So I was tooling around a few obscure websites that I like to visit, looking for inspiration. Then I realized… I’d started this whole mess on Thanksgiving, but never wrote about it! Now, I’m sure that, for all of you, the turkey/stuffing/family/football madness is over, but around here it was not quite a non-event. We had Turkey. The Turkey was epic. We cleaned the kitchen with minimal stress (!!!). We recovered from a roller-coaster month. I was almost glad that we did not have the money to go traipsing around Michigan visiting various relatives… Matt had been working so hard, and I’m not feeling great… a long story about a new filling, and an infection, and antibiotics. The antibiotics mess with my hormones, so even if I’m not suffering with tooth pain (thank you God) I’m still feeling out of sorts, exhausted, and edgy.
Also, I can’t sleep.
But I did not write this to list a litany of complaints. Ironically, I was going to write about gratitude. Yeah, I know, cheezy, peasy. But trust me, the older you get the more it becomes important, because the small gifts that make youth so distracting have a tendency to go away. Without gratitude, you become a bitter shriveled husk of who you once were. That is very, very lonely. That festering resentment interferes with all your relationships, temporal and eternal.
But it’s not just a pop-psych balm for all that ails aging.
The difference between having it, and not having it, is the difference between misery and peace. If you are hip deep in lousy karma and feeling deeply your unmet needs snapping at your heel, it can even be hard to see HOW it could be anything but repression and ‘turning a smile upside-down’. From the outside it can seem like a real Saturday Afternoon Special type artificial construct designed to cover up real problems. But…
Has any one, ever, come up with a better way to deal with the stuff that you can’t control? Seriously, if anyone has, they are probably a billionaire based on that fact alone.
The trouble with coping skills that actually work is that they aren’t glamorous, take work, humility and strength you think you don’t have to implement. You almost have to seduce yourself into it… and construction paper turkeys and “holiday card moments” don’t always help with that. Indeed, it can seem like family visits can trigger the opposite sorts of emotions.
Uncle Arthur’s obnoxious behavior, smell or drinking can be easier to cope with if you remember that Aunt Georgia would be lost without him, even if their marriage is less than perfect. Yeah, I also believe that feeling gratitude for things that don’t directly affect you. Hey, one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving at my Aunt’s place was the cheese ball.
Gratitude is so important for grieving, for example. Sometimes, it really is the only way to give that sucking hole in your chest a break from time to time.
So even if your worst memory is your first grade teacher asking everyone, “So, what what are YOU thankful for?” it is worth reflecting on. Even when the turkey is gone, football season is over, and the ‘rents and relatives have left the building. It is more than just a seasonal trick to get your kids ramped up for Christmas. It is an indispensable life long habit that makes life worth living.