Monthly Archives: November 2014

What have I got to be thankful for anyway?

Every Thanksgiving we get together with both my family and my husband’s family. In fact, it basically feels like one big family at this point. And that’s great.

Many years ago I started a tradition of working our way around the table (or tables, as we’ve grown), with each person sharing what they’re thankful for. I’ve always hated the idea of Thanksgiving being only about the food, as much as I love food, and loved the idea of acknowledging what I’m thankful for. I do that on a daily – and sometimes hourly – basis. So it made sense to me to impose my values – and strongly suggest that everyone gathered do the same.

This year my brother-in-law started the process, only he ended his list of thanks by suggesting a new method. Rather than each person taking his or her turn in order, everyone would speak (or not) as they felt called.

I watched as a few people jumped right in. And watched as many people did not. I found myself wondering why they didn’t – did they not feel thankful? Did they not like the tradition? Did they feel pressured to come up with a list of what they were thankful for on the spot?

I realized that it was none of my business that they didn’t share. Or why they didn’t share. That I was imposing my mindset on people who may not want it – even if research has shown that gratitude is good for our mental state, our physical wellbeing, and our life outlook and overall experience. It was their choice to do as they wished. And that’s fine. Besides, I’m not sure the research states that our gratitude has to be out loud.

I didn’t share either. That was a very active choice. My omission was noticed by a few people – my kids, my brother. This round-robin of sharing was and is my tradition after all, even if not everyone remembers that.

I didn’t share because I’ve often wondered if it was unfair for me to make everyone share. I didn’t share because somehow my sharing seemed to imply that I still thought that everyone should. I still do think that everyone should. I still believe that conscious thankfulness is an amazing goal and stellar approach to living life. But it’s not mine to enforce anymore.

I do love that the tradition continues, however it continues. I love when someone other than me starts it. I love listening to people’s lists, long and short. And I love thinking through what I have to be thankful for. I love being thankful.

What have I got to be thankful for? Tons. In many ways it’s been a tough year for sure – for myself, for my family and friends. But it’s also been an amazing year, and the silver linings within the hardships I’ve experienced and witnessed are what have carried me through…and what continue to carry me through. In each day I have the mundane that is actually beautiful – the sky, the trees, the weather. I have the things I take for granted that are absolute blessings – my husband and children, my friends and extended family, my work, my writing, and again, the sky, the trees, the weather. I have the opportunity to revel and relish.

I have so much to be thankful for, whether or not I took my turn at the Thanksgiving table.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

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You’re not that important

Someone said this to me the other day. Someone I trust.

She was trying to remind me that, contrary to my popular belief, the world doesn’t revolve around me. And that I’m not as powerful as I sometimes like to think I am.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do know that the world doesn’t revolve around me. At least your world doesn’t. I’m pretty much aware that my world does sometimes revolve around me, more than I wish it did. I like when I’m less self-involved and focused, but that’s not always possible, I guess.

I was most likely going off on one of my “I should have known better and have done better” rampages. (Yes, I still can, at times, get caught there.) I was probably getting stuck in my perfection-quest – to be all things to all people, to get out of my own (and your) way, to say “yes,” “absolutely,” and “what do you need or want from me? I’ll do it!” I was looking at a circumstance that was beyond my control and (mistakenly) thinking it was within my control. Again. And that I should have, therefore, known and done better.

“You’re not that important,” she said to me. Translate – “you’re not that powerful and you’re not (nor can you be) uber-responsible.” How come I think I’ve gotten around that one and someone reminds me that it’s still a recurring stumbling block for me? How am I still toppling into over-responsibility?

Am I alone in this???

A false sense of responsibility gives us a false sense of control, and therefore a false sense of safety. Note the word “false.” I can get, and was getting, ensnared in my desire for safety, and therefore my distorted perspective from when I was a child – that if I just do it all, and do it all right, things will be okay. Luckily today I have people I trust who call me out on this. Honestly, I’ve gotten so that I can – and do – call myself out on it. Easily, and more often than not lovingly as well.

You would think I may have been insulted, or at least angry, when I was cut down to my rightful place by someone whom I love and respect. Instead I felt relief. It may feel empowering to envision myself with the power to change the world, but it’s a false sense of power. I may feel more protected and less vulnerable when I mistakenly believe I am that important, but I’m mistaken.

You’re not that important. How freeing.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

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A sight you must see

So this isn’t my picture of the Sahara sand dunes. My pictures aren’t that good.

But I did see, and try and walk on, the dunes. Imagine sinking into a pile of sand that is taller than many buildings. Now imagine trying to climb up that pile of sand, while you’re sinking in. Quite a bit of torture and quite a lot of fun!

But the most important thing about the Sahara sand dunes is their beauty, which is barely captured by this photo. Barely captured by any photo actually. It’s the sort of beauty that makes you pinch yourself because you can’t believe it’s true.

As some may know, I was blessed to spend a week in Morocco and three weeks in Spain with my family a few summers back. I will quickly tell you that it wasn’t enough time in either place, and that I realize how unbelievably fortunate I was (and am) to have had the experience. We saw indescribable sights and encountered people, places, and situations that gave us memories of a lifetime. I know how lucky I was. (Best part, to this day, is still four weeks of family dinners…and each night each of us sharing our best things of the day.)

But the other best part is seeing things you never thought you’d see…like sand dunes that are taller than the buildings in the East Village, where I grew up, and that go on and on (and on) far beyond what the eye can see. I remember when they first came into my sight, and all I could think was, “Wow, it does really look like this! They are this immense. They do go on forever.”

When we were on our way to the Sahara, we got in a car with a driver we had just met. (Mohammed, I think his name was. A few of our guides were named Mohammed.) Mohammed proceeded to drive us out of the town we were in and onto a strip of dirt road that went through the desert. Within minutes, there was nothing but our strip of road and flat wasteland on all sides of us – for, again, as far as the eyes could see. The edges of the Sahara apparently are flat and dune-less.

We drove this way for perhaps ten to fifteen minutes while Mohammed and my daughter chatted away in Spanish, and then, as if out of nowhere, Mohammed took a sharp right turn off of the road and drove into the wasteland. Straight into the wasteland. Into the nothingness of wasteland. All I could think was, “Wow, we could die here an no one would ever know.” Apparently my husband thought the same thing.

Mohammed drove us through the wasteland, turning this way and that. What his markers were I have no idea. After ten or so minutes of my wondering if we’d ever see civilization again, Mohammed brought us to a paved road, made a left onto it, and drove to the town on the edge of the dunes.

For me, the gift of seeing places like this, and sights like the Sahara, is the sense of awe at the universe and at the beauty of our Earth. When you look up (or down) a waterfall. When you view the peak of a mountain (or sometimes, even, a very tall hill). When you see fields and fields and fields of sunflowers (which I was also lucky enough to see during this trip).

There is so much beauty in our world. There is grandeur beyond belief – like in the Sahara dunes. There is magnificence beyond words. I saw it in Morocco. I see it on my street in the trees against the bright blue sky. There are “purple mountains majesty,” and resplendence around us. We just have to notice it.

Go to Morocco if you ever can. Visit the dunes and see them for yourself.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

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