I couldn’t be more delighted with these amazing days: blue sky; crisp air; warm to hot afternoons and an exuberance of colours so breathtaking that I nearly fell off my bike, today.
This is the time before Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, my favourite celebration of the year. So much to be thankful for! And yet…
People are suffering. Deaths; illness; war; accidents; typhoons; hurricane’s; flooding- the list goes on.
Some readers of this blog, including friends and family, live in Florida and others in Nova Scotia and PEI where recent storms have taken a toll. Yet, when I hear from them they address the brutal facts systematically and quickly move into how grateful they are. “It could have been worse,” is the common refrain.
No one is grateful for a flood or beautiful trees uprooted, or a destroyed home. No one is grateful for a diagnosis of cancer, auto immune disorder, or heart disease, yet even in those moments there is always something to be grateful for: the emergency response team, the hydro workers, the neighbour who shows up bearing a care package; the life-saving medicine. We can not be ok and still be okay.
The Greeks have a word to describe the paradox:
According to the School of Life, “it is eminently possible to be fulfilled and – at the same time – under pressure, suffering physically or mentally, overburdened and, quite frequently, in a tetchy mood. This is a psychological nuance that the word happiness makes it hard to capture; for it is tricky to speak of being happy yet unhappy or happy yet suffering. However, such a combination is readily accommodated within the dignified and noble-sounding letters of Eudaimonia.”(more about this in a later post)
And of course, there is a poem, thanks to my friend Jan Falls, Heart Poems blog. When I read this one, I found that it perfectly described so many situations where we are asked, “how are you?”
For When People Ask by Rosemerry Whatola Trommer
I want a word that means
okay and not okay,
more than that: a word that means
devastated and stunned with joy.
I want the word that says
I feel it all all at once.
The heart is not like a songbird
singing only one note at a time,
more like a Tuvan throat singer
able to sing both a drone
two or three harmonics high above it—
a sound, the Tuvans say,
that gives the impression
of wind swirling among rocks.
The heart understands swirl,
how the churning of opposite feelings
weaves through us like an insistent breeze
leads us wordlessly deeper into ourselves,
blesses us with paradox
so we might walk more openly
into this world so rife with devastation,
this world so ripe with joy.
The subtleties of our lives are no small thing. I was not grateful for my cancer diagnosis but I was deeply grateful, since I had it, to be diagnosed early. Both are true.
Thanksgiving is the annual feast day to count our blessings and give thanks and it can also be hard. For people whose beloved spouse, friend or other family member died all of these celebrations can be made more difficult, especially the first such occasion without them. So I think about those people putting forth an effort to find grace at a time of immense pain.
My family’s practice
Each year at Thanksgiving dinner we have a practice where each of us speaks about what we are grateful for. In the last ten years or so we added a small metal tree (some years it was paper) and a stack of handmade paper leaves where we each write out what we are thankful for and attach our leaf to the tree. Before dinner we each read what we wrote. It is a special ritual that our family and friends look forward to.
If we want to decrease suffering, gratitude is pretty much a fool proof method of doing so.
My friend Patricia recently sent me this quote from one of her artist friends, and I think it is perfect for just this occasion:
“I want to spend the rest of my life rejoicing in the beauty of this world and finding a million ways to say thank you.” by Anne Schrievogel
Note 1:) A special thank you to Dr. Jinroh Itami, thanks to whom I have something to offer and to live by. Always to Wellspring Alberta, The ToDo Institute, my family and friends, and all the wonderful people I am so honoured and grateful to spend time with through this work. And especially to you dear readers. I am most grateful!
Note 2:) A little something from the well-loved Brother David Steindl-Rast A Grateful Day
Note 3:) The banner photo is a spot on my bike ride today with a friend, although I took this photo a few years ago. The second photo was taken on my recent blissful weekend at a friend’s lake house. Much to be grateful for.
Note 4:) Finally, I wish all of my Canadian readers a very special Thanksgiving weekend. It is my favourite holiday and gives us a chance to formally count our blessings. You, dear readers, keep me company as we navigate this tender, wondrous, and oftentimes difficult life. Your encouraging words are heartfelt and appreciated. Please accept mine, as we cheer each other along. (I say this often, I know, but it is simply true and I want to remind you) A deep bow. Warmly, Trudy