I was at the dentist’s office scribbling my way through a tiresome sheaf of forms asking about bladder infections and toenail fungus and an array of physical and mental disorders that had curiously little to do with my teeth, when I realized that I had blanketed the form with no’s, as in, “No, I do not have algebra pre-test anxiety,” and “No, I do not suffer from enlarged prostate.”
Up to that point, it had been a bad day, a discouraging day, one of a series of discouraging days building one upon another, and a dental visit added to the disheartening, dispiriting, dreary grey of gloom that I found myself sinking into (and to those of you eager to point out that I technically ended the last sentence with a preposition, don’t, just . . . don’t).
But the dentist’s office, figuratively, slapped me around. As I surveyed two pages of closely spaced print outlining diseases and disorders that I could potentially have but do not, I stopped feeling sorry for myself long enough to say, “Thanks.”
We have entered a season of thankfulness that encompasses more than one day of overeating and wrestling with a 25-pound bird, kickoff to a purchasing and partying frenzy that is somehow linked to a message and a Messiah totally unrelated to fat men in red suits.
Not that I don’t love Christmas (by the way, I’m not Jewish, so I don’t do Hanukkah, but neither is the purchasing and partying frenzy particularly wrapped around this holiday; if you must object, please remember that aforementioned sentence with the preposition issue), but I think we dispense with Thanksgiving too quickly.
Indeed, Black Friday needs to be renamed, since it is starting earlier and earlier each year, diners barely finishing their third slice of pie before tipping away from the table and belching, “Better go get in line . . . urp . . . tiny little electronic things I gotta have, you know. Ooomph.”
And then come the parties, all requiring sparkly clothes; and the office gifts and the school presents and the church white elephant jumble exchange; and the musical programs and the plays and the interactive living nativity scenes – and the one day on which we bowed our heads and reviewed our blessings that outweigh our griefs and murmured, “Thanks,” before we stabbed the centerpiece, is far away and forgotten. Another year will pass before it comes again.
But there is no rule that limits our saying “Thanks,” to one day a year.
Some of us mark a lot of yeses on those dental forms. Some of us have run through our unemployment benefits; others have just learned that we need to apply for them. Many enter the holidays without loved ones who celebrated with us last year. The car is leaking oil and the furnace needs more of it. Food’s going up, gas is obscene, taxes are high, and politics continue to reach a new low. We are tired and scared and worried and anxious and fearful, because life isn’t perfect, and it isn’t fair.
But each breath we take is a gift, one that we cannot buy, charge, grab, wrap, or return. And with that gift, we bless others – with a smile, a joke, a recommendation for a good book, a warm handclasp, an “I love you.”
We all have our problems; we all have our blessings.
There are many, many problems, and they fill the rooms of our lives like a stinky wet dog with gas, overwhelming us to the point that we don’t see the blessings, fluffy kittens sleeping in a basket.
How beautiful they are.