Every Day is Saturday

Finding Joy in the Here and Now

An Ode to Thankfulness

Candle 11-20-2018

This morning, before I even got out of bed, I listened to what is probably my favorite Christmas song, “Riu Chiu” by The Monkees. Yes, I know it isn’t Thanksgiving yet – sue me. Listening to that song put me in the most blissful mood that has lasted all day, and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what I’m grateful for.

I won’t go into the list because you can probably guess most of it – family, friends, material goods, steady job, etc., etc. I think about my life and I am overcome with how good I’ve got it. Yes, there are challenges – always. There has been loss, and grief, and pain, and uncertainty. But I’ve got the only thing that matters, and that is that there are people in this world who love me. No matter what. There is no amount of money, no fame, no earthly pleasure that can measure up to having people who love you. My heart breaks for those for whom the thought of living a life surrounded by love is a distant fantasy, and the gratitude I have for all the love in my life humbles me and fills me with a warm, steady glow that feels like Peace.

****************
photo credit: MTSOfan Joy Candle 1 via photopin (license)

Advertisements
Leave a comment »

On the Verge

Cliff Edge

Today is the day we prepare to launch ourselves head first into the “holiday season”, which, in my book, has always meant those weeks starting with Thanksgiving and ending on the first Monday in the New Year when I pretend I’m still working but I’m really not. Not much, anyway. As little as possible.

Oh I know, we’re all still “at work”, but what are we doing, really? Between the increasingly infrequent emails, the meetings that suddenly get cancelled, and the conference calls that no one shows up for, aren’t we really shopping online or arranging lunches/drinks/dinner/brunch with as many friends as possible before Christmas, organizing our family get-togethers (who’s bringing the green bean casserole?), and trolling YouTube for funny cat/dog videos? ANYTHING but actually working. Well, ok, we have to do something work-related, if only to justify our paychecks, but out of a regular 8 hour work day maybe 2 hours gets spent on actual work – the rest is just filling time. Am I right?

Of course, now that I’m self-employed and work from home you’d think I’d have gotten over this mentality, right? Wrong. For some reason, even if there isn’t really anything to do (or anything that needs doing right away) I still find myself at my computer, standing by just in case I get an email from a client or a new task from one of my colleagues.  And while I’m waiting, I start “goofing off”, just like I used to do when I went into an office. And actually feeling guilty about it, which is beyond crazy.

I’m a contract worker. Once the terms of the contract have been fulfilled, I’m done. I can do what I please with my time. I get paid for the work I do, not a certain number of hours in the day. And I am extremely close to being done with my contracted work this year. A few odds and ends, and that’s it! There’s some non-client-related stuff we need to do before the end of the year, and we will, but honestly, unless something changes, I’m looking at a very quiet December, work-wise.

So what will I do with my time? Hmmm . . .

  • I’ll bake a lot of cookies and give them as gifts. I did that last year and it was fun.
  • I’ll get my house in order. There are some cobwebs in places that have been there way too long.
  • I’ll read books.
  • I’ll work on stuff for my theatre company; we’ve got exciting plans for next year!
  • I’ll do things that make me happy, like listen to music and look up new recipes to try.
  • I’ll go to parties and concerts and movies and plays with my sweet hubby.
  • I’ll spend more time with my family.
  • I’ll do some writing (see, I’ve already started!)

Mostly, I’ll try to find the quiet in the middle of the holiday frenzy to be present, and to acknowledge how astonishingly blessed I am. I am loved, and I love. In this harsh world we live in, to love and be loved is an extravagance that millions of people can’t even imagine. When I think about that, my “problems” become very small indeed, and the simple joy of baking cookies or sitting down in the peace of my home to read a book seems luxurious.

So here, on the verge of the madness, stop and take a breath. Close your eyes. If you have love in your life, be thankful for it. It’s the only thing that matters, because it’s the only thing that will endure. Everything else can be taken away, even life itself, but the love you have given and the love you have received will always be there, waiting for you.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

photo credit: Cliff via photopin (license)
 

Leave a comment »

Giving Thanks in a Mad World

cornucopia

This is the week of Thanks-giving, when we express our gratitude for the good things we have in our lives. It’s my favorite holiday, not only because it’s the one I spend with my extended family (who are wonderful, kind, loving, funny people), but also because it gets me to be specific about recognizing the amazing blessings I have in my life (that are generally right in front of me). Of course I am always thankful (in a subconscious way) for the roof over my head, food in my fridge, supportive family and terrific friends, but this week I take time out to meditate on them. When I do that, when I count my blessings, I begin to feel like the richest person in the world. It helps keep things in perspective, which, unless you live in a cave, is hard to do in this increasingly mad world. Which brings me to the internal conflict I now find myself experiencing.

It feels almost obscene to be thankful for my good fortune when there are so many who don’t have plentiful good food and easy access to clean water. It seems like a betrayal to be happy in my oppression-free life when there is so much injustice in the world. How can I blithely sit down at a table covered by an abundant holiday meal when I see the suffering of refugees, the horror of genocide, and the indiscriminate bombing of innocents in the world? How can I laugh and be joyful with my loved ones when children are abused, when the mentally ill are ignored, when unarmed teenagers are gunned down – in this country? How does that not make me a hypocrite? How does that not make me part of the problem, turning my back on a mountain of troubles?

I struggle with how to respond to everything I see on the news and in my Facebook and Twitter feeds. I start to feel guilty when I get excited about the upcoming turkey and dressing when other people are protesting in the streets. Am I who I say I am, someone who cares about the weak, the silent, the powerless? Or do I just pay lip service to these things? These questions leave me feeling anxious, like I should be doing something about all if it if I only knew what.

I know what I won’t do, and that’s fan the flames of a fire that is already burning out of control. I decided a long time ago that I would refrain from foisting my indignation on my unsuspecting friends via the internet. There’s too much of that already. For those of you who do express your outrage in this public way, I understand why you want to do it, but I would ask what you’re trying to accomplish. If you are achieving your desired aims (either to solicit agreement from like-minded people, or to pursue arguments with those who disagree) then I suppose your efforts are fruitful. If you post things of a particular slant in the hopes of changing someone’s mind, then you’re probably wasting your time – the internet is not a safe haven for reasonable people willing to engage in dispassionate discourse. You should probably look for them elsewhere.

And I think that the constant flow of horribleness is dangerous to our well-being. But that’s a conversation for another day.

Getting back the point of all this, then, is how do I reconcile my own good fortune with the scarcity I see everywhere?

At least part of the answer, for me, is rooted in the spirit of Thanksgiving. I am genuinely thankful that I was born where and when I was. I am genuinely thankful that both of my parents are still living, and that they love me. I am genuinely thankful for my wonderful husband, who is a gift to me every day. I am genuinely thankful for my family, who are strong, kind, faithful people. I am genuinely thankful for my friends, who bring such love and laughter into my life. I am genuinely thankful for all the material things I have – a home that is warm and dry, clothes to wear, a car to drive. I am thankful because I know that so very many people in this world don’t have some, or any, of these things. It makes me humble that I do.

The other part of the answer is that even as I am thankful for what I have, I try to do something for those who have not. I give money to various charities. I volunteer my time at the soup kitchen. I donate unwanted goods to organizations who will pass them on to needy people for free.

And finally, I try to live my convictions. I gave money to the pregnant woman in the Target parking lot without making her finish her carefully rehearsed speech about why she deserved my help (“I’m not homeless”, she said, as if not having a home would have made her unworthy of the money I gave her). I try to treat my fellow man with understanding and compassion, even when I’m frustrated by them. I do my best to be kind and patient, as I want people to be kind and patient with me. I’m not always successful, but I try.

Sometimes we get an opportunity to stand up in a real way for what we believe. When those times come, it’s important to take advantage of them. When those times come, it is important to stand up in love, not hate. Screaming “You’re Wrong!” at each other only widens the gulf between us.

My friends, take some time this week and turn off the television and the computer, and think on what you have to be thankful for. Dwell on your blessings. Let your gratitude fill you up so that when you look out at the world, you will see it through love-filled eyes. I promise you, it will look very different indeed.

photo credit: Carmyarmyofme via photopin cc

Leave a comment »

Giving Thanks

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

Leave a comment »

%d bloggers like this: