Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. I love it more than Christmas. More than the last day of winter. More than the first day of vacation. As a gluten/starch-free vegan, the feast isn't the reason for my adoration, although I do appreciate a yummy, crust-less pumpkin pie now and again.
For more than a decade, I've spent Thanksgiving in peaceful recognition for what the past year has brought into my life. And I've learned the incredibly subtle difference between gratitude and appreciation. In the past I've often said how thankful I am to have a warm house, healthy food to eat, and work that I love. Now I see that gratitude as a response to how I've felt when those things were missing.
Because of financial issues, logistical circumstances, and just plain living life, I've had to endure long periods when I didn't get what I want. When I set my thermostat at fifty-eight degrees to avoid a huge gas bill. When I ate Ramen noodles and ketchup for dinner night after night after night. When I slogged through long hours working in jobs that sapped my spirit and paid me a pittance.
And during those times, I bitterly complained about it all.
This month, as I prepare the manuscript of my memoir for publication in 2014, I've revisited many of those years. Actually, the majority of my adult life was spent in limbo waiting for that which had not yet arrived. A husband. A child. A publishing contract. In writing my life's story thus far, it's clear to me that for the past couple of years I've truly been able to appreciate and honor the enormous spaces in not having any of those things. And I've also come to understand that appreciation is a state of mind that accepts things as they are, not a fear of losing something I have or grasping for something I don't.
Last January I put an empty jar on my desk. Whenever something happened that touched my heart or lifted my spirit, I wrote it down and put it into the jar, knowing I'd open it when Thanksgiving week arrived. Now as I sift through the notes, I see how my practice of appreciation is overflowing into every aspect of my life:
"A new free bike!"
"Satish fell asleep in my arms...so cute!"
comes home from the hospital!"
"Blessed to have a new bed."
"Waking up and feeling like I'm finally at home."
It's curious to recognize that I've written about every one of these blessings here in
a joy and a grace to be able to share my abundance with you all. More than ever, this Thanksgiving, I'll meditate on the last
few lines I wrote in the introduction to OPEN ROAD: a life worth waiting for:
"Occasionally, I remember my life twenty years ago when I first began to unravel who I thought I was supposed to be in search of someone for whom I had no tangible roadmap. And in remembering, I remain thankful for all the things I had once desperately wanted, yet never received.
What a revelation to learn that empty hands are fertile soil for growing a life worth waiting for."
May you and yours have a blessed, peaceful celebration.