Celebrating Thanksgiving today. It’s an interesting thing to do, to celebrate the bounty that life brings. I’ve always liked the holiday, and the idea of being grateful for things. But I have to admit, although this makes me sound like a terrible person, the truth is, for most of my life, even when I’m trying, the best I can manage is to be “thankful”. Which is to say, I’ve been intellectually thankful. I have KNOWN that I am thankful for things, but….emotionally? That’s a little different, isn’t it? When you’re really honest with yourself….
It used to make me feel guilty. Like, I knew being grateful was important, saying “thank you” to people, giving thanks to some Deity or the Universe or whatever, for your food. Certainly, the opposite is pretty bad — feeling entitled and selfish! Although this wasn’t my experience, actually. My lack of gratitude didn’t come along with a feeling of entitlement. It was more like a lack of feeling much of anything. I didn’t feel “not-grateful” either. I just didn’t FEEL.
But I did try. Especially at times like Thanksgiving, and I would manage to feel “thankful?” Is it that way for most people? Am I just imagining that other people feel some sort of deep, teary-eyed, heart-felt, chest-filling THANKFULNESS, whereas it’s only for me that it’s more of a kind of earnest, but flat, intellectual acknowledgement? Or maybe other people aren’t as gooey-hearted as I imagine and everybody struggles to feel more genuinely connected to Life….
Well, I can’t resolve this for you. I still don’t know what other people are like. But I do know that a cold, intellectually earnest “thankfulness” is really missing something important about life. Because when the opposite does happen, and you feel your heart connect, things do change.
In essence, this is what Death gives us. Impermanence holds Gratitude cupped in its skeletal hands. You can accept that gift, or you can remain too cocooned inside yourself to allow it to touch you. And eventually it, and you too, will fade.
So when you face loss, which we all do, and the loss is one that you feel with the full gooeyness of your heart, and you sit and weep, tears dripping freely off your face….and that feeling inside? That aching, burning, desperate, gasping desire to do ANYTHING to go back in time and change how this has turned out? That feeling is one of the worst feelings in the world.
And gratitude is the gift that it brings. All you have to do is unwrap the soul-crushing, heart-splaying agony that it is wrapped in. And then, my friend, gratitude can be yours.
So, if, or rather, when this happens to you, my only piece of advice, is to let yourself FEEL. This may require a lot of tears. Probably a fair number of days doing essentially nothing except feeling existentially vacant and internally lost. And when you can’t hold it all yourself, reach out and weep in someone’s arms. You’ve gotta do this. Or else that loss will kill a piece of your heart. You have to open to the bad feelings, in order to be open for the good ones. This is a basic Law of Life.
When my family sits around the table tonight, we are going to ring a singing bowl, and listen quietly while the beautiful hum diminishes slowly into silence, and then one of us is going to say what we’re thankful for. And I know for sure, I am going to FEEL it.
Enjoy, whenever you can, what life gives you. Peace out.