As I approach the big 5-0 in less than six months and reflect upon my life’s journey, I find that I am more thankful than ever before. One of the most valuable lessons I have learned (and still learning) is not taking people or things for granted.
This point has been driven home in my heart more than ever by the death of my mom, not quite a year ago. With her passing came the distinct awareness that my life would never be the same again. Of course, becoming an empty-nester within this same year also has prompted me to appreciate relationships in ways I never did before. I am adjusting to my “new normal” which is simultaneously terrifying and thrilling.
For many years, it seemed that nothing ever changed; that everything would always be the same. Day after day passed with a type of ho-hum boredom to it, just chugging along: get up, get dressed, school, work, home, dinner, undress, bathe, bed. Of course, there was church and school-related extracurricular activities, birthdays, holidays and special occasions, etc.
Then suddenly, EVERYTHING changed. So much so that I felt like I was waking up from a dream. I didn’t recognize myself, my surroundings or the people in my life anymore. At this stage in the process, I decided to be thankful instead of freaked out. I learned a couple of decades ago that I can choose joy over despair. So like my friend, Nancy McNamara, when I’m asked how I’m doing, I answer simply, “I’m thankful.”
After the many dark circumstances I have survived, I am thankful to still be alive. Everyday now I look for the goodness of God. If the pain is too overwhelming or the exhaustion so blinding that I cannot see, I have a list that I started several years ago that I refer to as a reminder of how truly blessed I am. Even in the midst of heartache and hardships and a crazy world, I still have so much to be thankful for every single day. It’s not denial or phony optimism.
Thankfulness keeps hope alive.
I am not perfect at it by any means, but it’s worth the effort. I’m not talking about denial, pretension, Polly-Anna naivete, Utopian escapism, optimism or burying my head in the sand. I’m deliberate in my decision not to be swallowed whole by depression and sorrow – been there, done that already. No, thanks. So, I acknowledge my emotions (feel my feelings) then I look up and look for the goodness of God for I know it’s always there. If I seek it out, I will find it.
So I write, draw and paint. I am learning more and more how to use my unique voice to share my view of the world, my heart and to advocate for those whose plight I can relate. I share what I am thankful for. I love who’s left of my family and enjoy friends who are gifts of God to me. I am thankful for each one.
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