On Facebook and Instagram and even on Twitter, people are giving thanks and sharing their gratitude for supremely wonderful lives. Autumn sort of does that to people with its show-offy color–Gingko leaves like flecks of gold leaf under the bare trees while the perfect red and orange and yellow stars of the Sweet Gum create reverse shadows on the wet sidewalks. And then there’s Thanksgiving with all that gratitude built right into the word.
I sound a little snippy don’t I. Sometimes I’m a wee-bit jaded. I roll my eyes at pictures of Gratitude Jars (even though I have one) and gratitude worksheets and lists and pictures. Not because they’re bad, but because sometimes I’m all shriveled up inside like the Grinch, I guess.
Don’t get me wrong–in all honesty, I think it’s a good idea to take a time-out from the constant hustling of 21st century life, to breathe in nice and slowly, get quiet and take stock, to ask the question, “What am I thankful for?”
If we don’t, then how do we know?
Oh sure, some people are just good at gratitude. Born with a grateful-o-meter built in. Often, these folks are highly annoying when you first get to know them. After all, you want to bitch about the tasteless cookies, the long line at the store, the neighbor who hoards unicycles, lawn chairs, and tires in her falling down carport; after all, that’s a lot more fun.
That is until Ms. (or Mr.) Gratitude gets her grateful tentacles under your skin. You realize that she isn’t all Pollyanna Sunshine. That he’s not blowing magic smoke up your ass. And they’re thankful anyway.
You know who I’m talking about–the assholes who make you want to be a better person. I think Brené Brown refers to these folks as wholehearted people. I’m not talking about the sunny-side-up optimists, or the prosperity gospel converts who believe their financial well-being is a manifestation of God’s will and their adherence to positivity and right donations. Nor am I talking about the Secret people who’ll tell you if you believe in abundance, the universe will reward you with abundance. That really is annoying.
(No offense to the Secret people or to the prosperity gospel folks who are, I’m certain, as nice as everyone else. I just worry that your philosophies of abundance are really great for the person doing well. But for the man just diagnosed with cancer or the single mom working two jobs, the belief that your attitude or faith will keep you safe and attract abundance can be a real downer.)
I’m talking about the hope-filled. Those folks who do the right thing not to gain extra points with the entity that doles out reward, but because it’s good. I’m talking about the weirdos who see life as it truly is, all messy and muddy, bright and beautiful at the same time. Not because they haven’t seen hard times, but because hard times are part of the deal. And they accept life on life’s terms.
You know who you are!
And in honor of you, the magnificently and unabashedly thankful, I am going to tell my own gratitude/thankfulness story.
Every night, I stand before the mirror in my bathroom and wash my face. I have never figured out how not to get my sleeves wet when I do this, and this is aggravating, but for the most part, washing my face is just another activity I’ve been engaging in nightly for about 38 years (before then I was heavily invested in not washing my face).
However, the other night I noticed an especially soft and supple patch of skin just below my left eye–my favorite eye because it doesn’t droop a bit like old righty. I ran my soapy finger over the smoothness while wondering–why is this skin so honey-caramel-colored and soft? Where did this beautiful skin come from because it sure as shit does not match the rest of my face?
Then I remembered the gruesome injury I incurred when I drunkenly face-planted in my sister’s back yard the night before my daughter was scheduled to take her SAT. I resurfaced my cheek when I tripped, twirled, and arms swinging, slid face-long across the non-skid surface that surrounds my sister’s back yard pool. Micro-dermabrasion via too much red wine and concrete.
Oh, woe was me. My niece, Evie, reminded me, just last night, that the first thing I said was, “I’m hideous.” She’s kind of right. I’m sure it’s the first thing I said when I looked in the mirror my sister-in-law kindly offered. The first thing I really said to my brother-in-law who saw the entire beautiful ballet was, “I’m not getting up.”
My face, for a couple of weeks, was a weepy, scabby, bruised mess. You couldn’t look at me without gasping. I was embarrassed. I felt guilty because Audrey had a big test the next day and no kid likes it when her mother comes home all banged up reeking of wine (even if I was just at my sister’s house). And you know, it’s a small town.
But . . .
no one looked all judgey when I told the story. And more than a few people, shook their heads knowingly and told me a similar story of embarrassment and guilt. Everywhere I went, people were nice. Falling down and scraping the hell out of my face taught me something–falling down doesn’t have to be embarrassing. It’s just human. I’m human.
It was a big lesson, and one I keep learning although thankfully I haven’t fallen on my face in the past couple of years–at least not physically. And the new skin, the soft, smooth, beautiful scar that’s appeared over time; well, that’s a real benefit.
Every time I look in the mirror, that little patch of face reminds me to be thankful for life and its micro-dermabrative properties–a little scuffing up can be a good thing.
So thank you to my grateful friends who courageously remind us eye rollers that gratitude isn’t for sissies, it’s for the brave.