No Happy, Just Thanksgiving.

imageYesterday, I impulsively  texted a dear friend, “Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!” She lost her wonderful father very recently and this would be her families’ first Thanksgiving without him.

It wasn’t until later after the evening had passed when I realized my faux pas. Frantically, I sent another note to her to apologize and empathize that this was not likely a happy time for her and her family.

I knew her father. He was a great man. In a time when my family life was in shambles, I was a insecure teen often hanging out and seeking safe refuge at my friend’s house. Her father, along with her mother, was one of the first solid parental figures in my life, more so in those four years than my own parents in my lifetime.

He is the only person to ever give me a nickname. It was “neeter-skeeter” (or aneeter-misqueeter). I was so thankful for that silly name. It made me to feel special and feel that I belonged, even though my parents, lost in their own troubles, had either emotionally and/or physically abandoned me.

I had the good fortune to reunite with them last year. I was distressed to learn about his terminal illness and so grateful for the chance to be able to personally thank them for their profound kindness and generosity during a very painful time in my life.

In my sadness over his death, I still feel immense gratitude for this person because his kindness helped shift my legacy for the better. And this is not the only time in my life during which thanks giving or giving thanks is not necessarily about being “happy.”

Five years ago, I started a gratitude journal in which I try to write each night at least 10 things for which I am grateful. Driven by my grief over breast cancer, I came to upon a suggestion to use this as a tool to heal my broken spirit.

Even in the darkest moments , the daily exercise of writing down things for which I was thankful began to reshape my life in subtle ways at first. Now looking back to when I started, I can say my life has been profoundly changed. I have been blessed with the best health, more joy and a deeper peace than I can ever recall.

The very act of gratitude is a form of prayer. It is an acknowledgement of what you want in this lifetime. It is a “yes” to God, Universe, Spirit. It is a way to keep your eye on the on the road towards where you want to be. It is giving yourself permission to receive more of the good stuff that life has to offer.

My gratitude journal is sometimes simple or elaborate in praise depending on how tired I am feeling. Sometimes when things are not going so great, I may write the same ten things over and over again for several days: God time, my walk, husband, kids, food, my house, my dogs, my health, nature, my cozy bed.

More elaborately, I have written: “I am thankful for dirty dishes, toys on the floor and dirty laundry because these are a reflection of having a happy, active, and healthy family and life.

Rather than just taking one day or week out of the year to consume an awesome meal and exhausting myself to keep up with thanksgiving as an annual tradition, I sleep more soundly and wake up more energized almost daily because thanksgiving is an almost daily intentional practice even when life seems to suck.

Rather than a silver-lining, gratitude is fundamentally about making a choice. Life can be a big beautiful thing and then tragedy happens like the loss of a wonderful loved one or the loss of many lives due to the act of terrorism or natural disaster. We will be sad, we will be forever changed. We get to choose how we will live with or move through these emotions. Will we allow sadness to define us or rather, will we recognize sadness as just valid  part of our human experience?

In any event, gratitude keeps us buoyed  in the present moment and open to the endless possibilities. It is the balm for acceptance, it feeds our courage and rekindles our resolve to pick up the pieces, and most importantly heal and strengthen our souls. It allows us to begin anew now. So why wait? #Gratitude, rather than once a year, is about having a graceful attitude each and every day.

Shine on!

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