In the wake of a several-week period filled with horrible, heartbreaking national and international news, we find ourselves now in the days leading up to the Thanksgiving weekend. A weekend that, traditionally, is spent with loved ones — friends, families — while sharing an immense sense of gratitude for everything the year has brought.
For many families, each year, the weekend brings its share of reflections, both good and bad. Silently, we harbor those moments we don’t feel belong around the dinner table at a festival of thanks — a loss, an illness, an annoyance at the office, an on-going drama, an illogical fear — and we speak of whatever comes to mind that we are, on the surface, thankful for.
In the days preceding our thanksgiving weekend we might try to distract ourselves from anything that might be contributing to a growing sense of dismay, or resentment, or sorrow — knowing the time to say aloud what we are grateful for is just around the corner. We might do extra on our to-do list so it’s less to think about. We may delegate the turkey to a different uncle this year so it’s less to stress about. We might add in an extra yoga class, to help us escape. We may, for example, switch from watching the news before bed to watching a favorite television show.
There is, however, a downside to avoiding the reality of life as it comes. Not only does our ability to handle negative change in good health and sound mind weaken, but our vanity also increases.
That will never happen to me, we might think. Or, if that did happen to me, I would know what to do. Or, if I didn’t know what to do in that circumstance, someone else definitely would. It would all be fine.
By checking out of reality we enter a world of ignorant security and I, for one, am the first offender.
I have a tattoo on the inside of my right arm that says “shield your joyous ones,” a testament to the fact I believe innocence — not ignorance — is bliss and one deserves that bliss for as long as they can muster. When young, we bravely journey forward with little fear, unafraid of the trials of our future. Upon the first encounter with such an obstacle, we start to change.
We don’t like certain things.
We don’t trust certain people.
We stop drinking soda because apparently it will kill us.
We start to walk with caution, until, one day; we cease to walk at all.
But that’s not living. We all know the saying about the ship in the harbor and that not being what ships were built for. It is frightening to open our eyes to the world around us — to our hurting neighbors, to our hurting selves — but without knowing what we stand to lose, without understanding it, how can we give appropriate thanks?
Opening our eyes to reality, to the truth of this life, isn’t as easy as turning on the news or as visiting our sick relative. It takes giving thanks for those hardships, giving thanks out loud, and doing it every day.
And I’m not all there yet. I don’t think we are all expected to be there yet.
But this Thanksgiving, all-there or not-there I encourage you to not only think about health and family and a roof over your head, but think of all you’ve lost, all you’re missing, all you’re feeling less-than-grateful for, and give thanks anyway — because this is all we have.
That, in itself, is good enough reason.
— Andria Parker is an Instagram-obsessed idealist with at least 600 words to share on every topic, ever.