Today is the Monday before Thanksgiving. Posts made mandatory by social or popular agreement tend to annoy me. They seem to end up feeling disingenuous. Thanksgiving may be the worst among them because the spirit of the holiday is gratitude and that seems like it should be more spontaneous than the requisite list on a fb post. It seems like we should be thinking of these things we’re grateful for more than the one time a year when we’re socially forced to do so.
That last part may be true, but I was wrong about the first. It doesn’t need to be spontaneous. In fact, gratefulness, or at the very least thankfulness, is in many ways a meditative practice. If we don’t pay attention to something we lose track of it, and that can be as small as our keys or as big as the love we have for another person or the appreciation we have for something. Just like relationships between people, the relationship between ourselves and our emotions requires some attention, some effort to be fruitful. And sometimes all it takes is forcing yourself to sit down for five minutes to make that mandatory list to realize that you truly are grateful for some things. That forced awareness can be epiphanic!
If you practice awareness, appreciation is a natural byproduct. It’s hard to truly be aware of the world around you and not be grateful for the things you have or for the people who support you and who make your life brighter, even for your circumstance. This is true whether you have a lot or a little, a family or are alone because when you are truly paying attention to the world around you, you see great fantastic beauty and you see horrible, terrible tragedy. When you’re aware, you see the reality of your circumstance but you also see the reality of everyone you meet’s circumstance so you can’t help but realize that while you may be in a bad place in life, there is someone walking around not far from you in an even worse situation. And that’s just part of why awareness brings gratitude.
When we spend even a little time not being distracted by all the myriad ways we allow ourselves to be distracted we begin to see all sorts of strange little phenomena happening around us. Tiny little things that bring us joy that are as simple as the way the cat sleeps with his tongue slightly out. It’s difficult to hold onto self pity in the face of such simplistic happiness. And the moment we realize that something brings us joy, or happiness, or love, or support or friendship or any of the other things that make up the goodness in our lives, we can’t help but be grateful for those people and things and circumstances.
So when I see the Month of Thankfulness posts circulating, I know that while each day a person writes the 5 things they are thankful for that day, they may have a hard time coming up with 5. I know that for the most part these daily posts are going to have some snark and fun infused in the list because we’re all a little self conscious saying the things we’re truly grateful for. And I’ll also know that somewhere in that month, almost everyone who writes one of those lists is going to at some point have a moment of true gratefulness and compassion and in that moment they are going to be absolutely in the spirit of thanksgiving. And THAT is what this is all about.
So here is my list for this moment:
1: I’m thankful for a wonderful wife who loves me unconditionally, and 3 warm, fuzzy “kids” who also love me unconditionally.
2: I’m thankful that I have a job and that I get to do something meaningful for people through it and it allows me free time to do other things that I love.
3: I’m so very grateful for a roof over my head and enough to eat and warm clothes and that I get to choose these things.
4: I’m thankful that I have my health, all four limbs and 20 appendages.
5: I’m grateful for all of the months and years before; for all of the time I’ve had to learn, and re-learn lessons and the experiences I’ve had that have shaped the person I am today. I’m thankful for the people who have presented themselves as teachers to me and allowed me to learn something from them.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!