Thursday, November 26, 2009

Food for Thought


I was wide awake at four am this morning, worried about, among other things, whether or not my turkey was defrosting properly. Sleep seemed elusive and my thoughts slowly wound their way through the food preparations I would need to orchestrate with the talents of a symphony conductor to ensure dinner is both fully cooked and on time, a feat in my small kitchen. As my futile attempts to shut down my brain for a few more hours of much needed rest continued to fail, I started to think about the Thanksgiving holiday itself, how it all started and what it represents to me. And somewhere in there, I finally fell asleep.

According to my very cursory internet research this morning and what I remember from elementary school, besides the fact that you can make a paper turkey by tracing your hand, the first Thanksgiving occurred in 1621, a product of the newly settled Pilgrims and the Native Americans working together over the year to evade sickness and ensure a bountiful harvest. The gist I get from all this, is that the real point of Thanksgiving is to celebrate and remember three important things: that sometimes you need a little help from an outside source - call it whatever you like - Mother Nature, Acts of God or just sheer dumb luck, that through our own hard work and perseverance we can accomplish and experience great things and that as much as we can do on our own, we can do so much more when we work together.

I've seen a small share of "miracles," for lack of a better word over the past year, worthy of receiving thanks. Some are big - like the unprecedented recovery of an extended family member we were all certain was staring down the face of death, and some are so small, I might have failed to notice them if I wasn't actively thinking about them, like the serendipity moment I had last week which gave me a chance to spend time with an old friend. Call these things what you will - kismet, fate, God, even magic, it's all good with me. It's not about what religion you believe in or if you believe in one at all. It's just about believing in the fact that sometimes, when you need it, this world will help you out in little and unexplained ways. Who needs to explain it anyway, that's the good kind of mystery, and I for one, am thankful for it, because it keeps me hopeful, that even when I am at a loss, things can still take a turn for the better.

Life is hard. I think we've all got that by now. So take a moment to give yourself a little thanks for all the things that you've accomplished on your own this year and for the things that you like about you. It's not narcissistic, especially not today, to give yourself a little pat on the back. I'm proud that I've started writing this blog, even though I know it needs some work and I should write more often. But it was a big step to put my own thoughts out in the public forum and I'm happy I finally found the courage to do it. And while I haven't completed triathlons this year like I have the past, I've worked hard to stay healthy and athletic, no small feat in a busy world full of tasty treats and easy distractions. I've worked hard on my creative endeavors, I've helped my friends when I can, and I've loved those close to me - all things that are both challenging and rewarding and worthy of being proud of and giving thanks for. Now go on, it's your turn. Thank yourself for your accomplishments this year, even the little ones. Sometimes those are the ones that matter most.

And after you're done with a little well-deserved self-gratitude, turn and hug the person next to you, or the next one you see if you're alone when you read this, and by all means, your loved ones and friends when you join them later for turkey and all the trimmings. Because despite all you do on your own, you couldn't have done it nearly as well without the help of the people around you. The friends and family and special people who love and support you and make it easier to get through the day. You live your life fuller and richer because you share it with them. The colleagues you work with, not all the ones you work with, but the ones you really mesh with, your teammates. You do your job better because you do it together. And you might want to send up a little thank you to even the folks you don't know, or don't know well, who surprise and help you in little ways, seen and unseen, throughout the year. They make a difference, for sure, and as is often the case, strangers can turn into friends.

In the end, we're not all that different from those first Thanksgivingers long long ago, save for a much better wardrobe and a less smelly mode of transportation. So as you stuff your face with turkey and mashed potatoes, which is reminding me that I need to stop writing and start cooking, remember what it's really all about. Enjoy the magic life brings, tell someone you love that they made your life better this year by being in it and then go look in a mirror and say it again. And THEN go eat some turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving to all MY friends, family, loved ones and those of you that I don't know but who have helped me get through the year.

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