It’s November, which means everyone is being thankful. Red Cups and gratitude, that’s what you’re all about now, true?
That’s the spirit of the season, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t embrace it; I am certainly trying.
What makes it hard to simply just be thankful all the time, without reminder from Butterball and Starbucks, is that we live in a world of Haves and Have Nots, of wanting and wanting more. It’s an unfortunate, but simple, truth. Technologies like Facebook and blogs only showcase that while magazines and our culture’s preoccupation with celebrity only perpetuates it. She has a fancy purse, they took two vacations this year, he got a new car, she has granite counter-tops, he has a great new job. She's getting married. They're having a baby.
From babies to hand bags, if you have never read a blog or logged off Facebook, despite knowing that you have more than you need or deserve in life, without wondering Why Her, Not Me? then I would love to know your secret. I consider myself a pretty grounded person with a healthy perspective on what really matters in this world (and what doesn’t!) but still I’m haunted on occassion by the Green-Eyed Monster. I feel terrible about it, it makes me feel ungrateful and immature, but from time-to-time it happens.
On Facebook this month, many of my friends are listing daily things for which they are thankful. November 1 brought out the big guns – Faith, Family, Freedom – but now it's two weeks in and we’re already down to television shows and wine and other material sundries. I’m not judging here, as you know I love One Tree Hill, and I recently blogged about buying new boots. Also, in college, I kept a daily gratitude journal because Oprah told me to, and she said also it was fine to list trivial tokens that make one happy. At the end of the day, though....most things in our lives are just tokens. Few things are actually treasures.
When Thanksgiving ends, and you start making your Christmas list, will Health and Another Day With My Loved Ones top your wishes? We think that, we say grace over it, we want to live it...but at the holidays and really all year long most of us, myself included, spend more time working for and worrying about getting and giving and celebrating the tokens instead of being satisifed with the riches, like family and love, that we can't wrap up with a perfect bow.
Last week, I got an email telling me that a former colleague of mine had died. A smart, successful, happy college-football loving, young guy who days before had been in my Facebook feed, now, just gone. We hadn’t been in touch for many years, so this is certainly not about my loss, but about the loss his wife, his parents, his family and friends are suffering. And for him….for the years he lost, the places he never got to see or the memories he didn’t get to make. It is sad, obviously, when anyone dies, but when it’s a peer, when it could have easily been you or me or my husband or your brother it is both sad and scary. And it reminds us that death, even when it's untimely and unexpected is well...just life.
Since I heard the news, it has framed nearly every thought I have had. Girl talk with friends at lunch turned to aging, and I instantly thought, It’s better than not having another birthday. I’ve said more prayers. I’ve tried to practice patience. My thoughts of Have and Have Nots have turned to my late co-worker’s family who now do not have a husband, son, brother, uncle. Any thought of wanting more has been interruped by knowing that I have Dan. We have our families and friends. In this moment, we have our health, and we have the warmth of our 1970’s townhouse with its blue bathtubs, crusty carpets and a messy fridge full of food to prepare atop our formica counters. All of that is more than enough.
You don’t need me to tell you what separates the tokens from the treasures in life, nor do we need a holiday to make us stand up and count our blessings. Sometimes, though, it does take being hit in the heart for me to remind myself.