Every Day is Saturday

Finding Joy in the Here and Now

Giving Thanks

on November 19, 2013

Indian Corn

I love the Thanksgiving holiday for lots of reasons.  Because there are no presents involved there is so much less pressure, financial or otherwise, than some other holidays we could mention.  I love that it is about being with family and friends.  I love that it inspires so many of us to take the time to think about those things in our lives for which we are grateful; gratitude is an actively helpful emotion, unlike the emotions that sometimes get conjured up around those other holidays.  And I love Thanksgiving because it invariably means that I’m going to get some homemade Caramel Cake.  You just can’t beat that.

But this year I’ve been struggling to find that “attitude of gratitude”.  It’s not that I’m unaware of all of the things in my life I have to be grateful for – I am.  And I am also aware that all of these things – roof over my head, car in my driveway, my health and the health of those I love, to name a few – could be taken in an instant.  The constant precariousness of my finances keeps me very focused on how lucky I am to still have all of these things, and more.  So I’ve been asking myself – why don’t I feel it, that deep thankfulness that usually comes so easily to me at this time of year?

There have been many Thanksgivings when I would write a list of all of the people, objects, and experiences that I was grateful for, and as I reviewed the list, I would acknowledge my thankfulness about each in turn.  It’s a great exercise, but it’s not enough this year.  I’ve come to feel that there’s something deeper, something behind that simple act of expressing gratitude that I’ve been missing.   And I think I know now what it is.

It’s humility.

I’m fairly certain that everything good in my life is a gift.  I have done nothing to earn the amazing grace that seems to keep me safe and dry in spite of all the hardship and struggle and loss and anger and resentment that has been a large part of my journey.  But even as I acknowledge my dependence on those forces that continue to work to keep me going, I have yet to relinquish the belief that I still somehow must direct them, that they need my input.  I am afraid to let go of my sense of control.  I’m afraid that if I do, if I just take that leap of faith and surrender my own will to the will of the Divine, I might lose what I do have.  So in a sense, I feel as if I still have what I have because I’ve got a death grip on it, even as I realize I’m like a child trying to hold a snowball in her bare hands; eventually there’s nothing left to hold onto. But until that snow melts I still believe that I’m the master of my fate.  And inside that delusion there is no room for thankfulness.

I know now that to be truly thankful, I must become humble (which, as many of you know, does not come all that naturally to me!).  I have to give up the belief that I had anything to do with the good things I have in my life.  But letting go of that belief is confronting – what about how hard I work?  What about all the things I do for my husband and family to show them how much I love them?  This attachment to cause-and-effect, this idea that any of us gets what we deserve (good or bad) – I have come to believe is dangerous.  Believing that I am responsible for my own fortune whatever it may be is also dangerous, because for every good thing I’ve “earned”, I must also “deserve” the bad.  And for whatever reason, this struggle between justice and grace has arrived at an all-or-nothing point.  I either give up the last vestiges of belief in my own power to direct the course of my life, or I will be unable to feel true, unmitigated, pure gratitude for the gifts I have been given.  As long as it feel like I did it, I can’t be genuinely thankful for it.

I am faced with a choice.  I know what I want to choose – I know that I need to let go of my fear and my pride and acknowledge that the gifts I have been given are just that – gifts.  But the fear and the pride don’t want to let go of me, and they’re fighting back hard.  But I see it now, and that gives me hope that one day I will know how to live my life with no regrets for the past and no anxiousness about the future, when everything I see and everyone I know is a fresh blessing to me. So as much as it scares me, on this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the awareness I’ve been given that there is a choice to be made.  That’s the only part that IS up to me.

**********

Thanks for reading my blog!  If you want to know more about me and my journey, check out my book “Everyday is Saturday” on Kindle.  The book is part diary, part memoir, about the first year after I was laid off from my dream job.  I think it has something to say to anyone who is struggling with change.

photo credit: bobosh_t via photopin cc

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