Clearly I am getting older. As this Thanksgiving approaches I am struck by how many times this year I sat back grateful for the opportunity to live another day. Although this is such a simple and obvious blessing it is the only one I am certain of having.
Ten years ago, five years ago, and even last year, on Thanksgiving I would obligatorily whisper my thanks for my "health and happiness," because that was what I thought I was supposed to be thankful for. As a young child my grandmother used to give gifts and say, "enjoy them in health and happiness." As a family we used to whisper prayers being thankful for our health and happiness. I was taught, albeit it was originally a recommendation, on my birthday to blow out my candles and wish for the health and happiness of those I love. I absorbed this as not just the best wish but also an adequate prayer of thanks.
Unfortunately, it was someone else's thankful prayer. For me, each Thanksgiving it was like trying on someone else's favorite shirt. Maybe even worse, someone else's pair of Birkenstock sandals, which after a while fit only one set of feet. Aside from the philosophical challenges associated with this prayer in that each person's health and happiness is a unique individualized definition, my health has waxed and waned, depending on how well I am taking care of myself. My happiness has also been surprisingly fluid, depending on the same exact variable.
This year was so different than the clump of similar years before, specifically with regard to gratitude. There were moments when I would be driving along toward or away from work, listening to NPR, sipping green tea, reveling in the love and support I felt, and a wave of understanding would fall over me. I was thankful for the opportunity to experience that moment. There were the times when I woke up with unrest, discomfort from nightmares of tasks under-completed, lonely, opening my eyes I was awash with thankfulness for the opportunity to awake. There were mediocre moments where nothing special happened, on the contrary the most mundane of experiences unfolded, like searching Craigslist for a used couch, and I felt warm and content, thankful for the opportunity to live that moment.
As the days, weeks, and months passed this year, it became less than it ever had before about whether I am up to the standard of health and happiness that I had always set forth as a standard, and more than ever about how I am still living and breathing. I have the opportunity to live this life for now, even if some days I feel quite healthy and others not so much, some days I feel happy and other days I am down right somber, I am still deeply thankful for the opportunity to live this moment.
As Thanksgiving approaches I am increasingly thankful for the days that I do not feel healthy and happy because I learn so much on those days. I am thankful for the moments that have hurt and those experiences that have thwarted me because I have become so much stronger from them. Since my father died I have quested for eternal health and happiness to avoid pain. This year I learned to tolerate the inevitable pain that life brings and to love those moments as well, because I have the power and dedication to sit still and then eventually move through.
This year I am thankful for the opportunity to have another moment whether it be a happy, healthy, miserable, or sick. All of those moments combined, and my ability to live through them, make for a real life which is the scrumptious complication I am really thankful for.