This is the time of year when all our families should be stirring with excitement and anticipation for the holiday season, filled with festive traditions that bring us joy while creating lasting memories.
Thanksgiving offers us the time-honored opportunity to gather with loved ones and celebrate all we are thankful for, cherishing moments together with hefty homemade meals filling our stomachs while leaving lingering scents in our decorated homes.
But this year is so very different. As with every holiday that has come and gone since this Pandemic hit, instead of reveling in these significant celebrations, we settle in to accept their vacancy and mourn the loss of what was once ours to have, while scrambling to figure out how to salvage what little we can.
It seems the world is crumbling into a heap of debris and we are all buried under it. With the racial unrest and political upheaval, to the natural disasters and the ongoing pandemic, we’re all just trying to dig our way through the rubble, desperate to come up for air.
It’s tiresome. Living in a constant state of stress and strain, attempting to manage our lives in the middle of all this madness. It’s wearing our wills down and weakening our strength to keep fighting to survive each day, constantly picking up the pieces of our lives and attempting to put them in some semblance of order.
Thanksgiving is a time to embrace all that we are grateful for and it’s hard to feel thankful about much of anything. But I propose that now more than ever, we must climb out of the wreckage of whatever ruins we find ourselves in and stretch our necks high to look hard and long for the things that are good, the things that still hold the great power of positivity, because paying our utmost attention to those things will, in fact, save us all.
It saves me every day.
For years, I’ve practiced a daily meditation of acknowledging all the aspects of my life I can be grateful for, mostly out of a desperate need to anchor myself back on solid ground when I feel like I’m losing my footing. And since 2020 feels much like an earthquake with a magnitude that measures off the Richter scale, I find myself flailing and falling on some seriously shaky ground- often.
Whether I’m in a state of frenzied panic, completely overwhelmed with the daily decisions I must make to keep my family safe, my kids healthy, and my mom well cared for while she lives alone, or I’m diving deep into dismal despair over all the lives lost from the Pandemic, the civil uproar in our cities, or the political madness that ensues, I must pull myself away from it all, close my eyes and take the time to silence the world and reset my mind on positive thoughts. I stop my own internal unraveling by forcing myself to set the stress aside and intentionally think about anything and everything I appreciate in my life.
I’ll often reflect on the way my kids are growing into such remarkable human beings, while I celebrate their strengths and talents, or the way they amaze me with their ability to manage their unpredictable and limited lives.
I’ll take time to look out my window while sitting at my desk, gazing at the brilliant blue sky while watching the way the trees bend in the breeze, noticing the glorious shades of color changing on the leaves, recognizing the wonder of nature that never tires of delighting me with each new season it brings.
I might dream about life beyond this horrible year, and the hopes I have for our family’s future, filling the unknowns with aspirations of what’s to come. Sometimes, I’ll go back in time, remembering my wedding day and those younger years of my husband and me building our family and creating memories I now cherish more than ever. I often flash through my chosen favorites, each child’s whimsical ways in which they grew into themselves and the milestones that brought them to where they are now. My family is my treasure trove of all I hold dear, and at any given moment, I can dive in and dig around through a bounty of goods I can claim as my own.
I never run out of identifying all the incredible gifts I’ve been given and I doubt I ever will. From the mundane to the miraculous, intentionally acknowledging them all is the most productive way for me to gain a healthy and hopeful perspective. It always strengthens my resolve to once again, hoist the weight I bear, and carry on.
It’s rather cliché to say “Count your blessings“, but indeed this is the greatest thing we can do. Regularly. Being mindful of what is most important and worthy of our praise, will remind us of how much we have and although things are hard right now, this exercise will help us see the clearer picture and the bigger story when we’ve all been submerged in only one harrowing chapter of our lives.
We’re all drowning in our own way, with our own long list of lamentations, thrashing in the relentless waves that are constantly crashing into our lives. During these perilous times, it seems everyone is desperately kicking to keep our head above water, grabbing onto whatever remnants of the rafters we can find just to stay afloat. And it’s in those buoys where we find the sustenance we need to keep swimming. Those are our lifelines, so we best hold onto them tight.
If we can pause for a few moments, take a break from all the strenuous demands of our day to search through the rubble of what remains, and dig out some gems that still prevail, we are sure to find fuel for our fortitude, even in the wake of it all.
They do indeed exist and it would do us all a world of good to find them, appreciate them, and remind ourselves about those things that still bring meaning and fulfillment and purpose to our lives. And if we embrace all the things that truly matter most, we just might realize how much we really have to be thankful for after all.
Practicing intentional thankfulness won’t change our circumstances, it won’t restore our lives or our nation, but it will empower us to trudge through this tough terrain and withstand the winds and waves over and over again.
This Thanksgiving holiday, we may be seated at a table with empty chairs and broken hearts, with little hope and less on our plates. We might be feeling fearful and angry and worn down to our bones, struggling to embrace this moment as a celebration of our bountiful blessings.
But perhaps Thanksgiving has come at the time we need it most, persuading us all to pull ourselves out of the muck if only for a meal or a moment, to reflect and realize, there is still, indeed, much to be grateful for.