For me, Thanksgiving isn't about traditions and a big meal, and not even really about being thankful, per se. It is about being mindful. I have images in my head of people sitting around a table, surrounded by family, everyone taking turns saying what they are thankful for, and in my head I always hear one person look down at their plate and boisterously saying, "I'm sure thankful for this turkey!" with a loud, lingering chuckle. And when I imagine this fictitious person in my head I wonder, what do they mean by 'thankful'? Because, I don't think you can be truly thankful until you consider or, God forbid, experience and know what you'd be missing if it were gone. To not only know what something is - whether it's turkey or love or hope - but what it is not (hunger/loneliness, hatred, persecution/despair).
I am still working on a full and complete understanding of mindfulness, but I mean it as being in the moment and taking the time to experience something fully. Fully. I first learned about it in college when a long-term relationship fell apart (and my ex-finace, who had previously decided it would be great to work where I did, then immediately started dating someone else - at our work). I found a therapist who told me to practice being mindful of life in nature. She explained that I would sit and close my eyes and listen for the sound of the wind in the trees, listen to how it was different from the sound of wind-blown grass. I would listen for the sounds of the birds, not only their songs, but the sound of their wings in the air. And, in those moments, I began to understand that what I had perceived as a great loss, was instead, pretty small compared to all of the other things I had lost sight of.
Since then, I've been trying to apply the practice of mindfulness to other parts of my life. Like many wise people before me, I've begun to understand that the value of something is proportional to it's uniqueness and ability to be replaced, and that everything is much more unique than is superficially apparent. I think of the saying, you can't walk through the same river twice, and I realize that what you succeed or fail in giving to yourself or others in this moment changes every moment moving forward. And while the change of any one instance is usually imperceptible, the sum of many such moments is clear, indeed.
So, when I'm mad at my son for using permanent marker on the wall, part of me feels a very real need to walk away, and yet, making the choice to realize that love is more important than the paint, makes a huge difference in the future of our relationship. Am I going to be the mom that gets angry and distant when something goes wrong, or am I going to see through my anger to what really matters? Being mindful helps me see what I need to focus on instead of the obvious. So I dig in and realize I need to appreciate that there's even a painted wall there to be creatively enhanced, and that my son is bright and healthy enough to do it, and both of those are far more important than scribbles on a wall. Plus, someday he'll get to learn how to fix it :)
And like I mentioned above, just in case we haven't uncovered enough to consider, mindfulness is not only embracing what something is, but also what it isn't. I'll just let you chew on that for a while yourself.
So, when I say my Thanksgiving isn't about tradition and a big meal, I stop myself for considering all of the dysfunctional reasons it's become that way and consider, instead, that I'm able to enjoy a day with my son and husband, and that we don't need to worry about staying warm, or cope with abuse, or look for food. Despite all of the terrible things life can heap on people through no fault of their own, we suffer little. I make myself conscious of my son breathing, and the ears I have to hear it, the smell of his hair as he laughs on my lap, and my ability to smell it, the lines forming on my husband's face as he smiles, and the eyes I have to see it; through that mindfulness, I am truly thankful for more abundance than I would otherwise have realized.
Another thing I have tried very hard to be mindful of this year is the talent I have and my ability to use it to create art. I have worked hard to use my hands to make beautiful things. But, there comes a time to experience letting our creations go. And, since it's that season, I'll be having a week-long Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday sale with 25% off everything in my Etsy store. If you've been with me a while, you can attest that's totally unprecedented. And before I get into how I think sales undermine the value of art and artists ... I'll return to my mindfulness and tell you to use the coupon code BLACKFRIDAY at check out. The sale will end at 11:59 CST Monday, December 2nd.
Yep, those, too.
In whatever form you celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you have a wonderful day!
Thanks for stopping by!