Thanksgiving in the US is almost here, the day we sit around the table, hopefully with family and friends, and share with each other what we are grateful for.
Usually, it’s the good stuff—what has made us smile or given us joy—the “glads.”
But this year, I feel drawn to also give thanks for the “sads” (or even a few of the “bads”)—the things I would not normally choose.
I’m not saying that with some of the bad shit happening in the world today, I’m grateful for everything.
I am grateful, though, for my ability to keep going, to keep “turning toward the dawn,” to create stuff that engages me, to occasionally help another, and—when things are low—to get out of bed.
It’s not the events themselves—the super painful situations and losses that I give thanks for, but the sliver of light that may come with them.
- Am I thankful for my friend’s pancreatic cancer and the pain it causes her? No way, not ever.
But I’m very grateful to be able for the love we share and for being able to hold her in my heart each and every day.
- Was I pleased that a doe ate all my snap peas last spring? I was not. But the doe, her fawns, and the buck living in our fields and woods (hopefully, on the other side of our much-repaired deer fence) remind me that I live in partnership with nature—and I find that beautiful.
- Am I happy that my husband and I are both getting older, with our future days so obviously limited? I am not. Yet the truth of our temporality brings a preciousness to a simple breakfast together—and I love that.
- And what about losing my sister last May? Her loss still feels like a knife to the heart, with a hole that hurts as we approach the holidays. But the open wound I carry brings empathy for others around the globe who are suffering and facing great loss.
Life in sads and glads
Do I want my life to be sad? Not particularly.
Except that at times it is.
With so much darkness in the world, I’m learning to deliberately seek out joy and acknowledge the glads around me.
And I’m also learning to embrace the sads and a few bads, even when they bring disappointment, discouragement, and some suffering.
Light and dark come with the wholeness of life. And for that wholeness, I give thanks.
I found a quote by Fr. Richard Rohr, who speaks to what I am learning as a seventy-something-year-old.
“There is a gravitas in the second half of life, but it is held up by a much deeper lightness or ‘’okayness.’’ Our mature years are characterized by a kind of bright sadness and a sober happiness, if that makes any sense. I am just grabbing for words to describe many wonderful older people I have met. There is still suffering in the second half of life—in fact maybe even more. But there is now a changed capacity to hold it creatively and with less anxiety.
I give thanks for being able to hold life creatively, whatever it brings.
And I give thanks for you, dear friend, whether or not we have met. My readers give me energy and bring life to my words as a writer—I don’t take you for granted.
If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope it will be a lovely day for you.
If you don’t, I hope you offer yourself a whopping serving of gratitude—and savor it.