November is often a month of thankfulness for many people I know. I know that I usually focus the whole month on things and people in life I appreciate. For example, we gave thanks today, on Veterans Day, for the faithful service and sacrifice that men and women have made, past and present, young and old, as they serve our country. Since 1919, it has become a tradition to honor and appreciate those in uniform, whether or not you agree with the political decisions that deploy the soldiers. On Thanksgiving Day, we will express thankfulness for the staples of life: home, food, and family. However, what about the other 11 months of the year? Shouldn’t I aim to live all months in gratefulness? Well, of course I WANT to…but, like many, it is so hard for me to focus on the blessings in my life during the hard times.
Certainly, just because I don’t reserve every day of every year for thankfulness, it doesn’t mean I lack gratitude does it? But shouldn’t I attempt to live each day in gratefulness? This all comes back to discipline and choices. I’ve worked hard in the last few years to come out of each day with a list of things I’m thankful for. I’ve forgotten. I’ve ignored. I’ve overlooked. But that doesn’t mean I stop. If and when I stop striving to live a grateful life, then I might as well give in to the waves that threaten to drag me under during the storms.
It took a couple big storms for me to not only realize the good in the storm, but also to look for it. Sure, it’s easy to be thankful for food and warmth, security, mobility and loved ones. But each day isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. What about loss and sadness? Disappointment? Mistakes? Fear? How can I be thankful for these? How, in the midst of distress, do I stop and say, “Hey, thanks for this heart wrenching disappointment and sadness! Lovin’ it! Can I have some more please?!” Okay, okay. Maybe sarcasm isn’t a cousin of gratefulness. Seriously though, that’s tough.
As my just-turned-two son would say, “Let me see…”. I’ll start with disappointment. Disappointment has a way of revealing the things that matter to me the most. Sometimes I am surprised by my disappointment, and it is a good time to quickly note what disappointed me and what part I played in that. Were my expectations too high or not clearly communicated? What about mistakes? How and why should I be thankful for my mistakes? Well, mistakes have a way of humbling me (always good), and showing me ways to improve. Mistakes keep me striving to do better, to not settle.
It’s hard to believe, but I am thankful for fear. My fears keep me in check and aware. Some fears keep me safe. When common sense evades me, at least fear keeps me from jumping into a pool of sharks, or hanging out at a puppet and clown convention. No, seriously. My fears allow me to test my strength, to push through, to grow. If I had given into fear, neither of our babies would be ours.
Besides the more obvious things in life I am thankful for, it is daily exercise for me to be grateful for the more obscure: the wood that burns in our fire that keeps us warm (even if it is a lot of work to split and haul and stack); the music of our babies’ laughter AND the music of our babies’ crying (for it means we can hear); not knowing the answer to something (for it give me opportunity to learn); my senses- each of them; kind strangers (they can turn your day around when you least expect it). Looking for blessings and recognizing them tends to keep me moving in a positive direction.
Even the hardest parts of the day or week or year will make me grateful. It’s a choice. Even in the midst of the challenges, I must choose to appreciate. If I don’t, I’ll sink. If I do, I will have the strength to continue, to push through the pain, and the opportunity to grow. For that I am grateful.