This is the time of year we get together with family and friends and commune. Sometimes we give thanks for things and people in our lives, sometimes we eat too much and fall asleep on the sofa, and sometimes we do both. I am sure the name Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for what we have received, so is Thanksgetting. How often during the other 364 days of the year do we do this? How often do we look around at the people and opportunities in our lives and feel thankful. Being thankful, having gratitude is a physical experience not a mental one. It happens in our chests, in our hearts like the Grinch only in reverse.
Lots of times when I teach gratitude exercises people are focused on their thoughts, on actions of others or a good burger. I have them think of someone who they are truly grateful for and think about that person’s role in their lives, what is it they do that makes them grateful, how do they feel about them. Then and only then do I see an inhale of breath, hear a shaky voice when they start to speak about that person. That is when they feel their chest open up and have a physical experience instead of a psychological one. This is when they are getting it, really feeling the wonder of gratitude. It is not hard to do, we know that that science says that writing a heart felt thank you to someone can have lasting effects of well-being for the author of that note for up to a month. Yes, a month.
We will readily drink and eat things that propose well-being: teas, concoctions, exotic foods, tinctures, and/or med’s when we are told we will feel good for a period of time. Why then don’t we take on a practice of giving thanks, of being thankful for getting to experience being here and for the people in our lives? Again, research shows that being of service, helping another person, volunteering, even writing a thank you note has sustainable feelings of wellbeing for long periods of time.
I am a practitioner of gratitude; I can look at the nature around me and be profoundly grateful for where I landed in Oregon. I can listen to friends and family and appreciate the humor; love and support I feel from them. Sometimes it happens via a meditation, a quiet cup of tea, a laugh over a martini. There is this welling up from deep that small bubble of joy, of gratitude for that moment. It reminds me that life is good, if only for this moment. I then tuck that memory away like a squirrel for tough long dark nights of the soul.
I do write thank you notes for no reason, not as often as I like but I am working on it. There is a vulnerability there in telling someone how import they are, or calling out the acts of love, tenderness, help that support and supported you in chaotic times. My experience with being depressed, miserable in my life has given me a sense of wonder about people and things around me. Being witness to my father’s slow whittling away as he slid to his death and my younger sister’s short ferocious battle with leukemia sharpened my sense of how very fragile this life is and how grateful I am for the moments, good and bad.
The bad moments, the painful things make me feel acutely alive, shitty, but alive. I get to be here now to live, to love and to screw up on a regular basis. I appreciate the scope of emotions and experiences in being human that comes through learning and being vulnerable. You can’t have a rollercoaster with only ups, there has to be downs in the ride or it’s not a ride at all. I get to watch people I love find themselves, struggle, and triumph, as I do the same, giving thanks for getting to be here, be here now and together through the good and the bad. I get to support, to grow, fight and take naps. Appreciating this wonderous, crazy fucking ride we are on and savoring all of it is why I am here.
I implore you to stop, to pause once a day to soak it in. To reach out and say thank you in a heartfelt way to someone. Help a stranger, a struggler, or a stray because that is what community does. We get to show up for each other, to support, to share beginnings and endings of days and lives. Give Thanks for getting to do that, celebrate Thanksgetting every day. Now stop boggarting the pie and pass it this way because who doesn’t want to celebrate with pie?
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