---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: joan hocky <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Monday, November 26, 2018
To: joan hocky <email@example.com>
Gratitude: The state of being grateful.
The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
'Used in a sentence: Let me express my heartfelt gratitude to you.
Gratitude is an idea and ideal that is the central tenet of Thanksgiving and the opportunities the holiday and the days surrounding it provide to reflect on what it means in our lives, to name and list that which we are thankful for, but in everyday life it is not a concept but a verb, something we act on or from.
We often talk about it like it were a probiotic or sunscreen - something we know we should do because it's good for us, and that with some effort and daily reminders we can put into our routine.
Floss, stretch, feel gratitude. Saturday at Shabbat services we read from a siddur [Jewish prayer book] designed for those with cognitive or developmental disabilities (although I don't think V understands any of it he enjoys the music and although he leaves and walks around the shul a few times in the hour service, he seems to enjoy being there and the familiar rituals of the morning.): I wake up each morning and thank God for another day. To me that is the essence of gratitude, when it is so ingrained into our daily life that the moment we arise we are flooded with appreciation at being alive. It makes me think of that Einstein quote that we can live life as if everything were a miracle or nothing is, and the spiritual path is clearly the former.
And yet, while gratitude is powerful and important it's not a panacea or cure all It doesn't prevent us from feeling anger or sorrow or frustration or any other of a range of difficult emotions that people feel everyday, although some more than others. I don’t like when people tell others to 'just be grateful' as if that had the power to make the rest of our struggles dissipate. It gives us perspective but not freedom.
I've been grateful when V woke me up at 5 am all weekend, as anytime after 4 seems civilized, and all those thousands of days when he'd be up at 3 or 3:30 felt so isolated and hopeless, like being on a rickety boat trying to wait out the hours until the rest of the world awoke. I've been grateful for Starbucks Italian roast I can make to help my body keep up with my mind in the early hours - once I wake up that's it; like V I rarely can go back to sleep. And while he now can spend some time alone there is always the possible risk that he will get into something and reek havoc so I need if not both eyes then at least one ear listening in case a mattress is flipped, there are 4 am munchies, it's a little boring after awhile, why not unroll all the toilet paper or empty all your drawers of clothes. In his world teens are able to have fun the same way young children do, with utter abandon and no thoughts of the aftermath that grown ups will have to contend with.
It sounds like an excuse for not writing, but just having that ear, that 10-20% focused on someone else just in case makes it hard to concentrate and get much writing done these early morning or the rest of the day on holiday weekends when we tend to have little respite . (Why I’m finishing this Monday am) It is nothing like being alone, or being off duty. I write little drafts I email myself or scrawl thoughts into notebooks or look up words, like gratitude. But I don't have the opportunity to dive in and write, and the fact is that much of my limited creative time this week has gone into hosting Thanksgiving here - a first in all my years in this house. We always go to my brother’s, stay overnight in Philadelphia and spend a little time with some modest Black Friday shopping and walking around the city.
It's a longstanding nice routine. My brother and sister in law are wonderful hosts and they are set up for company in a way that we never have been, with a beautifully set table and room to spread out before and after and that large finished basement for V, who doesn't really like most thanksgiving food except for the pie, of course. Hosting this year made me aware of how infrequently we have people over and how when we do it involves paper plates and utensils used for outside barbeques or my annual ladies who latkes Chanukah event. I'd love to have people over more often but not having many friends it's a challenge to get people to come over even though I think we're very hospitable: lots of great food and a warm welcome to all. I know all too well what it's like to not feel welcome so I do all I can to have everyone feel how very grateful I am to have them grace me with their presence, which I mean sincerely, not with the snark with which it is usually said. So having people over for an inside sit-down dinner makes us all too aware that this is not something we get to do, as much as I wish we did. We order another set of plates from Target and get some more break-proof glasses (the set of monogrammed wine glasses that were a wedding gift have long been gone, every single one of them broken along with all but one of my set of Fiestaware mugs). We buy the glasses and wooden folding chairs on sale at World Market, a fun store because it has a fun combination of food and furnishings. I'm sad that our lives haven't been social in the way I enjoy so much but I'm even more grateful to have the opportunity to be a host.
I am happy to spend every spare moment in the week cooking and cleaning and clearing out clutter that accumulates like leaves in autumn - no sooner do you rake them up than the wind provides another helping. It is all part of a life I am in equal part grateful for and disheartened by. I am thankful for this Thanksgiving with my family. For food and shelter and sitting around a table together. I am grateful to wake up each day to my messy challenging life, although I wish it was different at least it is and there's nothing better than being here to experience it.