet it is the Thanksgiving holiday that endures.
When we grew up and had to make those negotiations with spouses, in-laws and our own families my parents were flexible. They were not as interested in the date of the holiday, or even the theme of the holiday. They were interested in us getting together as a family. My Mom’s birthday being December 18th we had lots of room to shuffle to accommodate winter break, Yule, Christmas with the in-laws and anything else we wanted to throw into the winter holiday mix (like a dog sled ride or a choir concert.)
Spring break became much more important than Easter, especially when the Grandchildren’s birthdays, Spring Equinox, and wedding anniversaries were added to the mix. 4th of July was always about where to get a campsite rather than fireworks and parades, and once my parents retired it became about political campaign fundraising. Memorial Day my Mother took turns with her siblings for who got to tend the family gravesite and my father took his annual first canoe trip to the boundary waters.
Thanksgiving stayed the same. Even if no one was coming my Mom was determined to have her turkey and stuffing. Since we knew she was cooking anyway we’d often drop by before or after even if we’d committed to be elsewhere. All of the family stories seem to center around activities that happened at Thanksgiving. At my Grandmother’s Thanksgiving there was the traditional fight between my Dad and his sister over the turkey heart. There was the year my Mom got dinner on the table within 24 hours of being released from the hospital. (We got her through the meal and insisted she needed to go back! – Another holiday in the ER.) Thanksgiving is an opportunity for family adventures.
I may have mentioned in a previous post (Graduate) that my family cooks. Thanksgiving is probably the only time that cooking isn’t a competition. Everyone has found their “signature dish” and even when no one else will eat it, the meal isn’t the same without it. My Grandmother’s marshmallow and walnut salad made appearances every year long after she’d passed. It still gets talked about, although my mother has acknowledged that it doesn’t fit anybody’s taste, time, or dietary requirements anymore. My sister always shows up with the infamous green bean casserole. She’s happy to share it with anyone, usually an in-law. It was never in my mother’s repertoire, my sister discovered it after she was married just like I discovered cranberries didn’t have to come out of a can.
This year my Mom, who has become Great Grandma, has decided that Thanksgiving is just a little bit too much. She’s still hosting, still determined to make her turkey, stuffing, wild rice, mashed potatoes and gravy. She decided that she didn’t need pie. Oh, she’ll still make some, just not for Thanksgiving. Besides, she says, no one is hungry enough for desert after that meal anyway!
I guess I can’t argue the point and I’m proud of her for acknowledging enough is enough (even if Dad is on duty to keep her hands off the pie crust makings – the harder task.) The problem is that I promised Darcy a pecan pie. Darcy is a new mom and my “niece-in-law”. She deserves a pecan pie, and it’s not one Mom ever really made so no competition. But one pie for Darcy isn’t going to go over well with 13 people (that I know of) at the table. (I didn’t count the new baby either.) So today the blog is a little late because I’ve been busy. What’s Thanksgiving without pie?
Thanksgiving – the expression of gratitude. Those of us who run in spiritual circles hear a lot about gratitude. There are numerous books in the market on the topic. It’s become almost a buzzword. But there is a huge difference between saying thank you and feeling grateful from the tips of your toes.
Gratitude in an emotional context feels both humble and bounteous. Gratitude comes with an upwelling of joy and love. It is a giving back, thanks in love returned for gifts received. There is a Norse tradition expressed in the rune Gifu. Acceptance of a gift obligates, a gift for a gift. But when gifts are exchanged in gratitude that obligation becomes joyful and burden-less.
The holiday this week brings gratitude, thankfulness, into our cultural awareness. Many of us find ourselves fulfilling family obligations, and often with more trepidation than joy. Is this a holiday of food and football? Is this a celebration of white privilege, colonial expansion and manifest destiny? Even staying in the moment can be difficult as many of us use the day to scan the ads and plan our black Friday shopping expeditions.
In an effort to stay present in the moment and to experience the week in gratitude I have written a short mediation, a prayer if you will, that I would like to share with you here. If you like it I would ask you to please share my blog, pass it on.
I breathe deeply, in and out.
I can be grateful for my breath in and out.
I breathe in and fill my body with gratitude.
I breathe out and release that which does not serve my greater purpose.
I am grateful for my breath.
I breath into my body. My chest moves as I breath. My belly moves as I breath.
I can be grateful for my body as it contains my breath.
I breathe in and fill my body with gratitude.
My body moves in gratitude.
My body carries gratitude into the world.
I am grateful for my body.
I live in my body, moved by my breath in each moment of my life.
I can be grateful for my life.
My life is lived in gratitude.
My life is filled with gifts and opportunities for giving.
I am grateful for my life.