EVERY DAY SHOULD BE THANKSGIVING DAY
Just like my parent’s generation remembers where they were and what they were doing when they heard the heartbreaking news about John F. Kennedy’s assassination, mine remembers the day our country came under attack: 9/11/2001.
I was holding a sick baby, glued to the TV all day, staring in disbelief.
The sixteenth anniversary of that dreadful day passed last week, the same day our country came under attack from Mother Nature with Hurricane Irma. I was glued to The Weather Channel all weekend, staring in disbelief at my beloved St. Pete Beach, and all of Florida as it was battered by wind, rain and the fury of nature.
My heart broke for everyone in her path. But this wasn’t helping them or me, not one little bit.
I feel heartbreak as a routine part of my work. People whose lives have been devastated by a stroke, head injury, progressive neurological disease or a myriad of other illnesses present themselves for my attempts at remediation of their communication and/or swallow abilities.
Most days I can make a small difference, but most days I want to make more of a difference for them. Most days I cannot heal, I simply offer a new way.
Sometimes, at the end of the day, I think I can’t take this anymore.
But then I remember something I read in a book by one of my mother’s favorite authors: I can’t take on enough sadness to make someone else happy, nor can I take on someone else’s illness in order to make them well. The best I can do is do the best with what I have, and practice gratitude for all I do have.
Even if this regular practice of gratitude does make me feel guilty for all I do have, while remembering those whose lives are being torn asunder by an illness or injury, a hurricane, or the ongoing loss felt from all those affected by the senseless attacks of 9/11—I have to keep feeling it.
And so I try. Every day. Some days it is easier than others. Some days, I really have to dig deep.
It’s always there, though. Always.
I recently read a book that challenged the reader to write down three things every day they are thankful for. Three different things every day; no repeats.
The biggies—health, family, faith, freedom, food, shelter and clothing are the easy ones. I used those up in the first few days. The hard ones are the ones that take longer to get on paper. Sometimes, I have to sit and think for quite some time before I can find something new.
It is typically something easily overlooked, something like the beautiful orange-pink glow of the sunrise.
A luscious, tasty watermelon from the bounty of our neighbor’s garden–as well as their generosity.
From earlier this summer: the reflection of the water in our above-ground pool on the porch roof. Getting a hand-written note in the mail. Beautiful ground fog in the morning. My boys enjoying an evening frog hunting.
These little things, when focused upon, become larger. Larger, and more worthy of gratitude.
Sometimes, however, I have to turn it upside down to see the positive side in order to be thankful: Electricity, as we sat for three hours without it. Good dental care as I dreaded my six-month cleaning that afternoon. Surviving a bad Monday. No headlines in our daily paper about North Korea–no news is good news. Realizing the reason a colleague irritated me was because I despise that too-frequent behavior in myself.
After a few months of making a point to recognize these small gifts worthy of gratitude, it started to grow on me, just like the author said it would. I started to try harder to find the positive in what I typically considered negative.
I felt—do I dare say it—a little bit happier (just like the author said I would). I realized I didn’t have to see something as negative if I didn’t want to. Turning many thoughts upside down proved to be a good thing.
I felt empowered.
So, of course I wanted to share this good thing, this new view. I asked Gail and Suzanne to try it for one day, just for this blog. They each had to come up with three things that they don’t normally give thanks for.
Suzanne quickly came up with this: she hasn’t taken it off since she got it in Florida.
And, as a fellow lover of puzzles, she and I worked on this one last night. Dad made two of these puzzle boards for Mom, and Suzanne and I are both thankful to have one. Gail is not a puzzler like we are.
She can complete a 1,000 piece puzzle in a day if she sets her mind to it, and she is grateful for this hobby that provides her with countless hours of enjoyment.
The third one was easy for her to come up with, but it is also something Gail is grateful for, and wanted to use as well. It is something I despise. It will wait until after Gail’s other two.
For over seven years, Gail was the owner and sole proprietor of a Daylight Donuts franchise in her small western Kansas town. The bobblehead below reminds her to be grateful for all the friendships this created–her shop was the a.m. social hub in this small town.
When she closed those doors, the woman in the picture below opened another door for her, and she will be forever grateful to her. It was time to move on, and April gave her the opportunity to manage her chiropractic office. Their children were both members of the homecoming court on Friday.
The third one for both of them sets them apart from me, and makes me wonder just how they can both so enjoy and be grateful for something I loathe, something I gladly leave far behind me in one of my special places when I travel there. In fact, one of my favorite things about Colorado is the relative lack of it: wind.
They both love wind. The windier the better. They both got their wish two days ago. Gail has thought about changing her name to Gail Force Wind.
I can say this because they are my sisters: they are crazy.
Because the title picture for my blog was taken during our Thanksgiving weekend celebration last year, it needed an encore presentation today. It is taken in Camp Gail, a very special place in her home that will be covered in a future post.
Gail is our Thanksgiving hostess every year, and she does it up right. It was my favorite holiday before she started the tradition, but her soiree enhances it.
I like the fact that there are no commercial expectations for Thanksgiving, just family, food and gratitude.
I am separating the idea of a holiday from a holy day, as I look at them differently. Christmas is my favorite holy day, but I don’t like the commercialized, societal aspect of Christmas. I prefer to keep it a holy day, and let the holiday buzz go on without me. Thanksgiving, however, is a holy holiday for me. It is all about gratitude—and good food with my family.
Today, I am thankful for you, my blog readers. My day so far hasn’t been among my best. When I finish this post, I am going to turn a few things upside down to find two more.
I am challenging you to start this daily practice as well, and sit back and see if maybe your life doesn’t become a little bit happier too.
Thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving—every day.
Dedicated to the victims of the recent hurricanes, the ongoing grieving from 9/11 and my patients, all who fight their battles every day of their lives. May you be filled with new hope for new and more frequent Thanksgivings.
Special thanks to my husband Mark, who suggested this post.