Just Feeling Thankful

And, coincidentally, it happens to be that time of year to remember gratitude! Truth be told, I’m not really one who counts down the days to Thanksgiving by marking each one with a declaration of all I’m grateful for. Maybe I should do that, but I don’t. There’s a lot of trendy Facebook things I don’t do.

But upon reflecting on recent time spent with loved ones and BFFs and siblings from out of town, I realize what I’ve always known, what makes life beautiful. I’ve gotten to sit and laugh hysterically with my husband and close friends over amazing cuisine in our favorite restaurants. I’ve gotten to catch up with siblings and their spouses, while recounting the never-dull family history through the wit of my dad. I’ve gotten to relish lovingly home-cooked meals and quiet conversation with my mom and stepdad. I’ve gotten to indulge in pumpkin crepes and colorful tree-lined walks while chatting with the dearest of friends. Be it for birthday celebrations (they all seem to fall in October and November!!) or just the regular get together, it’s been nice. No, it’s been wonderful. And in every gathering I’m reminded of how fortunate I am to have so many great people in my life. For my wonderful husband, my parents, my step-parents, my brother and sisters, my step-siblings, my nieces and nephews, my extended family, and my amazing friends: I. Am. Grateful.

And, I realize more than ever that these joyful times that seem so abundant are actually terribly finite. I learned this most acutely with my grandma’s passing, but still sometimes forget in the day-to-day mundanity how fleeting it all is. What I’ve also learned is to look for the good in people, and truly appreciate it. Even though there will always be some who mostly only elicit cynicism from me, over all I’m amazed by the people in my life and their unique gifts. I feel like I look at each person and see such a starkly different set of characteristics from my own, and I marvel at them. And I think finding and nurturing this appreciation for life and all the remarkable people in it is what makes it worth living.

So…happy November to you, and happy Thanksgiving!

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Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude and trying to summon the appropriate amount of it, especially as Thanksgiving approaches. Intellectually, I know that gratitude is the antidote (or at least a proper response) to many negative states we may find ourselves in – like envy, pain, disappointment, and even apathy. But sometimes it’s just not that easy to feel. I guess that’s one of gratitude’s ironies; you’re more likely to have it when everything’s great, but it’s a complete no-show the minute times get tough. So that being said, I’ve struggled with being thankful this year.

Now I know that I have innumerable blessings to count, but of course, many of the most profound ones often end up getting taken for granted, which is a terrible shame. After a while it’s like not being able to see the forest through the trees, which I think boils down to perspective. But just recently, because of a new perspective on an event from the past, I was able to access a huge amount of gratitude, which has given me a better attitude. An attitude of gratitude (sorry, couldn’t resist).

It all started the other day when I was in a funk because of a number of frustrations that seemed to be mounting. My emotions were raw and confidence was low. I remember I was staring at my  hand for a moment, and then it hit me. A most unexpected memory flooded my brain from when I was about 4 years old, maybe slightly younger. I was with my mom at a neighbor’s house. All the adults were occupied in conversation, and I was bored, so someone gave me a pad of paper, a pencil, and some crayons. Even at that age I was not impressed with crayons – I thought they left such an inconsistent mark on paper, nothing like what you’d see in the smooth clarity of a cartoon. I was obsessed with cartoons. Anyway, I remember deciding, with rather firm resolve, to draw a realistic looking hand. How hard could it be? So I held out my left hand as a model and put my pencil to the paper. Not knowing where to start, however, I stared more closely at my hand. And then I noticed the detail. There were lines and creases on every finger and in the palm… and then I focused in further and saw even smaller lines and skin texture and finger prints, and on and on. I’m sure my eyes became large as I realized just how complex a little hand could be. I threw down the pencil, immediately frustrated to the point of anger. The amount of detail had overwhelmed me and my quick temper had taken over, causing me to commence sulking. Continue reading