I’m feeling a bit off these days. Whatever it is, let’s call it existential anxiety of sorts. I’m battling a stubborn cold. My schedule is manageable and still I can’t manage to be with everyone I’d like to see. Somehow, I’m getting things done and yet I have a nagging sense of helplessness. In short, I’m not on my A game.
And I think I know why. I recently spent two consecutive nights with two remarkable individuals who put their lives on the line defending human rights in Ethiopia and Russia. They’ve seen in real life some of the worst offenses human beings do to each other. Violations I’ve only read about in books, seen in pictures, and never ever want to witness in person. And still, I’m shaken to the core and feel a bit powerless as I realize once again how little I do to help. The effect takes a little time to wear off. So I wait…
Has this ever happened to you? One day, you’re in charge of your life, the next, you’re knocked for a loop and balance lives light years away.
So goes the story which I suspect we’ve all watched unravel in our own lives. The illusion of complete control is disturbed by the contingency of chaos. The chimera of confidence is whacked by a smidgen of skepticism. The bubble of safety bursts with a trace of a threat.
Really. It’s easy to give thanks for the blessings that we do have. Love, family, friends, bounty. These are the hugs and warmth and praises analogous to a soothing back rub or an aromatic cup of tea. For these, we are thankful daily. They make us feel good and we expect and receive them with little to no toll.
And then there are those things which do take a toll. A tax of sorts that leaves us a bit spent. A hefty fine collected at the gate that seemingly depletes our reserves. Our instincts caution us when we encounter things of dubious worth. We pay reluctantly for fear the sale isn’t worth the price.
Retail sales are easy to deal with. Psychological, emotional and spiritual purchases, not so much.
And yet, as we slog to the other side of existential bargaining, experience tells me we can come out okay. Because upon bearing the expense, we emerge tougher than ever. Able to be more, do more and imagine more beyond what is.
And so, in the spirit of gratefulness for blessings that aren’t readily seen as such, this Thanksgiving season, let us give thanks for the things that challenge us, unwanted things we have to confront, things we can’t avoid try as we might, and things that at times turn our world upside down:
1 for our shortcomings, so that we may learn to look to others who can offer to integrate an extension to our limitations.
2 for friction in our relationships, so that we may give them the attention they deserve so as to add fullness and depth to present and future interactions.
3 for confusion, so that enlightenment may grace us if only fleetingly.
4 for insecurities, so that we may move past pretending and arrive at the truth that we share many and instead of hiding them, perhaps we may one day celebrate them. (Visit Aidan Donnelley Rowley’s blog Ivy League Insecurities for a healthy, always-honest and well-written perspective on insecurities.)
5 for doubts, so that we may either learn to live with them or conquer them by believing when proof evades us.
6 for fears, so that we may acknowledge the falseness and irrationality in them in order to recognize what tremendously good things lie beyond them. (Read Patty Bechtold’s wise words regarding fear on her blog Why Not Start Now?)
7 for challenges that make us doubt ourselves and our abilities, so that we may see what tough material we’re made of.
8 for the flaws in all of us, so that we may revel in our blemished wholeness.
9 for anxieties, so that we may do what’s worth doing with care.
10 for problems that sometimes make being alive difficult, so that we may remember that there’s always a solution around the corner to make living worth every second.
11 for the sadness that may land upon us occasionally, so that we may value the highs of life by fully feeling the lows.
12 for our constant need to seek meaning, so that we may look beneath the surface, perhaps dig a little deeper or be open to finding it (or it finding us) where we least expect it.
13 for our bodies that fall ill at times, so that we may value and live each hour and each day fully with a gentle reminder of our mortality.
14 for the many mistakes we’ve made and will make, so that we may honor our humility.
15 for regrets we do or don’t acknowledge, so that we may be moved to act, no matter how late or how seemingly futile, on our good intentions.
16 for our broken bonds, so that we may appreciate that the fragility or sturdiness of our bonds have much to do with our willingness to participate, to get involved, to take responsibility.
17 for our individuality and seeming insignificant at times, that we may come to know that collectively, we’re powerful and that each of us possesses the ability to make a significant difference.
18 for feeling powerless, so that we may learn the importance of needing each other to do our part.
19 for the dichotomies that sometimes split us apart, so that we are reminded of a) our precious gift of freedom to choose b) of the possibilities for choosing responsibly c) and choosing positivity and d) for the right we’ll never earn to judge others for their choice.
20 for the measurable and hair-splitting differences in our philosophies and politics, so that we may remember that we are all bound by our humanity and by many common noble and respectable goals, needs and desires.
21 for the kitchen sink that life may throw at us, so that we may feel fully alive as we fumble, bumble and stumble through trial by fire.
We would be remiss if we didn’t give thanks for the things that we gain and then lose, things that are elusive, things that we have trouble sustaining, things that just won’t stick and things that we simply can’t get enough of such as:
1 the ever elusive wisdom, so that we may continue to seek it and humbly stumble upon it once in a while.
2 patience that is all too often just out of reach, so that we remember that instant gratification isn’t the norm.
3 mythical discipline, so that in the chase of it, we realize it is within our power to integrate it daily into our lives.
4 purpose, so that we can be mindful of the many gifts and talents we offer.
5 mindfulness, so that in our distracted existence, we remember that presence is a beautiful gift.
6 the art of letting go, so that by freeing something or someone, we free ourselves.
7 our ability to take action, so that we do take action and not simply fill ourselves with worthless knowledge.
Last but not least, while I would never be thankful for wars that bring out the worst in humanity, I pause for a moment for peace so that the the best in us can rise to defeat the evil in us.
ON GIVING GRATITUDE
As I’m sure you know, this list is only partial. There are many other blessings in disguise. If you’d like to add one, or a thought, a wish, a comment, or any sign that you’ve come to visit, I would be very thankful. Or, let’s connect via twitter. Happy thanksgiving.
We give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way. ~Author Unknown
Image by Amber B McN