What Thanksgiving Can Be

I’ve never been a fan of the Thanksgiving holiday, for many reasons, but mainly because as a practice of gratitude it was too little, too late, too commercialized, and too superficial.

Thanksgiving, I used to think, was just a time of looking back on the year and picking the things that made you most happy and celebrating them. These past years have shown me what Thanksgiving can be. It’s a time to remember what drives you, to name it and place it foremost in your mind and heart and hold tight to it through the hard times to come. It’s a time to remember not just your blessing but what you live for.

The benefits of practicing gratitude are well-documented and understood and putting aside the horrible history and the fallacious teaching behind its meaning, Thanksgiving is a chance to renew the hope, the resilience, the purpose of your life. It’s a time to remember that there is still good left in the world and recommit to being part of that good, not just for others but for yourself first!

People have a hard time feeling grateful and we have an even harder time expressing it. The negatives, the setbacks, and the hindrances overshadow the progress and the privilege. My wish is that there could be more balance for each of us. That we could hold both the hurt and happiness in our hearts equally. I want you to know you can love life, all of it.

It’s easier said than done, I know. These last few years have been especially hard— for all of us. What I want to say to all of you is that there is always something left to hold on to and that something is what will give you the strength to continue on.

Humans are at our best when we have a reason to get up, to work, to try. Even if you don’t have a grand accomplishment or love to celebrate this year, I hope you can find a small dream, a small good, a small pleasure to claim as your reason. It’s there. Search inside. Search the faces of your loved ones. Search for what is missing around you and let yourself be what you need.

Life is beautiful, and you are no ordinary thing. Even if you are all you have, you can be grateful, at least, for that grand gift and choose to live for you.

This past year I have worked hard to practice gratitude and I can honestly say it has had a big impact on my feelings of accomplishment, self-esteem, and my overall happiness. Some days I feel I have so much to be grateful for that my heart hurts from trying to hold it all.

I’m grateful, as always, for my beautiful, smart, hilarious, thoughtful wife. I’m grateful that we have seen another year, that we have grown closer than ever, and that we have endured our hardships and come out stronger, wiser, and more loving than ever. I’m grateful that there are still so many years ahead for us to fall more in love.

I’m grateful for my family. I am grateful my mother recovered from her heart attack. I’m grateful that we are all so close, even if we aren’t near each other. I’m grateful that we can work through our annoyances and frustrations. That we have a place to be loved despite ourselves.

I am grateful for all I have accomplished and all I have learned this year. I feel like I made real progress. I feel like I have grown. I am not who I was at the start of the year, or perhaps I am only more myself than I have ever been. My life is becoming something real, something mine, something I only dreamed of.

I’m grateful for my friends. My family must love me, and my wife took a vow, but my friends are under no such obligations. It feels good to be liked. It feels good to know I can enrich other’s lives. It feels good to have people in your life who encourage you, help you, who understand where you are and what you want from life.

I’m grateful that I’m not where I once was, that I’m not who I once was. Sometimes I am even grateful for my problems because they mean that there is a chance to overcome, to prove something, to grow.

I’m grateful for all the small things too: my dog who has carried me through the loss of my cat earlier this year. I’m grateful for the plants that brighten all my drab spaces and remind me that there is life beyond what humans make. I am grateful for my notebooks that give me a place to say the things I can’t out loud. I am grateful for those pages where I can be myself no matter what promises I break or how I neglect them.

I’m grateful for the beautiful sunrises that uplift my morning commute and the moon that always finds me when I need something bigger than myself to look to. I’m grateful for the work I do. While it isn’t always my passion, it at least gives me a chance to have a positive impact on the lives of so many children.

Despite my complaints, I’m grateful for all I could do for others. I’m grateful to be for others what I so often needed and I’m grateful for knowing that if I weren’t here I would be sorely missed. There have been times in my life when I felt very much the opposite. I’m grateful for healing, for the past becoming more and more the past, and for forgiveness, which seems more and more possible all the time.

Last, I’m grateful for this space and for all of you, for reading, commenting, and sharing. It feels good to write something people like, that resonates, that connects. I know I’m not here much lately, but things are changing and priorities are rearranging. I hope one day to be someone you all are grateful for too.

Thank you for reading and I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving.


Don’t Complain

Sister, there are people who went to sleep all over the world last night, poor and rich and white and black, but they will never wake again. Sister, those who expected to rise did not, their beds became their cooling boards, and their blankets became their winding sheets. And those dead folks would give anything, anything at all, for just five minutes of this weather or ten minutes of that plowing that person was grumbling about. So you watch yourself about complaining, Sister. What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”

— Maya Angelou (via swissmiss)

It doesn’t feel very much like a Friday. Getting up was very hard this morning. So hard I almost opted to spend the day in bed. I’ve decided I get one day a month to do nothing when I should be doing something but November’s mental health day has already passed.

So, I went in, and then worked much more than I wanted to. We moved around office furniture and I ate lunch at a desk. At least we ordered out and at least I got to eat with the best coworkers around. And now I’ve been left to work alone. I sound like I hate it but I’m flattered by the opportunity to play boss.

Looking back on the day I’m grateful for a job where I can get up and move, where I get to be with my friends and laugh, where I have a team and where I know I’m wanted and doing well. I don’t think most people have that.

I’m trying.