Somewhere along the line, I stopped waiting for Thanksgiving to count my blessings. I mean, I don’t exactly enumerate them and make exhaustive lists that I ceremoniously share with others. But almost every day at some point, I find myself in this little ritual of sending out a karmic thank you for some of the things I’m grateful for. On really good days, it’s mostly for the big things – family, health, a roof over my head, plenty of food, etc. During periods of high stress amidst chains of little crises, I can often calm myself with little things – an extra half hour of sleep, a really strong cup of coffee, a cat on my lap, warm boots, etc. But rarely a day goes by that I don’t have some moment, no matter how fleeting, of profound perspective and thankfulness, throwing my gratitude out to the universe and hoping it creates a little positive energy.
I’m not exactly sure when this ritual became so ingrained, but I think it started on a more conscious level as I began talking more regularly on the phone to my father.For much of my adult life, we had a cordial though not particularly close relationship, seeing each other only once a year, chatting politely on the phone only once a month or so. But as he slid into full scale senior-dom, he began confronting a range of fairly serious health issues as well as the death of my stepmother following a long battle with cancer. These devastating confrontations with mortality changed him. I started hearing more vulnerability, more compassion in his voice. He became more generous, reaching out more often. And my long distance calls, which often start with “Hey, Pop, how ya doing?” are usually answered with “Happy to still be here, glad for another day.” Now that’s being thankful for the really big stuff. He says it with a little self-deprecatory laugh, but I know the sentiment is completely sincere and all the more poignant as he slowly sinks into the abyss of Alzheimer’s.
I hope I can begin passing that inherent sense of the privilege of existence on to my own children, regardless of the looming specter of mortality, and commit to living that way myself, being thankful for the gift of every new day.