Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Attitude of gratitude. Wednesday, November 24, 2010.

“Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.” –Edward Sandford Martin

Tomorrow we Americans will celebrate our holiday, Thanksgiving, when we honor that which we believe in (God, the Universe or whatever) and express our appreciation for our families, homes and lives.

It’s part of American lore that the holiday’s origin was in 1600s Plymouth, Massachusetts, when the Pilgrims and their Native American friends shared friendly a meal together. Whether or not that’s true, my extended family – along with millions of Americans nationwide – will be gathering for the traditional turkey dinner and football game.

I can’t pretend it’s not true: this year’s Thanksgiving will be a bittersweet one, with so many Americans tumbling into poverty – many for the first time in their lives – over the past two years.

As I write this, our nation’s official unemployment rate stands stubbornly at 9.6 percent (even though economists say the Recession ended last summer). But the “real” unemployment rate (taking into account people whose unemployment benefits have run out, and those who are working part-time and unable to make ends meet) has been estimated to be as high as 23 percent – as high as it was during the Great Depression.

Today, more than two million homes in the United States are in the foreclosure process. And because health insurance is usually tied to one’s job in America, millions are unable to get the health care they need. But perhaps the worst news is that there is really no end in sight; economists say that it may take 8 to 10 years before things improve, and that’s assuming things go very well.

So, you may ask, what the hell is there to be thankful for this Thanksgiving?

I do fear for the future of my family and my country. It’s easy to tick off all the things that are bad today, and that may be bad in the future.

But my husband once taught me a technique for feeling gratitude when you don’t think you have much to be grateful for. It goes like this: you take a breath, grab on to a tiny detail of your life in that moment, and thank (God, the Universe or whatever). With the next breath, you grab on to another tiny detail.

For example, as I’m writing this right now, I can say “Thank you, God, for this chair.” “Thank you, God, for the lights.” “Thank you, God, for the keyboard.” “Thank you, God, for my fingers to type on the keyboard.” “Thank you, God, for my eyes to see the screen.” “Thank you, God, for this can of Coca-Cola.” “Thank you, God, for the socks on my feet.” And so on. You get the idea.

By doing that, you put yourself into a different frame of mind. Before long, you start seeing the Divine in the details, no matter what your current situation.

Speaking for myself, I’m very fortunate. Today, I have a job. (A year ago, I feared I would not be able to say that. I don’t know if I’ll still have a job a year from now, but at this moment my company is still in business. I’m thankful for that.) I’m thankful that today, we have our home. I’m thankful that today, I have health insurance. I’m taking a Polaroid snapshot of this moment in time, thankful for my life today, this moment.
This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for my husband, my son and my mom, even though it’s been a tough couple of years. I’m thankful for my doctor and my therapist, and for the medications that have helped decrease my anxiety and depression.

And I’m deeply appreciative for all the members of my Suicide Attempt Survivors group on Facebook, so many of whom have written me such encouraging messages over the past several months. Since so few of my “IRL” people know my story, it means the world to me that so many of you have reached out to support me in my journey to wellness. You truly give me something to be thankful for.

I hope that whatever your situation, you can find something to be grateful for this holiday. May God bless you all.



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