Sometimes it’s not easy to recognize the things in life that deserve gratitude. When life is smooth sailing, everything can become so repetitive, so routine, that you almost operate on autopilot. You come to expect things will be a certain way and forget that nothing is actually promised or guaranteed. The bottom can fall out at any time. Most of us have experienced or seen that happen to someone, and it doesn’t always make sense why. It doesn’t have to I guess.

On the flip side, when you’re going through a particularly tough time, it’s unsurprisingly hard to find reasons to be appreciative. Most people have endured a “When it rains it pours” time in their life, and usually during the rain, it feels like some kind of cosmic punishment. It’s not exactly easy to take a few minutes of stillness and consider the things and people you’re grateful for when life is kicking your proverbial ass. And yet there are always things, always people, rare moments or a single act of kindness that if you think long enough, will start to emerge. If nothing pops up, keep thinking. It will come.

I wouldn’t count this year as one of my easier ones or best in health. There’s been a lot of learning and experiences that I wouldn’t write on my “List of Pleasantries” if I had a “List of Pleasantries.” There has been pain and heartache and a lot of feeling lost. But I know that even among all that, when I take even a minute, once a day, and write down the things I’m thankful for, I am less likely to get pulled in or lost in my ‘story’. I have to continually remind myself of the good things in my life and the people I am lucky enough to love and be loved by. Some days it’s easier to remember than others.

It’s not a denial of pain, which requires its own outlet. It’s just a deeper look beyond the surface of larger things at work. It’s seeing things and people in the spaces, the gaps, the small pocket of happiness you might have missed before. My more challenging experiences this year have actually illuminated the ways I’m fortunate and I have felt more gratitude now than at any other time of my life. It’s almost counterintuitive, I wouldn’t have expected that. But pain can do all kinds of things, it’s a shame it has to hurt so much. Jeesh.

Expressing gratitude has surprised me in how it shapes my outlook when I keep it in mind. I’m always trying to at least identify one thing to be thankful for. Even if its “I’m grateful this crappy day is over,” it’s still acknowledging something that encourages growth, momentum, that phrase I’m always repeating in my head: Keep going. Keep going. 

I don’t write this as though these things are easy. It doesn’t take much for me to slip down the rabbit hole of feeling bitter about where I am in my life, about being the age I am and still requiring help, at not getting the life back that I had before. I miss my friends. I miss wearing real clothes. And I become afraid at what my future will be.

Every year that goes by I become more scared that I’ll never be an actual adult. I’ll be in a permanent state of need. I’ll be 80 and my 120 year old mother will be feeding me cream of wheat and we’ll fight over which show to watch.  But I don’t like the idea of anger or bitterness being the last things I think of before I fall asleep or when I wake up. So I work hard to see past the outer experience and at what it might be allowing to happen underneath. Being bitter about needing help from your parents can just as easily be gratitude for having parents that are willing to help you. It’s all about perspective, and taking the time to see and acknowledge things on the other side, and there’s always another side.

I think sometimes my mind tries to process my whole existence at once, which is mentally overwhelming. Duh.

It’s OK to acknowledge when things suck, and being sick all the time sucks, we can say it. But it’s really only when I jump into a future I can’t know, when I try to gain control over something that isn’t possible that I get into trouble. Sometimes I find myself stressing about things that may not even happen, or things 20 years down the line. What? I don’t even know what I’m doing in an hour! Here in the present moment, there is space for things like gratitude to exist. When you’re panicking, there’s hardly room to breathe, let alone be thankful that there are montages of people falling on youtube and it made you laugh till you cried.

If I my mind gets too carried away, goes too far down the rabbit hole, I give it a slap on the wrist, a mental spanking. And I tell myself to look. It’s not hard to see that I have the things that matter. If I can just stay present, take things one at a time, which oddly enough is sort of required when you’re sick, I can stay awake. I can still see the things I missed before and treasure simple times. There will be chaos and wreckage and things will fall apart, but it seems like the vital things are always somewhere in the quiet aftermath when you take time for stillness and look. The things that matter are there. I guess they never left in the first place.

My favorite author, Haruki Murikami wrote something pretty incredible that I play over in my mind a lot:
                                              Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

A pretty simple and beautiful way of considering life, yeah? I think so too. I’m working on not suffering on top of pain. And I have a small but incredible circle of people in my life who help me see what needs seeing or remember what I’ve forgotten in a moment of madness. I am grateful for so much, even when things are hard. It helps to remember.

Health, Happiness, Spank You

9 thoughts on “Spanksgiving

  1. I also write down things that I am thankful for each day. Usually it’s composed of little things, because I can’t do many “big” things, but life is made up of the little things, right?

    I like the Haruki Murikami quote. Viktor Frankl also has some great quotes about suffering.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So very true :) I have a notebook next to the bed where I write down positive things and things I have achieved during each day before I go to sleep. And I have learned that it is totally ok to celebrate the little things that people take for granted (or even complain about!), like emptying the dishwasher and folding the washing :) Like you I am definitely not a ray of sunshine all the time, but I have succeeded in writing down at least a few things every day this year, and that’s an accomplishment in itself!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really need to get my eyes checked….I thought you wrote, “Happy Spanxgiving” and I thought you were going to say how you over ate, etc! Maybe it was just a “Freudian slip” cause I have been eating leftovers everyday since Thursday!
    My mantra to not stress over the future (and that future is looking pretty awful) is to say to myself, “Today I can move without help, my bodily functions are all functioning, I have food, I have heat (I live in northern MN so that is important!), I have water, I have a safe and comfortable place to sleep and my loved ones are all well. I am blessed.”
    I know if I allow my thoughts to runaway to the unknown future, I will only make myself sick. As a woman of faith, I KNOW that my life and my future are in hands greater than mine and I try to rest in that knowledge.
    No one has a life without struggles and sorrows, no matter how rich or famous they are. Or how healthy they are.
    You have already accomplished what I feel is what life is all about…..making a difference in the life/lives of others. And you continue doing that eventhough you are sicker than some of us or less mobile, etc. That is a huge success, in my book. Just look what Amy Carmichael and Lauren Hillenbrand accomplished from their beds…..Joni Eareckson Tada from her wheelchair…..don’t fall into the pit of despair by comparing your circumstances to your friend’s. I believe we each are given a purpose for our life and we can’t let our circumstances derail us from that.
    You, my beautiful young friend, have a gift for words. Use that gift no matter what is thrown at you healthwise because your words make a difference in my life and in the lives of others. YOUR WORDS…not someone else’s.
    Words are forever….everything else either dies or rots away.
    Much love from the old lady from MN

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi old lady from the north!
      Thank you for reading and leaving such kind feedback. It’s funny what you said because it’s very relevant to this wall I’ve been trying to break down for a few years now, which came to a head last night. I’ve become more and more obsessive about the writing for the last two years. I write every day, but before I put anything out there I constantly edit and re-write and end up scrapping the whole thing. I have no ability to gauge my work and it’s turned into a very obsessive pattern that very recently I’m working hard to break. My mom and aunt and sister made me promise to not to read it after. Just hit the button and walk away. My mom kept reinforcing to trust the work. So I did. And while I would like to edit the crap out of this post, I’m glad I didn’t, because it wouldn’t have made it to where it belongs. And then there would be a lot of work done without payoff, which is always the ability to reach perfect strangers, make a connection, remind people that we’re not actually alone. So just know that I’m grateful for YOU today and taking the time to write and encourage a “stranger”. It makes a difference. Stay warm and wise and know that hearing from you is on my ‘thank ya very much’ list tonight.
      Thank you, be well

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s nice to have mail from Mary and Monty. Keep writing sweet lady. So many of us out here need to hear your words even if it’s a crappy day and you had a crash. We like to keep tabs on you too because you are LOVED! HAPPY WRITING.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh Mary…. fabulous words! You have so much wisdom to give us! We all need you to help us stay in the present moment and be grateful. Please never stop writing since I look forward to every message you send. It makes my day to have a message in my in box!! Woo hoo. Mail from Mary, it will be a great day now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amy, you’re the best. You and Amelie have been such cheerleaders since day one. I appreciate your encouragement so much. Thank you for being who you are and helping us in all the ways you do. I almost didn’t post but since you, my mom AND Amelie made me promise to do it, it was a good incentive. So thank you. Come back soon! Love y’all

      Liked by 1 person

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