Turns out I’m not so good at gratitude. I mean, I know how to express it and I send thank you notes and emails and say it out loud to people all the time. I drill my children to say thank you, to show their appreciation for kindness, helpfulness, compliments, gifts. Not only is it polite and good manners, but the giver feels lovely when thanked and – perhaps most important of all – actually saying or writing thank you feels great for the givee too: a time to feel the intention behind the gift, to accept the warm love, kind thoughts, pure heart that almost always accompany an act of giving.
I love to say thank you, and to be thanked, but it’s always instantaneous. In the moment. Right when the delicious deed is done. The gift received. The compliment heard. The assistance appreciated. And I feel great globs of something way beyond gratitude for all the good in my life: my family, my health, my friends, my body that works. That I can open my eyes in the morning, see a sunrise and a lunar eclipse, enjoy the sweetness of mangoes and eat marrow bones, feel love and give love, smell woodsmoke and jasmine, have memories, talk and read and write and hear my kid say things like “We share the world.” This greater-than-gratitude is inherent. With me, in me, always.
But I rarely think about the smaller godsends in my life. The tiny, almost imperceptible openings between the marvelous moments of giving and the greater goodness. The barely noticeable happenings that evoke nuances of emotion, leave me feeling different, with a perspective altered not only in that second but for the rest of the day, the week, or for always.
Last night’s late-night phone fest with my friend Lisa yielded such an opening. In between giggling bouts of hysteria – the release of both husbands away, too many kids too little time for each of us, the intensity of daily A to Z writing that we’re both enveloped in – she suggested I use this color and this topic for T.
“I have no gratitude right now,” I half-joked, half-sniffled, completely dismissed. “Oh well then,” she replied sagely.
Couldn’t get it out of my head. Fell asleep thinking about it. Woke up thinking about it. What does that mean: No gratitude?
So with tremendous thanks to Lisa, who often inspires gratefulness in me, especially in her writings at Flingo, here are my Windmills of Thanks for today:
To my friend J who gives me the biggest hug, whenever she sees me, and tells me, “You look fantastic.” I see her at least twice a week, sometimes two days in a row – we work out together – and I look a lot of things at those times (harried, tired, irritated, pained, hair too long, sweaty, unshowered) but definitely never fantastic. I choose to believe her though. And that hug sure feels fantastic.
To my kids, who started today in that can’t-be-beat way: fighting. Because he wanted to sit in that chair, and how dare she finish the cereal, and he’s an idiot because he breathed. One of the cruelest ways to kick off a Wednesday, listening to their whingeing and whining when I’ve barely taken a breath. But the silence they left in their wake as they argued their way out the door and down the road to school was serene to the extreme.
To same storm-out-the-door son who called me at 8.17am from school to apologize. Truly a breathtaking moment and one that obliterated the day’s sticky start. Thank you, love. (And also thank you to the school for allowing the kids to call their parents no matter what – this time, anyway. It’s not always something to be grateful for).
Thank you to Matthew Weiner for creating the greatest show on TV ever: Mad Men. Yes to Don Draper. Yes to Joan. Yes to fabulous sixties fashion and design. But mostly, yes to amazing writing. And scenes like the one of Betty shooting the pigeons in Season 1. Life-changing (for reasons that deserve a piece of their own – stay tuned. And watch Mad Men).
Thank you Kind Driver for backing all the way up on Clarendon Crescent – possibly the narrowest street in Oakland, made all the more so by the cars, trucks and minivans parked on either side. No mirror is safe on this street. Whether he sensed my impatience at having to navigate this obstacle course or not, his unconditional willingness to help me out, to make life a little easier this morning, restored not only my faith in human kindness, but strangely in myself. When I raised my hand in thanks. When I slowed down. And smiled.
To my sister T (how perfect!) who shows me every day that it is possible to live life with humor and abundant compassion even when it’s all kinds of tough.
Six letters left, one week to go in this A to Z Writing Challenge and I am feeling so much gratitude for the experience, the creativity, the purest joy of writing words so often. I am blessedly thankful to have the opportunity to read the wonderful work of others, and to connect so meaningfully and relevantly with other writers taking this challenge. But I am mostly grateful for all who have read what I have written, who have taken the time, hit like, shared, tweeted and retweeted, sent an email or a text, posted a comment. I could write reams on how much that means to me. But I won’t.
I’ll just say: a million thank yous.
This post was written as part of the April A to Z Challenge. To read more of my A to Z posts click here.