When you’re pregnant, it seems as if everyone around you, including men, is pregnant as well.
Well, we’re not pregnant (breathe, mom; we’ve honestly stopped at four), but we do look around us and see a number of people in a boat similar to ours — small, leaky, missing an oar, but boldly and valiantly moving forward.
Despite the newspapers announcing that the Great Recession is over, and has been for three years (funny they didn’t mention that in the throes of the presidential election), lots of people are dealing with unusual job situations, wondering just what there is to be thankful about this Thanksgiving.
A lot, actually, as I am learning from my friend, the Feisty One, whose family has been going through the job loss, job search, out of ideas, and hanging on by the fingernails process of living through these Post Great Recession times. We get together regularly for dinners of soup and bread; she expressed at last week’s dinner that they were blessed with food, family, and friends; the only thing they didn’t have much of these days was money.
Feisty One, who has significant experience under her belt of things working out at the last minute, God knows how — and I really mean it, God knows how – went on to muse about this gratitude thing, not because Thanksgiving is coming up and this is the officially sanctioned national observance of being collectively thankful, but because she, like me, relies upon the aforementioned God for the next breath, not to mention hope and direction.
And this particular God encourages us to be thankful in all things, even the bad ones.
“I do it,” she told me, “but I don’t feel thankful.”
In one of those flashes of inspiration that comes out of nowhere and makes you feel like a genius indeed, I blurted out, “But you don’t have to feel thankful to be thankful.
“When you write a thank you note for an atrocious wedding gift from Aunt Sally, you don’t have to love the ticky-tacky myrtle wood cake plate with the plastic purple domed cover shaped like a Chihuahua head — you only have to express your gratitude for her giving it to you.”
It is an odd person indeed who could generate the same feelings of joy about a pink slip as he could about 100 pieces of green, Benjamin Franklin paper, and frankly, I do not want to be stuck near this person, at a party, against the wall, no matter how many times the waiter with the round tray of glasses comes by.
But it is a different person who realizes that though life down here is not perfect and never will be, there is always something to be thankful for, if nothing more than that things could always be worse. By cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude — which, I know, sounds like a cheesy workplace seminar title — one can tumble out of bed, walk through the day, and make it to the sofa that night without being an angry, bitter, fearful, discouraged, vitriolic battery drainer.
To this end, I have been training myself through the years to be thankful for 10 or so things each day, one of which is perceived to be negative. Generally I do this during my nightly bath, as opposed to spending the soak time drowned in self-absorption, and, because I believe in God, I address my thank yous to Him.
I try to avoid the grandiose: “Thank you that I was born in this country,” “Thank you for life,” “Thank you for You,” — because those are so big that they are incomprehensible. However, since life’s annoyances and joys are both tied up in the little things, I challenge myself by being thankful for those.
“Thank you that we unexpectedly discovered that roll of toilet paper in the trunk of the car.”
“Thank you that the cat caught a mouse and I did not step on the uneaten entrails left on the porch.”
“Thank you that I have three — three! — books to read from the library.”
“Thank you that I have enough leftover sock yarn in the box to make a pair of socks.”
Exercising your mind is as much of a discipline as exercising your body, and the more I focus on expressing gratitude, the easier I find it to actually be — and feel — grateful.
It is hard to feel grateful for the unconventional road, sudden change, hard work that doesn’t promise immediate results, even discouragement, but one doesn’t have to feel thankful to express thanks. We know from experience that good things come from bad, and that during those bad times we grow closest to one another, simply because we need each other to get through it.
Thank you, God, that it’s in Your hands. And thank you for the next breath.