Thankful after Thanksgiving

mt ranier 061It is easy to sit down on Thanksgiving Day and make a list of what I am thankful for – but I felt almost repulsed by that exercise this year. Besides, after 50 years of adulthood lists they begin to look very similar – except for the occasion year when all I could be thankful for was that the prior year was over. My one daughter is there right now after a difficult year for her and her family.

This year I feel a need to do something different than think about what I am thankful for. This year I feel a shift in my being – a shift from a pause to be thankful to a different way of being in each day. I think it has to do with the aging process. I no longer need to “make it” in the sense that I did when I was in my younger years, when I was thankful for events and accomplishments that made me more “adult.” I now live with a sense of peace that I accomplished what I needed to accomplish and can forgive myself for what I wasn’t able to do. I also know that I lived a good life, attributed in part to good decisions but also because that unpredictable, uncontrollable fickle finger of fate worked in my favor bringing opportunity and wonderful family and friends into my life along the way. Occasionally I have brief moments of sadness over paths that I could have taken “if only…,” until I remember the joys of the paths I chose. Sometimes I’m hit with grief over family and friends who have died, but also feel the joy of having had them in my circle of love.

That seems to be where my mind goes when I pause to be thankful – I think about the past. Then I start thinking about the future and how I want to live my life in my remaining years. Those thoughts seem to spring from some notion that I need to give back for all that I have received. I think about how I could use my mind and ability to write – to make a difference in our national politics. Maybe I could even write so powerfully as to convince a few people that wanting to ban semi-automatic weapons has absolutely nothing to do with wanting to take guns away from law abiding citizens who use them for hunting or the sport of target practice or who collect antique guns. (Oops, how did that editorial slip in??)

When I start thinking about all the things I could do I begin to feel dragged down. If I am honest with myself I know I am limited in the things I can do, and what I choose to do I need to plan well and be vigilant about energy and pain levels. I don’t feel like I have the energy to give as I would like – and that makes me sad. Really sad.

How can I be thankful when my life is limited and, because of my age and fibromyalgia, I know it is only down hill from here? Do we reach an age when we are no longer expected to give; when we can just take? When I taught about adulthood and aging, I discussed with students the theory of role reversal, the reversal of children taking care of aging parents. It was clear then – now that I feel it beginning to happen, not so much. Back then the emotional part was more theory than real. Now it is in-my-face real.

I still want to age gracefully, with joy and peace and love and laughter and stimulating activities. I thought I was doing a pretty good job. I had decided to take each day as it came – finding joy in doing chores and fun activities (like making quilts). Being thankful each day for what I could do without thinking about what I used to be able to do or want to do in the future. Today. Joy. Thankfulness. Wow.

Then we brought the Christmas tree upstairs, the pre-lit one that we cut all the lights off last year because half weren’t working. I had a plan. I would sting the lights securely so I could leave them on. I started stringing the bottom third with colored lights in the center (JB wanted colored) and white on the ends of the branches (my choice). I did a little and then would do something else that allowed me to sit and rest. Then I did a little more. I was able to make the strings of lights end so I could start new ones on the middle section. I worked on the tree Monday and Tuesday. Took lights off on Wednesday because they weren’t ending at the top of the middle section.. Decided on Thursday (with tears of frustration) that we wouldn’t have a tree this year, but instead I started putting lights back on. Friday I bought two more strings and put them on. Friday I took those off because I had bought LED and they didn’t look right with rest of tree. They also weren’t long enough so JB went out to buy two longer strings. The lights still weren’t going on right so Friday night I took most of the lights off. Saturday I put lights back on, with a new plan of taking them off after Christmas. JB’s worked with me on the top third that gave me the energy to finish with the light stringing.

It is beautiful. JB and I agree that it is the most beautiful tree we have had in many years. But it took me a week to put lights on the tree and it wasn’t a graceful process. I cried and cussed and was surly. I gave up several times, lost sleep over it, and felt very little joy during the process. Not the way I want to live – but it isn’t my normal way of living.

During this same week I designed and bought fabric for a darling quilt for my new two-year-old great-grandson. I am so excited about it, and thankful that Kaden is a part of my life and that I can bring joy to my grandson and his new wife. And what about the tree? Yes, I wasn’t at all graceful but I kept going back, I kept doing as much as I could, I persevered and changed my plan as needed, and I “got er done.”

Maybe I don’t need to always be graceful. Maybe I need to take on challenges and fight my way through even if it isn’t good for my body and spirit. If most of my life is lived with joy and thankfulness, I think I can forgive myself for those moments (or weeks) when I’m not feeling it so much.

Advertisements

34 Comments »

  1. Some of this I can only sympathize with, but I feel fairly certain that it’s okay not to be graceful sometimes. I hope so.
    Two remaining thoughts: Where are the photos of this lovely tree? Tony and I haven’t ever had a tree, because we’ve always had cats who chew Christmas lights. No one (I don’t think) thinks less of us for it.

    Like

    • I laughed at the chewed lights. We came home many times to see a cat sitting in the branches. There were a couple of years that I didn’t have the energy for a tree but the tree we have is so beautiful and I enjoy it so much that I will probably do it a few more years. Thanks for the comment, Heather.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m glad you could get a lovely tree up. One of these years we’ll get that chance. But for now, I’m not risking the cat’s life. He doesn’t understand what we’re shouting about, and I don’t really want him to learn the lesson the hard way!

        Like

    • This brought a gentle moistening of my eyes, Jan. Maybe I need to focus on the most important meaning of grace – forgiveness. Thanks, Jan, for knowing.

      Like

    • Thanks, Lp. This morning I am blessed with a beautiful sunrise shining through my reading room windows on my right, and a beautiful Christmas tree (sans ornaments) on my left. And a warm note from you before me – what more could I need. Oh, I forgot the hot cup of coffee on the side table made by my husband. 🙂

      Like

  2. Somewhere in the programming of our minds…someone placed the notion that we must be “perfect” and “everything must have a purpose”…hmm…as I’ve aged…I’ve grown to realize that “ain’t true”…our imperfections are what gives us character and making it through rough waters is the prize…not how long it took us….have a wonderful day and enjoy that tree. 🙂

    Like

    • I like how you have aged, Charlie. I laughed several times last week as I realized that I was stuck on perfection. But the goal must have been worth it because I wouldn’t let go. Maybe my goal should be aging with character, instead of gracefully. That purpose part trips me up. I think I need to do more writing on that. God keeps telling me that just being is enough – but I roll my eyes. Is that also character??? 😀

      Like

  3. Good Morning Pat,
    I woke up to a wet day, and as it is cool out, pain. I decided to accept the side effects and just take meds. I’ll have a slow day. I’ll also hold your essay close for the day, allow it to fill me up and brislow enjoyment and warmth. Lovely. A good way to open the day.

    Like

    • Thanks, Michael. Sorry about the pain – but I know how wet days mess with the body. It was hot and humid in Florida and I didn’t feel well while we were there. I know how hard it is to admit the need for relief trumps the medication side affects. Your words mean a lot to me and are a balm as I deal with a very stressful issue. Hurrah for cyber friends. 😀

      Like

  4. A thought-provoking essay on aging, Pat. (I have a grandson named “Caden” – saw your great grand is similar.) I’m thankful each day for all that I can still do. I have no regrets about getting older, except I’d hope to keep my independence as long as possible. Good for you with the lights. Even if we have to struggle sometimes, we’re still moving forward, and now you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor!

    Like

  5. It is difficult to manage the sense of loss that comes with aging and deteriorating health. It is hard to find joy and thankfulness when our body hurts, we are anxiously awaiting diagnoses or treatments, and everything seems more difficult than yesterday.
    All these personal struggles and crisis are very real. Struggling through and finding hope and gratitude for all the good things is not easy some days. But perseverance, as you demonstrated with the beautiful tree, is the route to a sense of wellbeing and fulfilment.

    I was feeling sorry for myself today – then remembered: I have a loving wife and family, some caring friends and neighbours, I have a comfortable home, a roof over my head, no war or fundamentalism to flee, a good healthcare system, access to safe food and water. And a faith community that feeds me and gives me hope.

    I pray for the strength and faith to persevere and for an enlightened perspective on reality. And courage.

    Yesterday I made someone (who needed it) laugh. It was a little thing. But a highlight of my day.

    Thank you, Pat, for sharing in this thoughtful post.

    Like

    • And thank you, Rod, for sharing your thoughtful comment. You have nailed it. Do you think our purpose in life as we age is to just appreciate what we have and to bring love and laughter to others? What I am yearning for now is a small faith group (only criterion for belonging is being over 65) to help each other discern how various Biblical passages can help know how to live with aging. I still need meaning in my old age, but sermons never seem to address that need.

      Like

      • I think one of our tasks as we age is to think about our life story and to see the points in it that show us meaning
        I think we can find ongoing meaning in being fully present to other people. By really paying them attention gives them a sense of value and self worth which comes back to us. By showing another that they matter means that we matter.
        Brotherly/sisterly love offered with humour is about as good as it gets.
        As a preacher, your comments about sermons is very helpful. Preachers rarely hear helpful comments. Tell your preachers how you need to hear the Good News on their sermons.
        I also think that group study is a wonderful activity. We are never too old to learn and discover.
        I hope you can find a satisfying study group

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful and as usual, very insightful. I will be 72 in a couple of months, though blessed with good health, I am starting to realize that I can’t swing the hammer like I used to. Maybe it is time to think about changing gears. Bull low is still an option. I think the trick is, knowing when to shift. The plan is still in place, it is the process that is the changer. Now I must learn to accept and embrace it. This may not be pretty!! Thanks, Pat.

    Like

    • Join the club, Dan. LOL and pretty shouldn’t be a criterion for judging us in our progress. We just need to “get ‘er done.” Liked your comment.

      Like

    • I generally get surly over whining – but am always up for a good pity party. LOL I went into a colleagues office and was complaining about some health issue and said I was having a big pity party. He said I deserved having the party, just don’t have it in his office. Hard to be drowned in self pity when laughing.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Pat, you mention bible reading and sermons. Yay. My lifeline in life. Without Christ I’d be a dead duck, metaphorically and spiritually. Check out Truth for Life by Alistair Begg: https://www.truthforlife.org/
    A preacher with a Scottish brogue. I want to be Miss Marple when I grow up. Always refined even while denouncing the villain. – Blessings to you this Christmas, Rita

    Like

  8. This is a wonderful post Pat! Honest, authentic, thoughtful, beautifully written…you DO give back through your writing — you contribute so much that way. And I, for one, think that there is an untapped resource of wise women over a certain age in my country and yours who care passionately about the future for our grandchildren (and issues like gun control and climate change). Imagine if every older woman who felt like you made their views known to the powers that be and refused to be silenced? What power could be harnessed. Canada just saw a huge change largely because women did not want to put up with heartless and dangerous policies anymore. And you are a natural leader in that regard through your ability to use words. Merry Christmas, Pat!

    Like

    • Wow, thanks Sherry. I am inspired by your comment and there seem to be way too many people crawling out from under rocks in the US that don’t seem to understand what characteristics go into the making of a good president – besides beliefs about policy. Thanks for your support.

      Like

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s