Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Underside of Gratitude

I wait for them every year--those freshly-taped turkeys that hang outside classroom doors.

Droopy paper feathers and all.

 I can't help but stop and marvel at each of the blanks--all lovingly filled:

I am thankful for my family and my pets.

I am thankful for the whole universe. 

I am thankful for donuts.

There's something about the messages of gratitude seen through the unscratched lenses of children that remind us to recognize the abundant blessings in our lives.

The simple, beautiful things that dance right in front of us:  family, homes, health, laughter, food, air.

Sometimes, though, gratitude has an underside--the bristly bottom of a newfound awareness that can stretch our understandings of what is truly important.

This year, I continue to bring the usual blessings to my Thanksgiving table, which include a strong marriage, three sons, my health and my home.  And SPANX.

But I've decided to include some unlikely contenders to this year's list as well:  three undercover "blessings" that have crawled out from the tightest and darkest of places.

Without them, I could have never realized my own evolution or reinvention.  Or what truly matters.

1.  Desiccated Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Hot Dogs Found in Underwear Drawers

     Yes, I am thankful for the remnants of shriveled and decomposing lunches that my sons have left in some interesting places, which have included a grilled cheese sandwich in a chandelier sconce and a half-eaten hot dog perched atop boxer briefs.  I won't even mention the intact taco that I recently fished out of a school supply bin. Why am I grateful for this?  Simply because it reminds me of the current chaos and energy in my life.  As much as these food discoveries have been horrifying, I have learned to stop and realize that the bedlam du jour only becomes a fading snapshot seconds after it happens.  The bickering, the backyard football tussles, the indoor luge competitions, the electricity will all one day fade away. And somehow, I will miss it.  Here's to living in the present.

2.  Pain 

     At first glance, it is hard to understand why anyone might consider this a blessing.  This is the year that I have fully embraced my own personal pain as an unlikely one. Part of being human involves pain and suffering.  Throughout my own life, there have been moments that have excoriated me--moments where I witnessed human decency's swift exit.  Somehow, the emptiness of my once-vacant heart allowed me to refill it with profound compassion and empathy for others.  For this, I am grateful. And blessed.

3.  Transition

   The word alone is unsettling.  Transition can mean so many things:  a baby, a different chapter, a broken relationship, a new job.  Redirecting ourselves onto untrodden paths can be terrifying--but can often reveal some of our greatest life experiences.  For years, I held my breath thinking about my transition back into a career after many years of being home with my boys.  During this time, my identity of who I used to be soldered into my role as a mother.  I no longer could extricate that person who loved to teach, who loved to write, who loved to work.  I shuddered at the thought of "managing" it all and navigating through the guilt that I knew would ensue. This past Spring, I approached that transition one word at a time--unearthing my love for writing and teaching all over again.  While this transition has been anything but smooth, it has been a tremendous blessing that became the fertile ground for this blog and for my classroom comeback.

Of course, I am thankful for all of my amazing readers who have given me a collective push to keep writing.
GRATEFUL for Michael Kors'
Casey Suede Strappy Sandal. YOWZA.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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