Saturday, October 11, 2014

Giving thanks

Last week I woke up feeling sorry for myself. I ended up at the park with my parents and we spoke to a man who very quickly told us he had just buried his wife of 50+ years. As he got choked up and asked my mom what he was supposed to do now, I felt ashamed. I had no reason to feel sorry for myself on that beautiful day.

Today, I gave the last of the cash I had in my wallet to a mother and her two kids asking for money outside of a store. It was a five dollar bill and I had a flash of annoyance because I am hardly flush myself and I feel like someone, or some cause, is always asking me for cash. But I said "Happy Thanksgiving", smiled and handed it over. She smiled and said "God bless." Tonight, while taking the dog out, I ended up having a beer with my neighbour. He told me about this family he knows that are down on their luck. Their story made my stomach turn. Turns out it was the family I gave money to. I now wish I'd had more to contribute.

The universe works in mysterious ways. I know this, but it always surprises me.

I have a great life full of amazing experiences, opportunities and people who care about me. Days like today are a great reminder of that.

And let's face it, some days we all need a reminder. Ironically, my latest reminders came leading up a weekend focused on giving thanks.

I haven't always had it easy myself. Or sometimes, more precisely, I haven't always made life easy on myself. I've made mistakes. Plenty. I've hurt people and I've been hurt. I've experienced loss. I've been rejected, and I've been lied to. I've trusted the wrong people. Generally, I've let myself down.

I've had dark moments where I've sat down on the bathroom floor and cried and prayed to whatever God happened to be listening. I wasn't picky. If I'd thought the tree in the yard could have helped me I would have gone out and prayed to it too. I probably have at some point.

I havent aways gotten everything that I felt I was "entitled" to.

I'm human. This means I am predisposed to screw up. Everyone does at one point or another. We all get bumps and bruises, some self inflicted, some inflicted upon us. And then you slowly put the pieces back together to the best of your ability. If you're lucky.

And I have been lucky.

Because surviving those moments is what brought me to a place of being thankful. Truly thankful.

Because of the crappy moments, I've learned to stop feeling sorry for myself. To stop expecting other people to fix my problems. To appreciate what I do have rather than worry about what I don't.

If life was always simple, if I'd made all the right decisions all of the time and had everything handed to me on a platter, I'm not sure I would have gained the ability to appreciate the way the the sun shines through the trees in my backyard in the morning. Or the random lessons you can learn when you strike up a five minute conversation with a stranger.

I'm not sure I would have gained the ability to appreciate just how good I have it.

This doesn't mean I'm perfect. I can still be cranky and bitchy. I can still be afraid and frustrated. I can still snap at the people I love for no reason. I can still be judgmental and lazy. I can still be egotistical and selfish.

Mainly, again, I can be human. In all its glorious messiness and naivety.

But these days these negative reactions and traits are more easily managed. Because I've learned to be more forgiving of myself. Of others. To be more empathetic. To be more loving.

Again, to be more thankful.

In every moment. Seriously, it's a full time job.

Sitting at a Mooseheads game, I silently say 'thank you'. Drinking my coffee in the morning, I silently say 'thank you'. Having a conversation with you, I silently say 'thank you'. Sitting in traffic, or in line, or feeling my blood pressure rise as someone gets on my last nerve, I silently say 'thank you'.

To who? I have no idea. And I don't really think it matters.

I look for the lessons in every moment of my day. Sometimes, sometimes, I even manage to learn from them.

I don't go to sleep at night without thinking about all the things I am thankful for that day. Maybe its a lot. Maybe it's not. Some days maybe all I can come up with is that I had two bucks for a Tim's dark roast, or that I had the energy to haul my ass out of bed that morning.

And when you make that a habit, your life changes.

Maybe I am slow learner, but happiness has nothing to do with what's happening on the outside and everything to do with what's going on inside. These days more than ever people are struggling, always trying to be something "more", to have something "more". It's the world we live in and its easy to forget whats important, to blame someone else or to be angry for your lot in life. To be so focused inward that you forget to look up and see what's right in front of you.

What's actually important to you.

If you can't be thankful for what you already have, if you're always waiting for that better thing that will come along ("when he loves me", "when I am ten pounds lighter", "when I have that better job", "when I have more money", when, when, when…) you will never, ever be happy. And I hear it so often. I am guilty of it myself.

I like to think most people already know this, but it gets lost in the day to day struggles that life throws our way. It gets lost when we don't make time every day to bring ourselves back to the moment.

So all of this to say that no matter what is going on in your life on this Thanksgiving weekend, I hope you take a few minutes to think of what you are thankful for. And make a daily habit of it, if you haven't already.

My hope for you is that those blessings are, and continue to be, plenty.

Everyone is fighting their own battle. Many are fighting far worse battles than mine. I know people who are so positive while facing so many challenges, and I wonder if I would be that strong in the same situation.

But the best part of recognizing how much you have, is that you then recognize how much you have to give. Even if it's just a five dollar bill, a smile and a kind word.

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