It’s inevitable that Thanksgiving week in the U.S. brings a slew of articles on the importance of being thankful. This year was no exception. In the Washington Post, I read “Saying grace: How a moment of thanks, religious or not, adds meaning to our meals,” by Emily Heil. The New York Times offered “Five ways to exercise your thankfulness muscles,” by Tish Harrison Warren. I recommend both.
As Warren suggests, I keep gratitude lists. For the past three years, more or less, I’ve aimed to journal my gratitude every day. My record of accomplishing this is far from perfect, but I do this writing often enough to consider it a habit. I always have things to be grateful for, from small personal blessings to major world events. I also keep a master list of blessings, and refer to it when my resilience needs strengthening or my mood wants lifting. What’s on it?
- My life, for life itself is a gift
- Planet earth and its beauties
- The sun, moon, and stars that give me light and warmth and inspiration
- The wind that reminds me of the power of nature, and the rain that nourishes the crops that become our food
- The beautiful view from my deck, often featured in my photos posted here
- The birds, squirrels, and other animals that come to my feeders or wander through my yard and give me a closer look at the wild ones who share our world
- Good health
- Sufficient food, clothing, and shelter (and may I be mindful of those who are not so fortunate)
- My successful career and my equally successful retirement
- Life with my late husband, Don, aka Mr. Wren
- My cats, Cagney and Lacey, and their purrs, and all my cats over the years
- My friends and family, mentors and teachers
- My communities and circles of connection
- All the people who do work for me, regularly or occasionally, that I cannot or chose not to do for myself
- My volunteer gigs at the Humane Society of Huron Valley and the Creature Conservancy
- Good books to read and good music to hear
- And all the specific good things that happen, day to day
Also for the past few years, I’ve made a conscious effort to express direct, intentional thanks for the kindnesses or assistance other people have extended to me, sometimes verbally, sometimes in writing. I’ve also – as blogged here – begun to tap into my creative side more, and that, too, is a way of giving thanks.
I have less success with the practice of grace before meals. As Heil points out, it can be one sentence. It can be silent. It just needs to be a conscious pause for gratitude before starting to eat.
I have no idea why I find it so hard to remember to do this. I grew up in a family that said grace before every meal and yet in the moment I inevitably forget my intention. I tried putting a reminder in my to-do list, and found I can forget in the time it takes to walk from the kitchen to the table – which in my small abode is a very short period of time.
Nevertheless, I persist, thankfully.