Terror, disillusionment, silence

What kind of title is that for a Thanksgiving post? Let’s step back for a moment so that I can explain.

First of all, I am not a big Alanis Morissette fan. Hey, I don’t dislike her, but her music was never held great pull for me. So what does that have to do with Thanksgiving or this blog? Well, she has one song that I absolutely LOVE. From the first time I ever heard “Thank U” I was turned around. The song came along a time in my life when the lyrics hit me in a particular way. Although my life has changed tremendously since then, the song still means to much to me. And the song is “Thank U” and it is after all…

THANKSGIVING!

When I was on Camino the song was often in my head. I did have it on my phone, so one day I played it for myself, a day near the end of the Camino. Maybe it was even our last day of walking?  Listening to it made me VERY weepy. One of the things that I did when I got home was to rewatch The Way Рand imagine my surprise to find the song used in the film. At some level I must have known that, but it was not conscious.

Today on Thanksgiving I am deeply grateful for many things. Like some of what Alanis writes about in the song, I find myself as grateful for the difficult things as much as the good things.

Terror, frailty, insecurity, pain, challenge – what gifts these are! When I was younger I could not see the world that way at all. Life’s elements lined up into two categories, GOOD and BAD. Frequently I believed that the BAD outnumbered the GOOD by far. Poor me. Truth be told, some horrible things happened.

One day I was getting my hair cut and the woman who cut it at the time was listening to my usual litany of complaints about problems in my life, and about past experiences that had been so painful. She stopped what she was doing and glared at me… I could see both of our reflections in the mirror and I felt terrified because she looked so angry. Basically she told me that it might be helpful if I could see my problems in the context of good. The rest of the hair cut time passed in an awkward silence, but her words stayed with me.

Could I be grateful for terrible things, at least things that I perceived as terrible?

The answer, over time, turned into yes. Today I think of all that I am grateful for in my life and I imagine it in the context of what that cost my soul. Instead of seeing that cost as value lost, I see it in the light of what came forth. It is sort of like being buried in a garbage heap and making one’s way to the top. When your head emerges you can see and breathe! Where is the focus? The horror of being buried in the heap or the exquisite joy of making your way out into the air? Bye-bye GOOD and BAD. One cannot exist without the other, can it? A more holistic way of seeing, a more integrative way of living brings forth many gifts, garbage heaps and all.

Enough about terror and disillusionment, allow me to allow a word about silence. In our word of constant noise, chatter, social media, too many tasks, too many things, too much information, silence is a lost gift. For a long time I have tried to preserve ways of keeping silence. Some have worked better than others.

When I was on Camino I had extended periods of silence. Not just the hours spent walking in silence with friends nearby, but not in conversation, but also the silence that came from being removed from the quotidian explosion of noise. And by that I mean externally as well as internally… Real silence.

Maybe as we mull over what we are grateful for we can imagine new ways of being. God knows the world could use some new ways, right? We will all have different¬† ways of experiencing this. Sometimes our wounds are too fresh and new for us to gather in the horror and pain of life. Sometimes silence is the last thing a person needs because of their life circumstances. We are all on different paths, different “caminos” of life.

May you find some modicum of gratitude and joy today. And if you cannot, know that you are not alone in your circumstances. May change come to all of us, even if it starts with a hair stylist holding a pair of scissors and glaring at you with stink eyes! A little levity, but I am serious. We never know where our joy will come from, do we? Anyway, today I say thank you for many things. And I am very grateful to all of you who read this blog. Wherever you are in the world, know that you are part of my Thanksgiving, and I hold you in the heart of my prayers today. Thank You.

Well… Thanks

63919875Today’s post is to address the fact that being thankful is not like a switch that is flipped from off to on, and that holidays may be difficult for some of us. Thankfully, that’s not the case here, but things used to be different. For much of my life I was simply miserable. A big part of the problem is that I was thankless. The lens through which I viewed my life was one of what I didn’t have, couldn’t have, wouldn’t have. If something good happened, it was not enough, or not just right, or whatever it took to whip up misery and anger.

Now if you knew me at that time, you might not have been aware of this, but if you knew me well – well then, you know what I’m talking about. In any case, I was always seeing things with my nose pressed up against some glass that seemed to separate me from everything I wanted. Most of the time I was sure that I had (warningbad theology alert) done something that caused God to give me the short shrift. Seriously. Thanks for nothing could have been my personal motto.

Zee54ccdaf6b0732fbe17a81c8f4dc8b8Today, I am grateful to be able to say that I am – well, grateful. It takes very little for me to conjure up gratitude, and I do not say that lightly. It is grace and gift to be sure, I try not to take it for granted. Having said all that, that earlier version of me remains, lurking around the dark underbelly of my psyche, and will pop out unexpectedly like a furious jack-in-the-box. Boy, do I hate when that happens.

Attitude+of+GratitudeThe reason for this is that we are awash in reminders of gratitude and thankfulness at Thanksgiving. This year I noticed more than a few articles stating the benefits of gratitude, as if it were a product to be sold. “Be grateful, science says it’s good for you!” I’m a little sad that gratitude has to be packaged and sold, as if it were a health supplement available at a drugstore in order for people to get with it. Part of me wants to say (warning – bad language alert), “for f*cks sake, drop that gratitude bulls*t!!” Sorry, but that is the truth. The point of all this being – not everyone can jump into that whole be thankful all the time attitude of gratitude thing on demand.¬†

I’m grateful (really) to not lose track Continue reading