29 November 2005

OT - Thankful?

NOTE: This was written Thanksgiving day between referencing cookbook sites.
Back to doublet-ing on Thursday...

This has been a difficult year, no lie. And on a day when we’re supposed to be tallying up the things we’re thankful for, the struggles of 2005 are thrown into sharp relief. We started the year on a high note, with a new house and a new job for me. Then our cat Coppertop died. But that tragedy had at its core a moment of befuddling joy because that was also the day I found out we were expecting a little one. In the end, that didn’t work out either.

With one thing and another, there were other obstacles. Kristin is still commuting five hours a day. When gas hit $3.00 a gallon I won’t tell you it wasn’t a hardship. There have been other things. The kitchen fire, car trouble, and we nearly lost Figaro recently. Each thing just one more reason to be glad when 2005 is in the rearview mirror.

But Thanksgiving isn’t about hardships. It’s about thankfulness.

The real question we must pose is “What do we have to be thankful for?” This is an important question because life is full of struggle and turmoil, a veritable potpourri of pain and suffering. Why then be thankful? How is it that one day a year, we can sit back and acknowledge that the glass really is half-full? Simply put… we can’t.

I can prophesy a chorus of depressed sighs and the rattle of shaking heads as my readers get to those words. But oh, you mistake me. I am not of the opinion that optimism is dead or even illogical. In fact, I find optimism to be the only logical state of being. I shall repeat what I said, only with the stress in the appropriate places. “How is it that one day a year, we can sit back and acknowledge that the glass really is half-full?” We can’t.

One day a year. That is my protest against most holidays. Not that the people being lauded on mother’s day or father’s day, or Breast Cancer Awareness day aren’t worth thinking about. Do not mistake me. What upsets me is that for too many people, those days are the only days of the year we acknowledge their contributions. So it is too with thankfulness.

That things are going to happen is inevitable. That the bad will occasionally pile up is simply an expression of the law of averages. And once a year, the national attention turns to finding things to be thankful for. Once a year is too few. We should be thankful every day.

In a year when bad things happened to us, one upon the other, I found myself searching harder and harder each day for the reasons I shouldn’t rage against the terrible awfulness of it all. Back in August I wrote an article about acting at renaissance faire and waxed lyrical about how each morning, despite the fury of the hay fever raging inside my head, I chose to be happy, to be go-lucky, to be a madcap man in striped socks, bringing smiles to the faces of children and adults alike. That is a good microcosm of how I’ve approached life this year.

Each and everything that has happened to us was horrible. I can’t get around that. I won’t ignore it or understate it. The darkest day of my life was the day we lost the baby. I thought I was at the bottom of a hole I could never climb out of. But a day or two later, I had to get back in the truck and go to work.

I work with a crowd of women, most of whom are my mother’s age. They have seen turmoil in their lives to beggar description. One has suffered more than ten miscarriages, one lost her adult daughter in a car wreck 25 years ago. Yet not one of them intimated that their suffering had been greater than ours. They all hugged me, and cried with me, and helped me find an attitude that allowed me to get the work done. I still struggle with it. I still cry about it from time to time.

Intellectually, I know that the only thing you can control about misfortune is how you react to it. Your attitude is yours to control. But until you’ve put it to the test you’ve no idea how hard that really is to do. But it is possible. One of my heroes, Peter Ustinov once said :

I am an optimist, unrepentant and militant. After all, in order not to be a fool, an optimist must know how sad a place the world can be. It is only the pessimist who finds this out every day.”

Bad things happen once in awhile. Good things happen every day. The psychic footprint of bad things is so large that it often overshadows that fact. Each day is a day of wonders and miracles. Each day we are swept along in the slipstream of science and technology, of modern wonders whose impact is as great as it is ubiquitous. We are surrounded by the wonders of nature, the grace and glory of the Creator in the changing leaves and the growing grass.

Perhaps holidays really are necessary. Perhaps this hum of the modern world needs to die down once in awhile for us to truly have a second to breathe, to appreciate what we have and get an iota of perspective on it. Maybe it takes a special day for our modern lives to see the leaves as more than something that needs raking and the grass as something more than another hour pushing a lawnmower.

Despite the turmoil of the year I am still thankful for every day. I still sip at the cup of wonder that is too hot to take all in one gulp. Yet this holiday will end. The turkey will become sandwiches and the family will disperse back to their daily haunts. I ask only this: each morning remember that as you’re drinking your morning coffee that what you’re really holding in your hands is a miracle of nature, the perfect conglomeration of agriculture, commerce, chemistry and engineering. If you don’t drink coffee, find some other ritual to remind you to be thankful for all we have, but choose a mind-set of wonder each day.

I have Kristin. (and I have Scott. -K 8-) )
I have a family that loves me.
I have a roof over my head.
I have books to read and ideas to write.
I have coffee in my mug.
I have a new kitten to frustrate and amuse me.
I have an old cat to give me love and perspective on my true place in the universe.
I have the infinite possibilities that we will be blessed again someday with a child, something I once thought impossible.
I have a garden that is still blooming roses and brings me joy.
I have birds to watch in the bird feeders (I think the cats are thankful for that also)

And I have you, my loyal readers.
What more could anyone ask for?

I wish you all good eats, good day, and God bless.


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