Random thoughts from an animal-loving French prof / mom of three on things she finds beautiful, funny, sad, or strange.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

An attitude of gratitude

It's that time of year where we are supposed to declare all the things for which we are thankful. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I've been in a season where that hasn't come easily. I could say something like "I'm thankful for my tears because they remind me I'm human" or "moments of sadness make the happy ones that much sweeter," but I can't. It's not that there is anything wrong with such statements. In fact, I have found comfort in them before. It's just that this time, they fall short. I don't know why, but they do.

Then I read Courtney Martin's "The Sensory Astonishment of Gratitude" and a whole new way of seeing unfolded. I especially loved the following:

"[G]ratitude is not just about empty platitudes or forced dinner table exercises. It’s about marveling. It’s about witnessing people and telling them that you do. It’s about natural science and human anatomy. It requires, above all else, slowing down and noticing and letting yourself be astonished."

Those five sentences brought the spirit of thanksgiving back into my heart.

Marveling. So many things are marvelous, marvelous in the original sense, that of causing wonder. Tonight's spectacular blue-white moon. Airplanes. Interstates. More than a decade of successfully cooking Thanksgiving turkey with stuffing that tastes just like my mom's. That these seven people get to be together on this date, in this place. Mountains. Song.

Witnessing people. I'd like to think it's something I do pretty often, but I suspect that it's usually because they're on my radar for one reason for another. Rarely do I, out of the blue, do what I did today and say, "Hey, I'm thinking of you. Happy Thanksgiving." What if I made every day Thanksgiving for someone, just by letting them know they matter?

Science. I might not think scientifically by talent or by trade, but I can glory in the warmth of natural light on a late November day. Likewise, I appreciate the miracle that is my body. Yeah, it's been cut open and taken apart, pinned and stitched together, yet it works. It lets me feed my family, body and soul, and I don't just mean for this most American of feasts.

Finally, slowing down. If I had to identify one good thing about sadness, that would be it. I've lost my sense of urgency, and in exchange, found time for other things. I see a plane pass overhead and imagine the people on board. I don't just hear the song, I listen. Twice. I check in with my friends. I cook not until it's time to eat, but until it's done. In other words, I live.

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