Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It isn't overly commercialized, no presents - just a time to gather with family and friends, have a good meal, watch some football, and relax.

This year, though, I'm thinking a lot about what I'm thankful for. Really thinking about it, not just a passing nod before I tuck into a heaping plate of food.

It is far to easy to think about all the things I don't have, especially when my mind is absorbed with the loss of Coalie. Yesterday I entered the Anger phase of grieving. I was angry that some careless driver robbed us of our loving pet. Angry that it happened at all. I was playing an endless game of what-if: what-if we hadn't let him out that day? what-if that driver had left their house five minutes later? what-if he hadn't run into the road? It wasn't a pleasant state of mind, and it left me feeling empty and sadder than ever.

My kids are processing their grief by talking about him a lot, acknowledging what a loving addition he was to our family. They are thinking about his life more than his loss. I learn so much from my kids.

I am terrific at feeling sorry for myself. I can put so much energy into sadness, anger or resentment, and it doesn't get me anywhere. I do feel it is important to acknowledge emotions; I spent years stuffing bad feelings, putting them Someplace Else, and that doesn't work either. So what is the answer?


The funny thing about gratitude, at least for me, is that it is difficult to conjure it up out of thin air. Usually I experience gratitude after I have been through a bad patch, and I'm grateful that it is over. It isn't hard to be grateful for the absence of pain, fear or sadness. It takes more work for me to be grateful for an ordinary day. I forget that an ordinary day is a blessing.

It is the small moments that should carry the most meaning in the fabric of my life. The sound of my kids giggling in the next room. The way Finn sticks his tongue out when he's concentrating. Greta coming up with an idea for a book where the girl gets to save the day. The song the two of them made up together, when they thought I couldn't hear them. Greta's big toothless smile. The way Finn spins in place until he falls down laughing. The sound of them whispering to each other at night when they're supposed to be asleep.

I don't want to live in fear. I don't want to feel gratitude simply because something bad didn't occur. Coalie's gift to me is that he reminded me to see the simple beauty in life as it's happening.

I asked Greta this morning what she is grateful for. She gave me a puzzled look, so I said, "when you get up in the morning, what are you thankful for?"

She looked at me as though the answer was the most obvious thing in the world. "That I woke up," she said simply.

That's a good place to start.