Thursday is Thanksgiving Day.
In this time of political pugilism, pandemic pestilence and social stratification, I thought it might be beneficial to just take a step back, look around us and truly assess our ability to be thankful. We still have that capacity in us, do we not?
Shawn Blanc, who writes about productivity and work on his site thesweetsetup.com, uses the concept of a flywheel to illustrate how one approaches work and productivity. He talks about the ability to identify what needs to be done, then how to plan to attack that need, and finally how to act on that plan. The fourth and final step on his flywheel is celebration. He coaches that no matter how much work is done, no matter how many milestones are reached, we still need to be able to celebrate our victories. Without that, without the acknowledgement of hard work well done, a plan well executed and a problem solved, we may as well toil on forever in a mindless morass of effort that gets us nothing and nowhere. The celebration, which I look at as a thank you to yourself, is paramount. You must celebrate, you must thank yourself, for the hard work you put in and the milestone you reached. Else, why strive to reach them at all? I talk with patients every week who always put others above themselves, who never think to give themselves a pat on the back for how they use their ingenuity, brains, energy and creativity to make their life and the lives of those around them better every single day. How very important that is in this dark time, when laughter and thanksgiving and celebration have been so rare for almost two years.
Can you thank others for what they do for you as well? Of course you can. Even a masked man can utter a thank you when passing his colleague in the hallway at six feet distance. Penning written notes or letters is almost a lost art but is still an effective way to express your gratitude. Texting? Yes, we do live in the twenty first century after all, so even the humble text is better that nothing. The point is, that thanksgiving is not the only time that we should give thanks. In times of great stress, anxiety and upheaval, a simple token of caring and esteem acts as a life jacket for the drowning man.
How can we thank those who went before? They are long since dead and gone, I hear you say, so what is the point in thanking them for anything? They will not know if you thank them, but you will. How do you do it? Learn from them. Read their stories, their diaries, their memoirs. Get inside their heads and know what they knew. This is not the first pandemic the world has ever faced you know. The Great Influenza:The Story of the Deadliest Plague in History is a 2004 nonfiction book by John M. Barry that takes a close look at the 1918 flu pandemic, including the back biting, infighting and political struggles of those who strove to rid the world of the plague that killed up to 50 million people or more worldwide. Does that sound familiar today? Of course it does, but we are no less grateful to those pioneers who helped pave the way for the studies that brought us vaccines and public health measures that so far have insured that this go round is not nearly so deadly as that one was. When you gather for this Thanksgiving holiday, remember those who went before, tell their stories, laugh at their eccentricities and gird yourself with the strength that got them through the trials of their own times. Our mentors, they have much to teach us, and we in turn can mentor others who will carry on long after we are gone.
This Thanksgiving season, start a gratitude journal. Write letters. Read daily affirmations that build you up, not vitriolic writings that tear you down. Increase your social connections safely as the pandemic wanes, and learn to be socially graceful again. Connect with others, and be thankful that you are here, now, living out this time in history that no one else but you can claim.
I am thankful for you, my readers. Happy holidays.