It's Thanksgiving week here in the US . . . a week traditionally spent cooking, gathering with friends and family, and reflecting on our many blessings. I've decided to take a little break from my usual blog "structure" (such as it is) to focus on gratitude this week.
Now I've long subscribed to the notion that noticing and acknowledging the things we're grateful for . . . makes us more happy in our lives. Like many of you, I keep a gratitude journal, and in it I list a number of things I'm grateful for each day. It's a lovely ritual, and really does make me pay attention to and think about the things that I am particularly grateful for.
Some days, though . . . it's hard.
When life feels dark and tedious and harrowing (y'know . . . like now), it's easy to get caught up in all the things that are wrong or fraught or not-quite-what-we-had-in-mind. Like, well . . . who is grateful for this dumpster fire of a year, right? There have been many mornings over the past months when I open my gratitude journal and just stare at it for a while. Cranky and not feeling particularly grateful at all.
"Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin."
-- Mother Teresa
I moped around last week, thinking about how long it's been since I've seen my daughter in person, how my son is less than an hour up the road -- but still out of reach, how much I miss my mom at Thanksgiving. I got caught up in the pointlessness of cooking a Thanksgiving meal this year. And then I thought of Mother Teresa. I mean . . .she was a great one for shining her light on blessings when things appeared amazingly dark and utterly hopeless, wasn't she? Maybe her words - and her example - could inspire me to find the the blessings in my life.
I realized it was time for me to shine a light on my life.
To flip the switch.
To change my perspective.
Instead of focusing on not seeing my daughter . . .
I started thinking about how proud I am of her for working so hard to land - and succeed at - her dream job; how delighted I am that she is happy and independent in her life; how grateful I am for the many ways we have stayed connected at great distance - and even during a pandemic; how pleased I am that she is making many of our family dishes this year for her own Thanksgiving with Keith. Yes. I miss her. But she is a blessing wherever she is!
Instead of focusing on not seeing my son . . .
I started thinking about how lucky I am that he is only just up the road now; how lovely it is to see him in person once in a while - even behind a mask and at a distance; what a blessing to me that he is settled and happy - even during a pandemic; how pleased I am that we can share a Thanksgiving meal this year even if it's just dropped off at his door with a wave. Yes. I miss him. But he's close enough to wave at through a window, and that is a blessing!
Instead of focusing on how much I miss my mom . . .
I started remembering all the happy Thanksgiving times we were able to share over the years; all the pies she baked and her love of dark meat and how much we laughed. Yes. She isn't here around my table this year. But her memories live deep inside me, and her spirit is with me every day -- and especially at Thanksgiving. What a blessing to have such wonderful memories woven into my week!
Instead of focusing on the "pointlessness" of cooking a meal on this weird Thanksgiving . . .
I started thinking about how I CAN cook a meal on this weird Thanksgiving; that I have access to the ingredients and cooking utensils I need; that I am blessed with recipes and know-how and experience; that I can share my meal - and my love - with Tom and Brian and Lauren and my dad. Yes. We won't be gathering together. But that doesn't change our enjoyment of a shared meal. And this meal - even though shared in a completely different way - will tether us to each other and ground us in our traditions anyway.
Really. I have an embarrassment of riches. So many blessings. So much to be grateful for!
It does work . . . changing your perspective. Flipping the switch. Shining a light on your life.
Even when it seems dark!
(And now . . . a poem. Because why not.)
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird ---
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
Today's poem was published in Thirst by Mary Oliver, 2006, Beacon Press, Boston.