In Gratitude For You
Sunday comes a little early
"...what do you think this singing and shuddering is, what this screaming and reaching and dancing and crying is, other than loving what every second goes away? Goodbye, I mean to say. And thank you. Every day." ~from "Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude" by Ross Gay
Because I am truly thankful for each and every one of you who take your time to be here to retreat with me into the depths of your heart and mine, I am sending this missive a bit early. A Sunday Retreat on Thanksgiving Day, a day that may fill you in more than one way. With our already full plates, literal and figurative, the holidays offer many ways to topple that balance further.
Yet, I am truly thankful. I have to mindfully seek it out quite often, but the gratitude I feel really does remind me of life’s delights. Because these delights are often mired in sadness and strife, it takes some effort to engage the part of my brain—the right side to be exact—that can see the bigger, more expansive, connected and lovely picture. Oh but truly, the effort it takes to pay attention to the blessed, gorgeous beauty of this life is worth it for me. Notice I didn’t say to pay attention to the perfection of life or that this gratitude is for anything close to perfect. On the contrary, it’s very much for the messy, for the ‘norm’, for the humans and creatures and moments that embody the whole of life.
Inspired by Ross Gay’s wonderful poem “Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude” (which you can read here or listen to here put to music with Bon Iver), I’ve written a kind of catalog of my own. Consider reading or listening to Gay and writing your own catalog of sorts. I found it therapeautic. Or click here for a short video with some very effective practices for lessening stress through the holidays. And check out the picture of my white board reflection questions that will decorate my own Thanksgiving room this year. Maybe these reflections offer you a bit of presence with life’s abundance.
Finally, for all my friends who are facing this start of the holidays without someone you love, having lost someone to death, to disconnect, or to distance, or for all those who’ve had a longstanding conflict with this and the rest of the upcoming holidays, for those who are torn by the need to love and scream at family all at once, for those who must eat (please no!) instant mashed potatoes, or do all the work of the holidays alone, try to be gentle with yourself, take a few breaths, rest a little more if you can. It’s one day. Tomorrow will be new and different. It always is. We’ve got this, friends.
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After "Catalog of Unabashed Gratitudes" by Ross Gay, a poem of thanks for so much, with my friend Victoria in mind Just after she died, my friend came to me in a series of photo albums. She was hiding in these old books, in moments I'd forgotten until the visual memories sent me back in time to all the ways and times we've been friends. A baby shower, a wedding celebration, a backyard party arm-wrestling contest, baby belly pictures, my own daughter held and loved just because she was, and so many more. Of course, it all goes away. The second after the photo was shot, gone. Yet here they are back again, and I, a time traveler, move in and out of the great expanse between us. And so now, I acknowledge that, yes, this time, too, will go away. These recent times will slip away too. So I'll love them a bit more. I'll cry out with thanks for all of it that's been of late--the marker-tattooed coffin decorated and lowered into the ground with yellow roses dropped atop, the sparkle of river and Liz telling me this river's name, Shenandoah, means "sister of the stars;" the clumps of ground thrown down and the blue sky's refusal not to show off in bright streaks; the huddle of old friends staying warm by a mushroom heater, laughing ridiculously over old memories and the beautiful sound of our own laughter; and hugs upon hugs; and coming home to family who wants to sit and remember with old pictures. And the just before she died: walks arm in arm, our video making, note writing, sitting quietly holding hands time, pajama changes and bathroom trips. All of it against a wild, roiling sea coming to drown it all, to take it out and away so soon, so fast. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Life's all much too fast, over much sooner and is harder and often much shittier than we think it ought to be. Memories compost into--what? Nothing? I think not. Rich soil my heart makes a tree of with delicious pears, makes a rose bush of, makes basil to season tomato sauce. All composted into one big thank you in my heart. And now more comes back--more memories, more thank you's, more rich soil. The ancestors who showed me what compost could become, what tomatoes could become--the sauce that tops my pasta. Oh and pasta--I won't give that up for all the lost pounds in the world. Yet now I'll focus on this moment, this right now, and this kitty who loves to morning snuggle and will find me wherever I am if it gives him a chance to press his furry love into me. And my love, who came home just this moment with kisses and a belly pressed into my own. Thank you for this swath of time we've traveled, from our 20's to our late 40's, and the ways that time has made him older, thank God, and whittled him, and revealed that, oh yes, we can get so much better--scars, and grays, and extra weight not for nothing. And the loudness of my teenagers--like a rusty brass band making noise for what feels like noise sake, but probably feels like the music of their own precious souls. I imagine this could seem like a good place to stop but it's hard for me to stop today because nothing is stopping. So this page is today's photo album, capturing something for a time. Capturing nothing really except my attention, which is surely something. So just a bit more... because now the birds are crying out as they hop among dead things--or dormant things--branches, my porch, our cold rooftop--finding I don't know what to eat, but something worth sticking around for. Each one with a song that, too, is going too soon. They're crying out, Notice! Pay attention! Thank us over and over so you don't forget also to stick around, to hop a little, to move over dormant things, and to sing.