Opinion: Finding gratitude, even in these times

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Not sure about you, but it doesn’t really feel like Thanksgiving time to me right now. It’s usually my favorite holiday — full of gratitude, lots of comfort food, and beloved family rituals. But this year is different, and I need to pick my chin up off the floor and muster up the will to find the blessings around me.

Yes, I say “the will” because I’m fully aware that I am in choice of how I respond to what’s going on in the world, my family relationships, and especially, within myself. I see harm and trauma all around this planet on many levels, and that’s only the harm I can see, not to mention what I can’t.

In our own Colorado community, we can all see the rising human and economic costs of COVID-19 raging in our state right now, leaving many Coloradans with long-haulers’ health issues, losing loved ones, or losing their lives themselves. And now in my own family, it’s one of the most complicated times we’ve ever experienced with both celebrations and conflicts abounding.

I’m usually a cheerleader for the holidays and full of appreciation even amidst the endless commercialism or false narratives about the original Thanksgiving or Christmas. But now? Ugh. It’s hard to even think about getting a turkey or making my favorite pumpkin pie.

So, as these uncharacteristically depressing thoughts have crept in (and stayed), I’ve stopped. I mean, I have literally stopped today. I’ve had to stop everything I’m doing just for this afternoon; canceled my Zoom calls, put a hold on my work tasks, and phone calls. I realized I needed to re-engage with myself inwardly, reflecting and listening to that still, small voice within for some guidance.

Here’s what I got. It’s a blustery day with wind whipping through the trees and around my house. Even my cat couldn’t stay outside for more than a few minutes. But I’m safe with a roof over my head, food in the fridge, and enough money in my bank account to pay the bills this month. I’ve got family and friends who love me and who would show up for me in a heartbeat if I needed them.

And above all, I’m alive!! Yes, there’s conflict, illness and death spinning around me, but I’m alive. All of that is just stuff and actually, a part of life, right? I’m so darn lucky that I’m not in harm’s way. Sure, I have my own health and money issues sometimes, but I’m alive enough to feel the wind and sun on my face and my stomach full after eating my lunch. How can I be anything else but grateful?

I’m not saying I should pretend that everything is perfect and rosy. We all need to acknowledge our emotions no matter what they feel like. And sometimes, we just need to sit in the mess. But maybe those of us who are lucky enough to have homes, food, and community need to get a grip and get on the gratitude train so that we can get out of our collective funk and help others who are less fortunate.

As for me, I’m sitting in the mess (for a bit) and then finding that train.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

Former Colorado state senator, now with a master’s in Social Justice and Ethics from Iliff School of Theology, Linda Newell is a writer, instructor, facilitator, and conflict coach. Senlindanewell@gmail.com, www.lindanewell.org, www.senlindanewell.com, @sennewell on Twitter, Senator Linda Newell on Facebook.

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