I thought about this as I sat down to tell you about my Thanksgiving week. I could complain about the traffic, the exhaustion, the misunderstandings and hurt feelings or the general sense that I was never grounded.
But I don't want to higlight those things. I experienced them, but they didn't dominate my vacation. And I think that we as a society have a tendency to expect the good things to happen to us (and, therefore, we overlook them), as well as to feel overly burdened by the unfortunate ones (which all of us experience in one way or another). In other words, we feel we are entitled to good things and equally entitled to avoid the bad.
The problem is that life doesn't work like that. As Sugar recently pointed out, "Countless people have been devastated for reasons that cannot be explained or justified in spiritual terms." We all suffer heartache, difficulty and loss (obviously some more than others), and most of the time there's little we can do to prevent it. Life isn't fair. Likewise, we all experience joy, beauty and love, but my experience has been that we tend to take these things for granted.
I started this project because I recognized that I was the epitome of this trend: I expected the good things and wasn't grateful when I received or experienced them; and I treated my bad experiences as an affront to what I deserved and had come to expect. I wanted to learn to be grateful for even the most minor positive experiences and to find myself humbled by major difficulties rather than angry at the world for forcing me to endure them. I can't be sure whether it has had the effect I hoped it would have, but I also believe that it has done more for my outlook on things than I ever would have dreamed. I am now cognizant of my unfortunate tendency toward arrogance and entitlement.
With that said, I have a wonderful family, and I sincerely enjoyed Thanksgiving with them. Here are some things I found myself thankful for this holiday season:
#210: My family, who I love dearly and who support me unfailingly. Sure, we get on each other's nerves at times and are very different, but we laugh profusely and would do anything for each other. That much is clear.
#211: My friends, who stand by me through thick and thin willingly.
#212: Mr. Wonderful, who has taught me more about myself, loving and giving than any other person or event. Every day with him is a gift, and it really does "just get better all the time."
#213: My job, which I've already discussed in as much detail as I can but which I've never been thankful for until this year, having experienced unemployment.
#214: My faith community, which allows me to be myself but challenges me to my core as well. I constantly learn from others of different ages, backgrounds and theological/political persuasions, and I'm constantly reminded of the importance of service.
#215: My home, which I truly feel is my own. I love living there.
#216: The girls I teach each Tuesday evening. Yes, they try my patience, but they also force me out of my comfort zone and to reevaluate my tactics and beliefs as well.
#217: This project, which has stretched me and taught me so much about what's really important.
And here are some specific things I've been thankful for over the last 5-day period:
#218: Arriving to my final destination safely. It took almost 12 hours of driving by myself to get there (after working half-day), but I made it without incident. I don't want to take that for granted.
#219: My family being so happy to see me.
#220: The youngest member of our family saying "the darnedest things" constantly.
#221: A fantastic Thanksgiving meal.
#222: Absolutely gorgeous weather the entire trip.
#223: Having any opportunity to walk on the beach in late November. (Though I was bundled up to do it!)
#224: Getting the opportunity to play "Go Fish" with our youngest familiy member. Sure, by the end of the week I was tired of it. But the fact that I don't get to see him that often means I often would give everything I own just to play a stupid card game with him.
#225: Sharing a bedroom with my brother and sister-in-law without any of us getting on each other's nerves in the cramped space. :)
#226: Getting 75% of my Christmas shopping finished.
#227: Running into an old friend who has wronged me and not being either elated or disturbed. It was what it was, and I don't care to make it anything else. I was just fine being true to myself.
#228: Really enjoyable non-Thanksgiving meals, complete with chatter and laughter.
#229: Having Mr. Wonderful join my family for part of the day on Saturday. It was spectacular, and I was nothing short of in awe of it. But I was also myself. And I relaxed in those moments in a way that I never before have.
#230: Test driving cars with Mr. Wonderful on Saturday. We were just looking, but it was lots of fun.
#231: Installing Mr. Wonderful's home closet without a hitch, despite the fact that we had no power tools and it required manual labor.
#232: Watching Home Alone with Mr. Wonderful and his brother, brother-in-law and sister. So much fun and in the holiday spirit.
#233: Sitting on the same couch that I sat on with Mr. Wonderful's mother this time last year and feeling as though she was looking down on us and as though we were honoring her.
#234: Watching Mr. Wonderful decorate their family Christms tree, as he and his mother have done every year prior.
#235: Seeing the boxes of ornaments labeled, "To Mr. Wonderful and Mr. Wonderful's sister. Love, Mom." It's unclear when she put those boxes of family ornaments together, but it's clear that she did it as part of getting her affairs in order, and it was wonderful for Mr. Wonderful to realize -- that she had done what she could to take care of him.
#236: Going to sleep in the same house as Mr. Wonderful and his brother, brother-in-law and sister. It felt like home.
#237: Waking up to breakfast with them and feeling as though it was okay to just be myself. I did the same thing with Mr. Wonderful's mother last year.
#238: Getting to spend 11.5 hours in the car with Mr. Wonderful. We had a less-than-perfect 45 minutes thrown in there, but there is no such thing as perfect. Ten hours and forty-five minutes of enjoyment in a very confined space is something to rejoice over.
#239: Getting home safely, despite the fact that I drove almost 24 hours in 5 days. This, too, was a small miracle.
#240: This amazing Thanksgiving edition of Sugar (at The Rumpus), which includes 93 gut-wrenching reasons to be grateful as written by her readers.
And that is it for now.