“Your hand opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as bird’ wings.” ~ Rumi
Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving! I am so grateful for you. You are a blessing to me.🙏🏽
I intended to post this days ago, but there were technical problems and regrettably, I did not know how to fix them. I hope that they are now.
“Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.” ~Alice Walker
This is the season of Thanksgiving, and I intended to publish this post before Thanksgiving Day. Obviously, that did not happen. The hustle and bustle of preparing for the day and finally cooking a big meal, overwhelmed me. If it weren’t for my dear Mom, I am not sure what I would have done. Thank you Mom!!
During the holiday season, the words grateful and gratitude are bandied about by scores of us. The Oxford dictionary defines ‘gratitude’ as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” I think that many of us routinely practice the first part of the definition. It is commonplace for us to express gratitude for the many things in our lives by listing them regularly in our journals, notebooks or on our computers. In fact, studies have shown it therapeutic to do so.
Although I’ve always been aware of the things in my life for which I am grateful, it was the book “Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy” Sarah Ban Breathnach that gave a voice to those blessings that I’d routinely overlooked. The book gave me pause as it caused me to consider the seemingly insignificant little blessings that grace my life. As she noted, “[w]hen we do a mental and spiritual inventory of all that we have, we realize that we are very rich indeed.” It was this book that encouraged me to formalize my gratitude practice.
“Practicing gratitude involves being thankful for the little things, seeing all that happens in your life as a “miracle”, and always being aware of the abundance in your life. By redirecting the focus of your thoughts from what you don’t have to what you do have, powerful vibrations are sent out to the universe, increasing the things in your life for which you are thankful.” (Read more here.)
Those things for which we may experience gratitude can range from the feel of our bare foot on a cool floor on a hot day, and a relaxing, hot bubble bath with no time limitations or frantic knocks on the door, when it is cold outside and you are frazzled from the holidays. It could be for the hot water with which you make that first cup of tea or coffee every morning, the sound of that hot water as it flows into your mug, and even for the certainty of a meal on the table. Gratitudes come in all shapes and sizes, and while we treasure each, usually, there is nothing to do beyond noting it. Some, however, demand more.
The ‘more ‘ that I am speaking of is a simple thank you. That’s right, the words “thank you,” though seemingly innocuous, hold great appreciation, power and promise. The words ‘thank you’ can forgive the worse transgressions, as well as display appreciation for a kindness received. In fact, the words also apply to those things in our lives that are blessings in disguise, but at the time, we are unable to recognize that fact. As we write down the things for which we are grateful, we sometimes overlook the other part of the equation, that is, verbally expressing our gratitude or thanks. Failing to express some act of kindness is akin to being deeply in love and never expressing your feelings to your loved one.
At this time of thanksgiving, I want to verbally express my thanks for some of those things in my heart for which I am most grateful. As an initial matter, I have to say that there is no way that I can possibly express my deepest appreciation for all the people and things who deserve it. If I overlook you in this post, please know that I do not do so in my heart. Please forgive me in advance and know that my heart is filled with the kindnesses that you shower upon me and the gratitude that I feel. In many cases, there are real people to thank, but in some instances, my gratitude is to my God. With that said, I realize that many of us espouse different beliefs. Whether yours is the Source, Universe, Allah, Mother Earth, or others, I urge you to look to those to express the blessings in your heart.
- Recently, my father died. He abandoned me when I was five and our relationship never overcame that, so we were estranged. Still, I’d like to thank John for being my father. The reality is that without him, I would not exist or be the woman who i am today. I am beginning to accept that perhaps that is all that he was meant to contribute to my life.
- I thank my beautiful, wonderful Mom who, when left with three, later four children, did not despair. She set about to care for us on her own. She worked two to four jobs at a time to put food on the table, clothes on our backs, and to give us a proper education and the basic necessities.
- I thank my two sisters. Although we have a complicated relationship, having lost my little brother when in died in 1997, they are even more precious and important to me.
- I thank God for the gifts of my children and grandchildren who have enriched my life in countless ways. By having three children by 21 years of age, I have to admit that in many ways, we grew up together. Ours was a give and take relationship and I’ve learned many lessons about being a mother and a role model from them. They gave me the opportunity to give them unconditional love and those things that I felt that I lacked as a child. My grandchildren are so precious to me and they offer me incentive to make this world a better place, as well as a do-over for the inevitable mistakes that I made with their parents.
- I thank my incredible husband of 13 years. When we married, neither of us envisioned the twists and turns that life would bring. Like everyone else, there have been a litany of ups and downs, but through love, determination and mutual respect, we continue to conquer them — together.
- I thank my dear friends, both old and new. They offer me support, honesty, compassion, a shoulder to cry on and unconditional love. They remind me of who I am, during those times when I forget. There is nothing like picking up the phone and hearing the voice of a friend with whom I haven’t spoken in ages and the conversation picks up as though we’d spoken just yesterday. I also relish the close friendships that I have with my daughters. They are two of my BFF’s, and I thank them for being.
- I thank all of those special people who routinely practice random acts of goodness and kindness. They bring serendipity and wonder to a world that, at times, is harsh and uncaring. They remind us of the true meaning of selflessness, love and kindness.
- I thank God for the breeze on a hot summer’s day, the melodic song of wind chimes as wind flows by, the smile from a stranger, the gift of forgiveness, those fleeting moments of perfection when everything is right with the world, the sweet music of a child’s laughter, nature in all its’ wonder and grandeur, a sunrise, a beautiful multi-hued sunset, the company of family and friends, calm in the midst of a storm, unexpected blessings, little miracles, the journey, love, hope, faith, joy, happiness, the strength to overcome the hard times, my life, the darkened nighttime sky with stars that sparkle like the finest diamonds, and so much more.
These are my prayers of gratitude and thank you. What are yours?
- <a href=”http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/emotional-fitness/201311/how-the-habit-gratitude-leads-happiness” target=”_blank”>How the Habit of Gratitude Leads to Happiness (psychologytoday.com)
This post is longer than is usually the case, but given the subject matter, I am sure that you will understand. Thank you for taking the time to read and experience it.
My father passed away almost two weeks ago. When a parent dies, it seems that most children feel a sense of sadness, longing, grief and in some cases, regret for missed opportunities and all that will never be. However, those thoughts and feelings are often tampered by the gratitude and precious memories that you shared with this man, your father.
A couple of months ago, one of my oldest and dearest friends called to tell me that her father had passed. Upon hearing the news, tears flowed and I was overwhelmed by a sense of grief, sadness and gratitude. The grief was present for obvious reasons; the sadness because a special man was gone from this world; the gratitude, because as fate would have it, I became best friends with his daughter and through her, was able to see and feel all that the word “dad” entailed, and the importance of the role of a father-figure in one’s life. Nevertheless, when I learned of my father’s passing, I felt a sadness, as I would when told of anyone’s death, but more prominently, there was a visceral void.
I suppose that you can say that our relationship was complicated. You see, he turned his back on our family when I was only five years old. When I say that he turned his back, I mean that his leaving was so complete that it was as if he disappeared from the face of the earth, certainly from my world. In fact, he did for about 11 years. At the time he left, I was the oldest of three girls and my Mom was left to raise us by herself, with no contact or support from my father. As a young child, I didn’t have the tools necessary to comprehend my father’s actions, so for the most part, I was confused, and even guilty, thinking that his actions were my fault. As I grew older those feelings transformed into resentment and anger, feelings that failed to change even after he began making the occasional appearance in our lives. He came bearing gifts, but none that I wanted or needed.
The truth is that I didn’t know this man and I knew no more about him than the passing stranger. What I did know was that he wasn’t there to give us food, shelter, clothing or love. He wasn’t there when I had measles or chicken pox, to pick me up when I fell or to soothe my tears over some perceived devastation that all children endure. Complicating the matter is the immutable fact that he is the man who gave me life, and my rational and logical mind knows that were it not for him, I would not be writing this post.
As is expected, people continue to express his or her sympathy at my loss. I’ve noticed that people use the words “father,” and “dad” interchangeably, and when the word “dad” is chosen, I feel very uncomfortable. I find it impossible to apply that word to our relationship. In fact, I feel wrong even trying to do so. My mind keeps returning to the same question: what is the difference between a “father” and a “dad?” Why have I always been unable to refer to this man as anything but my father? In fact, more often than not, I instinctively referred to him by his first name, John. Yet, this is a topic for another place and time.
In reality, I’ve been pulled between the angry, confused and sad child that my father deserted, and the older wiser me that realizes that his actions were about him, not me, and that the anger and resentment has harmed me much more than it hurt him. I don’t know how to feel about a man who is a virtual stranger to me, but is a primary cause of my presence in this world. The icing on the cake is that as one of his next of kin, I am the one who has to make post-death arrangements, as well as pay for them. My inner child is stumping and screaming that life is not fair.
Yet, as often happens with life, a sense of closure occurs in the most unexpected ways. In my case, I was standing in line at the pharmacy after having had an amazing experience with my yoga therapist, which I will write about in a later post. I was next in line and I casually noticed that someone had gotten in line behind me. It is a dapper elderly man whom I later learned was a young 82 years, and a transplanted Californian who moved to Austin five years ago. He said, in a friendly and sincere voice, “How are you today?” The question moved me because so often these days, people don’t take the time to concern themselves with others. This man was different. I turned toward him as I answered and politely asked, “And how are you?” His response took me by surprise. He said, “I am better than great. I couldn’t possibly be better!” I suppose that his answer intrigued me because I can’t recall feeling that way in some time.
As we continued our conversation, I learned that he and his wife had grown children, with lives of their own. Five years ago, they decided that with their children gone and they had no reason to tie themselves to California. They decided to set out to discover a new place to live. Serendipity brought them to Austin, Texas and he is, by all accounts an amiable and happy man. For reasons that I didn’t understand at first, I felt an undeniable bond with this stranger, this man who I’d never laid eyes upon. Before long, it was my turn in line, so I started toward the counter. All of a sudden, I experienced one of those proverbial ‘light bulb’ moments, and in my heart, I knew both why I’d met this man and why he’d affected me so much.
I turned back to him with intense curiosity. Although I hadn’t realized it before, there were definite similarities between him and my father. He was the same height and build with a similar hair cut and the same quick smile for strangers. When I was a kid, this was the type of man who I’d always imagined my father to be. I believe that there is a reason for everyone that we meet and that they arrive at the exact moment when we most need them. Even in his passing, my heart yearned for a compassionate, loving and attentive father who loved and hugged me liberally. I longed for a father just like this man, and I believe that this man represented all that I did not have in a father, and that, if for only a short while, he was God’s blessing to me.
Unconsciously, I reached out to him, grabbed his hand, and thanked him for his kindness. For reasons that I still cannot explain, I felt compelled to explain to him that my estranged father had just died and that meeting him was the balm to my soul that I’d desperately needed. He expressed sympathy and thanked me for bestowing such an honor on him. He hugged me in a fatherly way. I turned back toward the counter, picked up my scripts, waved goodbye and continued on my way.
I was aisles away from the pharmacy picking up a few items when I heard someone call out to me. It was my new “friend.” He’d searched the store for me because he wanted to properly introduce himself and learn my name. He told me that “When he thought about our meeting, he wanted to know my name,” and believed that every experience was a gift to treasure. We exchanged introductions, shook hands and turned to go on our ways.
As I walked away, I felt a weight lifting from my shoulders and an overwhelming sense of peace filled that hollow in my heart. I experienced a letting go, and a sense of forgiveness that eluded me during my father’s life, but now was possible at his death. It is true, forgiveness is more for you than the other. I do not claim to have let go of years of anger, resentment, disappointment and longing in a matter of 15 minutes. Yet, I’ve begun the process and to me, that is profound. As I attend to my father’s post-death arrangements, I intend to extend him the peace and respect that I never received from him. Doing so, brings me peace. It seems to be coming together, as it should be.