Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Living Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Not a lot of hype, no commercialism, just being grateful for the simple gifts in life: our loved ones, the wonderful bounty of nature, and all of our blessings. It’s about finding and celebrating the sacred in the seemingly ordinary: family, friends, home, hearth and a wholesome meal harvested from the good earth. So simple, yet so sacred.

There’s a saying that I used to think was so odd and meaningless, but in recent years I’ve realized it is very deep and profound: “You’ve got to take the good with the bad.” I used to hear people say that and I’d think, “You've got to take the good with the bad?  What does that even mean?” Well, now, upon years of pondering it in my peppermint way, I know what it really means:  there is always good and bad in our lives, so don’t let the bad stuff paralyze you and keep you from appreciating and enjoying the good stuff. A younger me used to think, I can’t be happy because I have A, B, and C bad stuff going on, so I can’t enjoy D, E and F good stuff that is also in the mix. How sad. Now I finally understand that, even with the inevitable bad stuff going on in your life at any given time, ya gots to make room for the good stuff, let it in, revel in it, appreciate it, and enjoy it! You've got to carpe diem!  Don’t wait for the bad stuff to clear out, or you be waiting a lifetime. Grab hold of the good stuff and appreciate the hell out of it!

This year, like every year, sure, I have my share of difficulties and challenges, sad things and bad things, and I hasten to add that it is healthy to give them their fair share of energy and attention. However, perspective is the key.  Thanksgiving is a day for focusing on all we have to be grateful for, and grounding ourselves deeply in that gratitude. As a matter of fact, every day, I thank God for all the blessings I’m grateful for, and even for the challenges given to me, as those can be, and usually are, blessings, too—even our losses contain gifts for us to open and learn from.  I think it is important for my spiritual and emotional health, and I suspect for my physical health as well, to make every day a mini-Thanksgiving.

People who choose to focus on what they are grateful for are so much happier and healthier than those who focus on everything wrong in their lives. Mind you, I’m not saying we should ignore or sweep aside the “bad” things, or our feelings about them. In fact, I strongly believe it is imperative for our health to allow all our feelings to flow freely in and out like the ocean tides, and that feelings are to be acknowledged, accepted and respected, not judged and controlled (which is why I can’t STAND people like one infuriating Wayne Dyer or books like “The Secret”, as apparently, according to them, we are supposed to squash down all feelings and thoughts other than those involving flowers and rainbows, and if anything negative happens to us in our lives, it's our fault because we allowed “negative” feelings or thoughts in...don’t even get me started—rant-worthy blog unto itself ALERT!).  I think that all feelings are okay and are there for a reason, so don't let anyone tell you that you shouldn't feel something that you feel.  It is how we choose to act on our feelings that counts. That said, on Thanksgiving and, really, every day, the healthiest approach is to stay firmly grounded in gratitude, for even in our darkest days, there is usually something to be grateful for, some light to acknowledge, fix our gaze upon and trust to lead us on, even when darkness seems to surround us. The very act of choosing to focus on the light and not the dark adds to the light. As the saying goes, “Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

This year, I’m most thankful that my 86-year-old mom is here with me in this world and that we will be together on Thanksgiving. That's the most sacred blessing of all to me.  We are invited to her cousin’s house for Thanksgiving, which is another thing I’m grateful for, as when I moved to Florida, I had no family here--zero. Now I have my mom and her cousin, so my familial cup runneth over.  It will be me, my Mom, her cousin, and one of her cousin’s daughters for Thanksgiving. I don’t have to cook the whole meal (yet another thing to be grateful for!), just “Page 26”, as we call it in my family, a DELICIOUS spinach-artichoke-cheese casserole side dish that my mom and I have every year. I’m also planning to bring cranberry relish and some sort of beverage. My mom’s cousin is making the turkey, veggies, and apparently there will be a pie (made by either the cousin or her daughter), but I’ll stay away from that on account of that I know wheat is not my friend (yet ANOTHER thing to be grateful for—my knowledge about what foods to eat to keep me healthy).  If there is any stuffing, I'll stay away from that, too.  I love stuffing, but it's a wheat-laden affair and wheat is my nemesis.  I love health more than I love stuffing.  Anyway, having spent more than a few Thanksgivings since moving to Florida with no family at all, I’m really looking forward to this foursome. Most years since my mom moved down here, it’s just been the two of us, which is lovely, but there will be something very special about getting together with extended family. I really appreciate it.

I’m also extremely grateful for my health, which I was scared about this time last year after my very first ever routine EKG during a physical resulted in me being diagnosed with left-bundle branch block (LBBB), an electrical conduction prob in my heart that results in a dyssynchronous heartbeat. After the primary care doctor used language that scared me to death and ended up NOT being the case for me (thank God, and I do!!!), such as “enlarged” and “hypertrophic” heart, and sent me to a cardiologist, who had me undergo further testing, it turns out that I’m basically healthy as a horse, other than the LBBB, as nothing else scary is present with it (no enlarged heart, no hypertrophic heart, no evidence of a heart attack, no heart disease, no nothing—thank God!), which is unusual, and is DEFINITELY something to be grateful for every day, especially on Thanksgiving. Also on the grateful-for-health front, I’ve lost about 81 lbs since I started the GenoType Diet two years ago Thanksgiving Day, so I am extremely grateful for that, as I've blogged about several times and no doubt will many more. I feel very empowered by knowing what foods to eat to keep myself in biochemical balance and at a healthy weight. Wow.  And of course, I'm so blessed to have the means and access to keep my kitchen stocked with those healthy foods.  Speaking of means...

In this horrible economy, I’ve got a job. Now, I could choose to focus on the many and varied BAD things about my job, but the bottom line is that it is, in fact, a JOB. Enough said. I’ve also got a house. Again, I could choose to focus on the fact that it is a termite-ridden pile of disintegrating sticks, but, hey, it’s MY termite-ridden pile of disintegrating sticks, dang it! And it’s on MY tiny bit of land, in a wonderful neighborhood (trust me: again, I’m choosing to AC-centuate the positive when I say that *tee heee*), in a beautiful city, in the greatest country in the world...even though said country is currently circling the drain—but you never know, maybe we’ll get it together before actually getting sucked down the drain, so THAT is what I'm choosing to focus on, on Thanksgiving.

As far as “Black Friday”, a day when many Americans choose to go thing-crazy to what I consider a ridiculous and severely pathological degree, I will instead be with a new friend of mine, whom I met at the dog park, doing something that involves no shopping, no consumerism (gasp!), and which continues the Thanksgiving theme of enjoying the simple, sacred things in life:  we will be taking four dogs (my dog, her two dogs, and a visiting dog she is dog-sitting), to a gorgeous county park called Fort De Soto Park, which has a spectacular dog park and also a dog beach. Instead of a black Friday, we will have a bright Friday, full of shimmering blue-green water, sky, nature and enjoying our “furkids”.  It doesn't get any better than that.

In short, I know we all have troubles, woes, and assorted and sundry losses, sadness and painful challenges in our lives. Yet, no matter how bad things are, surely we can all look around at our beautiful world, take a deep breath, and realize the miracle of being alive, can’t we? I’m grateful for this dazzling world/nature, my mom, my pets (who are like my children—heck, they are my children), my health, and all the gifts I've been given—including challenges and losses, for sometimes they are the greatest gifts of all, even though they sure don’t seem/feel like it when we are experiencing them. I pray that I will be a respectful human being and use all my blessings to do good in this world. I pray these things every day. On Thanksgiving Day, I try to stretch that prayer into the entire day, living my gratitude, appreciation, and intention to be respectful and do good. If I and all of us could stretch that Thanksgiving spirit out even further, into a lifetime of intentionally focusing on being and acting grateful for creation/nature and being a part of it, and being respectful and doing good, think of how we could heal our world.