As November blows in, with a cavalcade of falling autumn leaves cueing us that winter will soon be here, I am reminded of my deep need to reflect on all the blessings in my life.
Thanksgiving is just around the corner. It’s sometimes easy to feel overwhelmed by the expectations attached to the holiday season. It’s easy to complain or eat too much and rest too little. It’s easy to wallow in self-pity and to look back instead of move forward. It’s easy to rant about how our glass is half empty instead of half full. And this year – this terrible year – while many of us watched our 401K accounts sink like the Titanic, as our jobs were threatened and the cost of all our bills rose, it has been as hard as ever to remain hopeful about our collective and individual future. However, despite the definite “worst of times” feeling that I get from my daily dose of CNN, I am actively turning my prayers toward the grace that permeates my life and reminding myself of all that I have to be thankful for.
The list is long.
Because I am unmarried, for much of my adult life I have spent Thanksgiving in the presence of friends in New York City, Los Angeles, Fairfax, VA and Phoenix, Arizona. Occasionally I have even cooked a whole bird and all the trimmings of a festive meal, and invited friends over to enjoy it at my house! I have witnessed many traditions, dishes, and ways of celebrating the holiday. One family eats paella. Another one serves sticky rice instead of mashed potatoes or gravy. I’ve had turkey and ham, lasagna and red pepper soup, corn stuffing and peach pie. Every single situation has been unique. But one thing that has been relatively consistent is the camaraderie of the meal itself and the sharing of what each person feels most thankful for. Hearing each person’s singular reasons for giving thanks is often humbling, to say the least. I have heard thanks given for all manner of good fortune, including the ability to rise again after misfortune.
So, when I think of what I will list this year, I think of people, events, places and, yes, even a few precious possessions:
I am thankful for the beauty and wisdom of my mother’s life and her ability to help me find my way through life’s detritus again and again. I am thankful that she’s in good health and still able to enjoy her life (at the age of 73). I am thankful for cherry pie and the peaceful purring of my cats; for the sound of laughter and the transformative power of books. I am grateful for my friendships – particularly with my women friends – who offer me so much solace every day. I am thankful that I can write about my life. I feel gratitude for the hope percolating up from the very soil of this nation; for our brave-hearted and eloquent president-elect; for his wife whose brains and beauty are a true pleasure to witness.
I am glad I have access to kisses, comfort food, flannel pajamas, pumpkin pie, hot coffee, and the occasional beer…I am thankful for my spiritual practice and the support system it provides. My heart is gladdened by hearing music and tasting chocolate. I am grateful for my job and my amazing students; for my ability to take care of my basic needs and still buy an ice cream now and then. I am thankful for my body, my brain, and my health. I am thankful for church bells, and true love, and heartache, even if I am alone right now as a result. I am grateful for solitude and sadness and angels and icebergs; for polar bears and rain showers, for the sound of Oak Creek and the roar of the ocean.
I am thankful for the stars poking through the cloud cover here in the desert. I am thankful that I had my father in my life as long as I did — even though it was not long enough. I am thankful for poems and language and paintings and prairie dogs. I am thankful for the promise of my life and the things that Spirit has set at my table to accomplish. I am grateful for prayer, for hardship, for the ways in which my life is changed and transformed in relationship to others. I am thankful for the books I read and the conversations I count on.
As I edge toward the half-century mark, I am grateful for every single day, every lovely breath, every opportunity to dance. The world is full of wonders. This Thanksgiving, between the turkey and the sweet potato pie, turn to those sharing your table and express your love and joy and gratitude to them. You will be glad you did.
© 2008 Shavawn M. Berry
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