Thanksgiving

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.

‘Tis the Season

“Mom, will it ever get here? It seems like it takes months and months for it to get here!”

“Yes, dear, the day will come soon enough. I know you’re very excited. Color another picture for me maybe? Use lots of bright colors. Okay?”

“Yes, ma’am. I can’t wait, Mom. It’s my favorite day of the year.”

……

“Does this one look okay, Dad? I want to make sure I have something nice to give her, you know? I mean, she does so much for us every day. She never rests, does she?”

“Hardly. She’s always loved giving to people, Sport, you know that.”

“Then this has to be perfect for her. Do you like the foil inside or just the silver seal on the outside?”

“Why not both? She’d like that.”

“Awesome!”

…..

“Oh, come on, Mom, just one! Can’t we open just one tonight? It won’t hurt nothin’!”

“Anything. It won’t hurt anything. Grammar, young lady.”

“Just one little one, Dad, please?”

“Your mother has spoken, guys. Besides, we haven’t had the first mouthful of turkey yet. You can wait until tomorrow morning, I’m sure. Now, come get your supper.”

…..

(First light)

“Shhh. Quiet!”

“What time is it?”

“Zero dark thirty, kid. Too early for parents to wake up without a severe attack of the pre-coffee grumpies. Quiet!”

“Look! A stack for you and a stack for me. There! On the coffee table. Cool!”

“Mom’s got the biggest stack. Look. There’s my silver foil one, right on top.”

“We’d better start making a little noise in the kitchen or they’ll never wake up.”

“Cmon!”

…..

“And here’s the next one for you, Mom. Very pretty! Fancy writing on the outside.”

“Oh, how sweet. It’s from Mrs. Jones next door. Thank you so very much for the casseroles you made and placed in my freezer after my surgery. Here it is November, and I haven’t even eaten them all yet. I owe you a great debt. Sincerely, Betty.

“Open one of yours, Junior!”

“Okay, here’s a neat one with Ninja Turtles on the outside. Thank you for cutting my grass this summer. I had the prettiest yard in the city because of your good work. See you soon, Mr. Peebles.

“See, Sam, I told you he appreciated you and your diligence. People notice, son. You may not think so, but they do.”

“Now, I know we have more notes to open, but who wants turkey and dressing?”

“And cranberries!”

…..

“Sam, as the eldest, would you please do the honors and say a blessing for us?”

…..

“Amen.”

“Thank you, Sam.”

“No, thank you, Mom.”

“Whatever for, son?”

“I want to thank you and Dad for teaching us the reason for the season. The meaning of Thanksgiving.”

“Yeah!” the twins chimed in. “This is the most awesome turkey day ever!”

“Yeah!”

“Here, now who’s ready for pumpkin pie?”

Thank you, God, for gifting me with my children and grandchildren, and for the life I am blessed to lead.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

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Joy

I guess there are just times that you have to write about joy, you know?

It’s Thanksgiving week in the United States (yes, I have at least two other readers in foreign lands, count ’em, I do indeed, so they may not get all this turkey and cranberry stuff), and that means giving thanks for the people and the things in our lives that make us truly grateful. Now, I’m not one of the sentimental mushy types who will throw a bunch of fluff at you and see how many times I can make you cry. That’s not my style.

However, after this weekend of food, friends, family, football, and all other manner of things that go fffft as you say them, I simply must thank the Universe and God as I understand him for the abundant joy in my life. Sometimes, stubborn as I am, I don’t let myself see it and experience it fully, but that’s my problem to sort out, not yours.

In the meantime, I am very thankful for:

Food to eat, a warm bed to sleep in, and worthwhile work to do.

Family who love me no matter how many times I disappoint them. My grandkids have that special gift of lighting up like Christmas trees, smiling and running to me every time I come to their front door. That feeling is like no other in the world.

Old friends who are there even when I neglect them, give me honest advice and feedback when I ask for it, a listening ear when I need it, and the promise to help me re-engage with my own life at the pace I need to do so.

New friends who are as dear as old ones, who challenge me, call me on my BS, and love me unconditionally even after they know about some of my worst flaws.

The warm, comfortable glow of tradition, music, liturgy, and ceremony. Without these, our institutions would not stand the test of time, and we would be poorer for that fact.

Like many of you, I will have a short work week. I look forward to the holiday and being with my family. I look forward to slowing down, even for a few short hours.

I look forward to reconnecting with joy.

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It’s Only Words

“It’s only words, and words are all
I have to take your heart away.”

The Bee Gees

I have noticed something very interesting as I talk and write and interact in the social media space lately. 

I have made some new friends on Twitter and Facebook, many of whom live in countries far from the United States and speak languages that I am not fluent in. Most all of them speak very good English, so we have no problem communicating at all. We are also using the medium of pictures in one FB group, a universal language of beauty that almost everyone understands with very little prompting or coaching. 

Although I do not speak French or Italian (well, I still understand a little in that I lived near Rome for two years in the 1970s), am not fluent in Portuguese, cannot read Spanish even after my obligatory two years of high school exposure to it, and default to my native tongue, I have seen something fun happen. 

I will use small snippets of language, one or two words, one phrase here and there, to respond to my new friends. They do the same to me. We feel our way through conversations and micro-exchanges one small phrase at a time, and it is quite lovely. 

I know I have misused many a word in another language. That is part of the territory. 

The other thing that comes from that is that my new friends are so embracing and inclusive that they never laugh or correct or cajole or belittle. 

Language is a vehicle. It allows us to share, to laugh, to compliment, and even to love.

The Bee Gees were right.

 

Gracias.

Grazie.

Merci. 

Obrigado.

Thank you.

Thank you, my friends, for enriching my life beyond measure.