Thursday, November 25, 2010

gratitude is a state of mind

It seems a shame to reserve the Giving Of Thanks for only one day a year.
It seems especially a shame when that one day is slowly being eaten alive by the machinery of marketing for Halloween candy and Christmas gifts.
Still, it gives us -- most of us, at any rate, those who don't have to work today -- time to pause and think about what matters most in our lives, and to remind ourselves of just how much abundance we have in our lives.
Even if that abundance can't be materially measured (because of job loss/downsizing, the burden of too many bills to pay, health concerns and a host of other responsibilities and worries that can weigh us down to the point of being One With The Floor), it's still there.
The very capacity for living, for being, as my mom's hospice helper used to say, "upright and breathing", and all that means to each of us, is the first thing to be thankful for, this and every day.

There is a prayer observant Jews say every morning, before they swing their legs over the side of the bed, before they even sit up, a prayer for the moment you open your eyes and realize the most amazing thing of all: I'm still here. Basically, it goes something like, Thank You God, for giving me back my soul for another day of living.
Remembering the miraculousness of my being this thing called "alive" each day brings all the rest of my blessings -- and there are many -- into sharper focus. It makes those other blessings, I think, a little bit sweeter and more dear.
I am grateful that my soul is back in my body for another day -- so I get to enjoy everything else I have in this life. I am blessed with a loving partner; family and friends; meaningful (if not highly-paying) work; a way to use my skills and talents to help others; food on the table and a warm, dry place to live; and time and energy for my own pleasure. I try to sustain this gratitude all through the year by silently beginning each and every day with that little prayer. And although it seems corny as hell, it actually helps remind me of what's important.

What's important is being here.

I took a bike ride this morning. I usually go for a bike ride every Thanksgiving morning, a vain preventative measure against the Tryptophan lethargy I will know later in the day. This year, between recovering from all the racing I've done this fall and the intense cold of the last few days, my usual 20-mile loop around the lakes was out. I opted for a shorter ride around N-NE Portland to enjoy what was left of the fall colors and the new, always surprising bitterness of the first blast of winter air. It was exactly what I needed, and the focus brought about by my awareness of living, the snap of the frigid air in my nose and lungs, the motion of my legs turning perfect circles and the soft purr of my tires over damp pavement, the cold mist that partly obscured the downtown skyline from my vantage point on the Bluff, and the moss on the now mostly-bare trees above the Slough -- all contributed to some of the sweetest, loveliest miles I've ridden this year. I came home and gave Sweetie a big hug and kiss and the entire morning felt Completely Right.

May your gratitude be awakened in an excellent way this Thanksgiving, and may you find time and energy to sustain it through the year.

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