You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you”
― Simple Abundance
A Daybook of Comfort and Joy
Like everything, we get better at those things we practice. Building a spiritual practice based on gratitude seems like a grounding principle for a pretty good life. It doesn’t require me to buy anything or go anywhere. I don’t need to “join up” or have special “good clothes”. I only need to take a few moments every day to find a gracious way to acknowledge my own abundance.
This year isn’t like any other year. It still seems surreal to me when I see people in masks. I’m sure there have been stories that have predicted just such a scenario but until now they have been fiction. Had someone told me a year ago that we would have given the better part of 2020 over to learning how to distance ourselves from others, I never would have believed it.
And it surely would have broken my heart.
While it can feel like our lives have become smaller maybe the opposite is true. Maybe the stretch has actually been beneficial. Maybe we talk more and say more and share more.
I’ve heard it described as a wild storm and while we are all navigating the same rough seas, we are not in the same boat. I get that. Many are having a much different experience than I am. Had this been the story in 2019 instead of 2020, my world and perspective would be much different.
“I do not understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”
Grace: Unmerited divine assistance. Whatever that looks like to you, may you find it and embrace it today.
In years past around here, here’s how the day would typically go:
In the early morning there is a flurry of activity in the kitchen spaces. “Kelly on a mission” can be characterized as somewhere between a precision cut and a bulldozer. Always best that I stay out of the way unless there is some obvious way for me to be of use.
The stuffing is prepped ( my grandmother’s recipe that Kelly has now perfected), the smell of sage and pepper, onion and chopped celery, filling the air. Carrots are carefully cut into angled coins and swimming in the dish with pats of butter and real maple syrup.
Days before, a “pre-Thanksgiving” turkey was cooked and a rich stock prepared, from the bones and bits. That stock will season the gravy along with the drippings of the turkey being prepped for the day’s roasting.
That turkey, cleaned and brined, is seasoned well and sitting in the giant roasting pan, it’s cavity filled, not with dressing, but with half lemons and orange and fresh herbs. All of this a labor of love. Thanksgiving, though never celebrated in our home, is Kelly’s baby. Her holiday to cook. Her day to shine. To cook for others is an act of love.
We pack everything up and head to my aunt and uncle’s beautiful home on the lake. Kelly takes over the kitchen and gets the turkey started on a slow roast in the oven. I watch the geese on the lake, making swirls in the glassy water. On a clear day, I can see Mt Rainier from the balcony.
Soon the house is full of family and some “chosen-family” too. There is a bar full of appetizers, a puzzle begging attention in the corner, football on TV and games at the dining room table. The smell of turkey fills the air and there is a buzz from people keeping company with one another. Beautiful, beautiful noise.
Fast forward to 2020.
“Nothing is as it should be this year” a friend recently shared. A simple and true statement. Tradition is largely built on familiarity. Slipping effortlessly into that togetherness is what it has always been for me. I’m lucky to be in a family smitten with the idea of gathering.
The year my grandmother died was hard for us all because she left just days before the family celebration that has always been everyone’s favorite. The year I spent away in Minnesota, was hard too.
Back then, a fistful of Black Russians and a bathtub full of snow to keep the beer cold did the trick of softening the blow. I was young, a bit wild (maybe more than a bit), and far from home. My friend/roommate and I hosted a “Friendsgiving” that year. Included were those unable to go home for the holiday, as well as our favorite family from Laos, for whom Thanksgiving was a new tradition.
Every so often my birthday falls ON the day and gives me a special attachment to the gratitude piece of it all. Don’t get me wrong, I am always, always grateful for this day, this month, this life … but this year looks much different than anything I’ve ever known.
There is still a flurry in our kitchen here, but the turkey is smaller and the planning has been altered to reflect our new realities. Kelly will still prepare a feast for the two of us and others. We’ll make a trip to drop off dinner for Mom and Dad, as well as for a friend of the family who is navigating a very different holiday than she ever imagined. Absence, as well as abundance, shapes our lives.
Life is like that. It turns on a dime.
Here’s to tender mercies, deep faith (in whatever you choose to believe) and grace. Remembering today that everything on my path is unfolding exactly as it should and that everyone sharing my life is here for a reason.
In a life filled with such abundance it is hard to name or measure all of the things I am thankful for. While my physical self is weakening, my spiritual self is growing ever stronger. As my outward opportunities may shrink, my heart’s capacity for kindness and love grows.
I’m thankful to every thing and every one around me that serve as a reminder to be authentic and unconditional in all of my interactions. I’m thankul for the passage of time, for though it can be a thief, it can also fill me with grace. I’m thankful for the diversity in my friendships, the openness of those minds and the connectedness I feel with those who have gathered, even virtually, around me.
Here’s an idea: what if everyone reading this today (and every day) made a point to give a genuine, thoughtful compliment to someone. You know the kind of compliment I’m talking about. The compliment that you take in and becomes a part of your very being. A compliment you remember over and over, even years later, when things are hard. Compliments are gifts and the ones that have some real staying power are true treasures. Give that gift to someone today. The gift of your attention.
I have decided to revive my God Box too. I have a tendency to “overwork” things in my mind. Too much thinking is never the prescription for what ails me. Years ago, early in my sobriety, I began using a God Box. It was the depository for “things I could not change”. I found that writing them on a scrap of paper along with the act of dropping them in a box, served as a tangible “turning it over”. A ritual for letting go.
My God probably looks nothing like yours. The other part of this was that it served as an opening for me to discover my own spiritual center. I had long since abandoned God and religion after having it used against me to deliberately diminish my worth. “God as you understand God” was a concept that opened the door for me. It’s okay that we don’t believe the same or pray the same. Faith in something has been good for me.
Yesterday, after feeling pretty punk for the last few days, I spent the morning outside. A wintering landscape is beautiful. Today I watched the sun come up behind the trees instead of from the boardwalk. White waves of cloud dragged across a pale blue sky. The light got in. The light always gets in.
I watched the golden-ctowned sparrows plucking bits of vegetation from the roadside. I look for tracks in the muddy spots with the hope of seeing a weasel. I don’t need to attach a lot of feelings to any of it. It isn’t like that. It is a barren wood nesting in its own decay. It’s the cycle of life right there before your eyes. It is patience and sustainability.
But if I had to give it a feeling, it would be a white-hot burning kind of love. Yes, white-hot love.
Small gratitudes reverberate. Last night before heading up to bed, Gus climbed up onto my chest like he usually does and pressed his head into mine. I wrapped my arms around him and tried to memorize the sound of his deep purr. I know he won’t be here forever and I never want to forget how it feels to be loved like that. Unconditionally and completely. Maybe there’s no such thing as a small gratitude at all.
As I finish writing this morning, the last of the leaves are falling from the small maple in back. The green grass is covered in gold. The day ahead promises some sun and it’s a good day to fill the feeders with seed. I’ve noticed a handful of juncos and chickadees pecking away at something beneath the rhodie. I think I can help.
If I pay attention to them and can provide a small offering, they will likely stick around to enchant me over the winter. Maybe a roosting pocket ? I’m just beginning to understand which birds migrate and those who do not. I might be able to help in the cold months ahead. Today I’m grateful for their tiny, sturdy bodies, their delicate feathers and their sweet little voices.
Sometimes the world calls upon us to act.
For all of you, and for all of your irreverant, joyful, surprising, sweet and loving ways of being in my world, I thank you. Even our brokenness can be made more whole by coming together. My heart is full.
Thanks for indulging me here. It means so much more than you could know.
Happy Thanksgiving ♡