Lessons in Gratitude Day 991

I wish every one had a family whom they love and who loves them. I wish everyone loved their children, cared for them and were proud of them. I think the world would be a much different place if this were more true than not. I write a lot about family, in part because I am blessed to have had such a good one. I don’t want to be misleading: we are far from perfect. We have had struggles with each other, have hurt one another, sometimes deeply. But I have been truly learning the process of letting go, forgiving, and leaving what’s in the past in the past. Like most processes, it takes time. And where my relationship with family is concerned, it is wort the effort.

Today I’m grateful for and proud of who my children are becoming. They have always been wondrous beings, from a spiritual perspective, but we humans very often do not operate from a spiritual perspective, and so there were definitely times as they were growing up when I considered them handful and anything but little angels. I have little doubt this is how my parents viewed the six of their children–me and my siblings. I have watched each of my children navigate and negotiate the various difficulties and vicissitudes of life. They are considered “grown” in the legal sense, and mostly they are quite grown up in their demeanor and behavior. Though as is the case with most young adults still in their 20s, sometimes they can be as child-like and goofy as teenagers, which is, as is said, totally “age appropriate.”

What I am particularly proud of and grateful for is how they’re showing up in the world these days. Both of them have lately taken to the “air waves” in the form of social media to offer commentary on what is happening in the world. An there is plenty to talk about. I recently followed a thread of several “conversations” my son was having with fellow social-media “friends.” It made me smile to see how clearly and reasonably he fashioned his argument and articulated his various points. Writing clearly and critically about racism and violence in the wake of several high profile national incidents is challenging. I was pleased as I read his comments to see that he remained above the fray of acrimonious emotions, and while he wrote with passion, he was able to articulate his position without descending into pointless debate and anger. Much of what he expressed was done remarkably well and I was proud.

My daughter similarly has done a great deal of writing lately (including this blog yesterday.) They too have written with great passion and yet with wisdom and clarity beyond their years and continue to offer alternative ways of viewing the world. It makes me smile, it makes me proud and grateful for the two wonderful beings I have helped raise. I cannot take full credit for their development, though I clearly had a hand in it. I look forward to seeing what other gifts they will share with the world.

I am grateful as always for family. For those whose families of origin were not accepting, loving, and kind, I pray that families of choice provide support and connection each of us human beings crave. And may all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. May we know and experience true happiness and peace and enjoy the fruits thereof. May it be so for us all!

Posted in Children, Family, Gratitude, Writing | Leave a comment

Lessons in Gratitude Day 990

Tonight’s blog is a guest post from my youngest, Michal “MJ” Jones.

It has been a trying few weeks for many reasons, and I feel the weight of it in my bones and spirit. A short two weeks ago, I was on my way to St. Louis for my annual visit to my father’s house for the holiday. That Monday, the long-awaited decision on whether to indict officer Darren Wilson in the killing of unarmed Black teenager Mike Brown, was to be announced. As I arrived in the airport just a few minutes prior, I could feel the tension entering the cells of my body. My father and I sat in silence as we drove home, listening intently to the radio.

“…no probable cause exists…” was all I needed to hear before I felt my heart sink, tears brimming at the corners of my eyes, jaw tensing. I felt my father’s calm, sighing eyes on me. He was used to it, expecting it. We drove up to the house to find my six-year-old brother standing in the window, waving enthusiastically as we approached and running toward the front door. I smiled sadly and held back tears, knowing in my bones that his small brown body is not protected nor valued in this country.

And still we rise.

As I fell into non-restful sleep, violent images of lynching and gunshots and the horrors my people have faced for centuries haunted my dreams. I woke feeling a hollowness in my chest that I knew to be collective pain; ancestral pain. Still, I rose to spend a quiet holiday with my family, knowing that they are all diamonds in my heart, even if their lives mean nothing to countless others.

It takes a great strength to push back against the messages recent events send to young people of color: “You are not enough.” I am grateful for the resilience in my spirit, and in the spirits of those around me. Yesterday, I forced myself up and out of the door to attend a Black-organized, Black only peaceful protest occupying the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland, which is predominantly white and upper-middle class. We peacefully “took over” a number of local businesses, reading off dozens of names of Black people whose lives had been claimed by police brutality:

“Tamir Rice, 12 years old,” shouts out one of the organizers.

“Ashe,” responds the group. Amen, or, so be it.

“Michael Brown, 18 years old,” shouts another organizer.

“Ashe,” responds the group.

Yesterday’s action provided a much-needed release for me and countless others; a space for healing with and for each other and to put to action all that we have been holding in. There were no broken windows, fires, or other non-peaceful acts for the media to distort; there were chants, marches, and strong voices decrying the injustice and violence.

As we moved along, I was comforted to see the amount of support from onlookers, who clapped their hands, joined in on songs or chants, or beeped their car horns and raised a fist in solidarity. Although this work will never be done and the road to freedom is long, I have to believe that people are starting to wake up. What courage, strength, and resilience it takes even to get up in the morning – let alone to continually push against the forces that constantly seek to annihilate us.

And still we rise.

I am in deep gratitude for the organizers of the action, who created and maintained a space for Black voices to speak out and support one another. I am grateful for the sacrifices that my ancestors, grandparents, and parents have made to create a safer and better life for myself and my siblings. I am grateful for the strength Black people have to rise again, and again, and again, and again in the face of the violence and oppression against our bodies and spirits.

I am still learning what my place is in this movement to end injustice and oppression – for a long time, I was convinced that my shy and soft-spoken nature meant that I did not have one. I do always know how I will show up, only that, as the chant goes, it is my duty:

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom,

It is our duty to WIN,

It is our duty to fight for our freedom,

We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

Ashe, may it be so.

Posted in Ancestors/Family History, Grief, Perseverance, Resilience, Serving Others | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Lessons in Gratitude Day 989–On Restoration

Tonight I am grateful to be back on this site and for restoration of lost things. A few days ago I was unable to access my blog site. When I clicked on the link as I do each night to write this blog, I received an error message that it was unavailable. “HELP!” I emailed to my webmaster, and old friend of mine who has managed my site for many years now. She had set up the site and embedded the blog site in it, though the blog site was hosted elsewhere. She wrote me back the next day indicating that the problem was beyond her ability to solve and that she’d write to the website hosting company to see what they could do. So for a couple of days I was in limbo. In the midst of waiting I realized that nowhere had I ever backed up these writings, except for the first 200 posts. If the hosting company was unable to restore the site and my access to the files I would have lost nearly 800 days or two years of musings and ruminations, insights and revelations, random thoughts and deep introspection on all things gratitude. And while I pretended to be calm and casual about it, I can tell you for certain that I was anything but, earnestly praying that what seemed irretrievable was in fact still available “out there.” In these days of “cloud” technology, I remained hopeful that my little essays were among the quintillions (and quintillions) of bytes of information floating around in the cloud and that it would be restored to me. To my immense relief and gratitude, it has been. Thank God.

I have begun the arduous task of copying these posts into a word processing document. Once upon a time my son who knows a lot more about such things than I do suggested that I should write my blog in the word processing document and then upload (or cut and paste it) into the blogsite. And, while I believe this to be excellent advice, have very rarely taken it. Alas, even as I sit here I am writing directly into the blogsite trusting that everything is going to be just fine.  God protects babes and fools, I remind myself, wondering how often I’ve been both. Nevertheless, I am exceedingly grateful to once again have access to my words. They represent in so many ways a chronicle of my journey through a very rough period in my life. These gratitude posts were a lifeline, a way of staying grounded in the reality that no matter how bad things felt or seemed, I remained surrounded by blessings too many to count. I can now reread and rediscover just how blessed I was and how much I learned during those challenging days. Some of that awareness is only visible in hindsight.

Every once in a while something that has been lost or long-misplaced suddenly pops back into existence. It is often such a wonderful surprise when something that had been missing reappears. Several weeks ago I mentioned in a blog post that I had lost two medals that I wear nearly every day. I had been out raking leaves and when I came inside to change my clothes I discovered the broken chain with the medals having come off of it. I thought perhaps they had fallen into the leaves never to be seen again, unless through some miracle the sun glinted off of them. The one, a tiny alpha and omega symbol, measured only about half inch by half inch. The likelihood of finding that in the leaves was slim at best. I approached this somewhat calmly, which was surprising. In the past when I’ve lost something of deep sentimental value (which these medals had) I would burst into tears. Even as I contemplated the possibility of never seeing these sentimental favorites again, I remained quiet if a little sad. A short time later, as I stripped down to take a shower, both medals fell to the floor of my bedroom. Again, a quiet reaction of pleased gratitude that what had been lost was now back safely in my possession.

“Nothing is lost in Spirit,” a friend of mine used to say whenever she lost something. As much as I’d liked to believe it, and often repeated it as I wandered my dwelling looking for some item I had misplaced, most of the time I didn’t find what I was looking for, not right away and in some cases not ever. Yet, I find the idea that nothing is lost in spirit oddly comforting. My medals were lost in my clothing or in folds of skin. My blog posts were lost in the cloud. Now I can only hope that my spare car key that has been missing for some months now manages to turn up.

I am grateful for the lost things that have been restored to me over the years, but particularly these blog posts. I shudder to consider the depth of loss I would have felt had they truly been lost forever. I could try to be philosophical about it, and would obviously keep on living and would continue writing, but the recovery would have been challenging. I am thankful to not have to go through that. As I approach my 1,000th posting I really would like to begin compiling them all and seeing what order I can make of them. If I can come up with a way of organizing them I am going to turn them into a book to help others “navigate life’s challenges with a grateful heart.” It’s why I’m here, at least in part: to help people learn to focus on their blessings, even when life is a struggle. May it continue to be so.

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Lessons in Gratitude Day 988

Posted on December 4, 2014by

Today I wore all black clothing to work. From my slacks, turtleneck, blazer, and cowboy boots (not to mention my coat and hat) to all of my inner clothing–underwear and socks–down to my earrings and wristwatch, I wore black. The only spots of color were in a tiny band of shiny stones in my otherwise black earrings, the gray stripe in my black watchband, and the amethyst crystals and malachite stone I carry in my pocket. I did not wear my colorful bracelets or silver rings that are part of my every day accoutrement. I felt like mourning today. And while few or even no people realized it, I knew I was in mourning. So I dressed in the colors of mourning (as defined by US and many Western cultures)

It was not because a member of my family or even a close friend or acquaintance had died. I wasn’t mourning an individual person per se; I was grieving the deaths of so many people over the past year or two with whom I share a racial/ethnic identity–young boys, young men and women of African heritage. I have not engaged publicly in making statements or speeches, nor have I marched in the streets, and I definitely have not debated with individuals or groups who simply do not understand how it feels to be part of a group of people with a history of having been brutalized by others with the power and privilege of the majority behind them.

The nature of the work I do each day means that I have to help people who don’t understand try to make sense of it–people in the dominant culture who don’t “get it,” people in marginalized identity groups who feel that their lives hold little value in US society, children who don’t understand any of it. Those of us who have to educate others, to help them understand how marginalized people are feeling and why they might need additional support, we are often left exhausted and emotionally depleted at the end of each day. Like warriors who have pushed themselves beyond their emotional and physical limits, we often have no place to turn to receive our own nurturing, support, and healing. And so we “soldier on” taking what breaks we can, receiving whatever solace we can from others who understand what we’re up against and why we do what we do.

I am grateful for the power that symbols have in my life. I wore black. Not for the rest of the world to notice and praise, but for my own internal purpose. I dressed myself with great intention and care this morning. It was in its own way a prayer that I offered to my ancestors as much as to God that somehow things will get better. I wore black for lives lost, for innocence lost, but not for hope lost. You see, I am one of those people for whom hope is never lost, cannot be lost, not completely.

My great, great grandmother was a slave. My great, great grandfather was her master. These people are not abstractions. Slavery is not some distant memory for some of us; it is literally a part of the fabric of our current lives. I am very much who I am because of whom I am descended from. In the work that I do, I am always aware that I carry the DNA and blood of the oppressed slave and the oppressor slavemaster. I am at once both and neither and more than they were. It might seem abstract to some, but to me it is all very real.

I am grateful for knowing who I am. There are those who actually hate me and wish me ill though they have never laid eyes on me. There are those who have the power to act on their hatred and ill will with little resistance or repercussions. I cannot do anything about those people. What I can do is reach out and create change within my spheres of influence. I can learn and I can teach. I can demonstrate by my very way of walking in the world that I too am worthy of being here.  You might not see me out there marching, carrying signs, joining in with thousands of people in external physical manifestations of our collective grief, anger, and disappointment. I carry my anger, grief, and disappointment internally and work in my own ways in my own circles to bring about whatever changes I can. And sometimes I dress in black.

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Lessons in Gratitude Day 987

Posted on December 2, 2014by

NOTE: To Readers of “Consider This” please know that this post is connected to my other blog “Lessons in Gratitude” an almost daily blog on the theme of gratitude, as the title suggests. I have been writing it for–as you might guess–987 days. My normal blog site for Lessons is being temperamental and so I am temporarily posting Lessons in Gratitude over here in “Consider This.” Enjoy!


Tonight is a good one for simple gratitude. It has been a long, tiring day. I am one of those privileged people who only have to work a half day on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and don’t have to go back to work until the Monday after the holiday. I am exceedingly grateful to work at an educational institution that has generous holiday breaks. When I returned to work on the Monday after Thanksgiving—that was two days ago—there was so much happening at work it didn’t feel like I’d had any time off before things came piling back on. Sometimes that is the nature of things, and I have learned to work with it.

I am grateful to have a good job and to do good, important work, but it is not easy work. Work that involves trying to get human beings to understand and accept and appreciate other human beings who are different from them is challenging work. Perhaps it shouldn’t be, but it is. Sometimes I get weary and wish I could go do something different, something easier, less soul-wearying. But for the time being, I know this is what I am supposed to be doing. So in addition to being grateful to have a job, I am also grateful that the Universe gives me the stamina, the perseverance, the persistence, the grace, the energy, the heart and the will to keep doing what I’m doing. One of these days I will get dispensation to go do something different, but that is not on my immediate horizon. And so I work, and I rest, and I give thanks.

I am also grateful for the small moments in life that are precious and one-time propositions. This evening I went to a musical performance at my niece and nephew’s high school. As I sat there listening to the occasionally off-key, slightly awkward teenagers, I realized how precious these times are. I smiled watching my nephew sing and remembering similar days many years ago watching my own children at their band concerts, with the awful squeaking of the clarinets or the horrible screeching sounds of the fifth grade violinists. I endured many hours sitting up in the balcony of the middle and high schools videotaping my children in their various performances. Sitting there this evening reconnected me with days that were much simpler and poignant yet challenging in their own ways. Watching my nephew sing and my niece hanging out with her friend reminded me how precious these days are and how fleeting. I can almost hear the strains of the song, “Sunrise, Sunset” playing in the back of my mind. Louder still are the words of my own song, “Letting Go,” that I wrote nearly 20 years ago.

I watch my children and I see how fast they grow. Each day brings me closer to the time I’ve gotta let them go. But until then I’ll hug ‘em and I’ll bless ‘em and I’ll love ‘em and I’ll let them know, that I’ll hold on tight and I won’t let go…”

This evening was a small moment, and yet not so small. At one level it was momentous—of great important or significance. I sat with my sister and her 92-year old mother-in-law watching my 14-year old nephew sing in his first high school concert. We will only do that one time and not again. Yep, I’m glad to have gone, even though the drive to the school was almost longer than the concert. It’s another small thread woven into the tapestry of my life and of theirs. And while it might seem like I’m making a big deal out of something small, there’s an indefinable quality to it that makes it precious to me. What are those moments in your life? I hope you take time to savor them and feel a deep sense of gratitude for them all. May it be so.

© M. T. Chamblee, 2014

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Lessons in Gratitude Day 986

“I hate it when you spin the wheel,” my friend complained to me the other day as I was lamenting having to come home late one evening to write my blog.
” You try coming up with an original post every night for 700, 800-plus nights, several of them in a row.” I retorted. “Besides when I spin the wheel I pick a number between 10 and 500 or so. That way you aren’t going to get a recent post, but one that’s a least a year old. It’ll be like reading a new one, only parts of it will feel vaguely familiar.”
She didn’t seem convinced but let the matter drop.

As I approach my 1,000 day of gratitude–which if I write daily will be two weeks from today. Part of me wants to drag it out a bit, perhaps skip a day here or there and end on December 31, like I did last year. My sister, who likes round numbers said I should stop a 1,000 rather than pick a particular date to end on. Didn’t I go through this just last year? The truth is that I’m not entirely sure what I will do with myself if I don’t write a blog each evening. I took a long hiatus from it last year–I ended on December 31, started a new blog (Consider This) on January 1 and wrote for a little over a month, and then picked back up Lessons in Gratitude back on September 1. It has been an interesting ride.

I am grateful for developing the discipline that it takes to write every day, twice a day for three years. I stated this blog in June of 2011 and had begun journaling every morning some months later. I believe if I can discipline myself to write every day, to what other uses might I put that discipline? I could sure use discipline when it comes to exercising and treating my body right. I need to apply it in many areas of my daily life, but for now I am simply grateful for having sustained it over the weeks and months and years. We’ll see what I replace it with once I’ve reached 1,000 days of this blog. Perhaps I’ll dedicate that time to other writing projects I’ve left unfinished over the course of a number of years. Whatever I do my aim will be to keep exercising that particular muscle.

I am grateful for having had readers over these months. I may not have a huge following, but you are faithful, and I appreciate that. I was talking with a friend the other day who, like me, is a would-be novelist. She wanted to rededicate herself to her writing, which had slacked off a bit lately. I told her to write every single day, even if it’s simply a journal at first. I also suggested blogging as a way of “putting your voice out there.” It’s imperfect and it’s definitely not the same as getting your novel published; but it is a way to keep yourself writing and the creative juices flowing. I’m not entirely sure what that will look like as I wind down “Lessons,” but we’ll see.

Tonight is not one of my more eloquent nights, and yet I find myself quietly satisfied. I hope my friend who doesn’t like me spinning the wheel finds tonight’s simple post acceptable. I do my best. What’s most important of course is the practice of searching through my experiences in a given day and selecting something in them for which I am most especially grateful. And while I’d like to be deeply insightful, witty and articulate, sometimes it’s simply important to me that I string some coherent thoughts into sentences that hopefully make up a quasi-coherent piece. Thank you, readers, for your patience with those times when I can’t quite say it how I want to say it (or when I fall asleep during the writing and perhaps leave a sentence or to under-punctuated or hanging out there unfinished. If you follow the gist of my words and if those words cause you to pause and think about something in your life for which you are grateful, then the post has been effective in meeting one very important purpose: expanding the practice of daily gratitude out in the world. And that, my friends, is a very good thing.

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Lessons in Gratitude Day 985

If you’ve never had a dog or any kind of non-human companion, then you perhaps won’t be able to understand me when I say how grateful I am for the presence of my current four-legged friend. She and for the two or three other significant relationships I’ve had with canine companions represent a very important element in my life that’s very nearly right up there with family. Of course to most of us who have or had dogs (or cats and other critters) in our lives often refer to them as family. For me, they have been constant, loving supporters who were present during some of the more difficult times in my life. And so I honor and gratefully acknowledge these friends.

Pasha, a “runt” great dane, was my best friend as I was growing up. I was a shy and somewhat awkward kid, and from age 10 to 18 he was my best, and sometimes it felt like only, friend. He was my companion during awkward teenage years, listening to all my angst, patiently allowing me to cry, holding onto his big body, protecting me when I felt threatened. Somehow I survived those tough junior high years, with Pasha as my friend and confidant, and made it to high school. We were separated for about six months when my parents, my younger sister and I lived in East Africa for a time. During those months, Pasha lived with my two older brothers. He regularly “escaped” from their apartment situated on the top story above my dad’s office. For the rest of his life he didn’t tolerate being confined (I guess he always feared we were leaving him again). He destroyed any number of doors, chewing and scratching and trying to get out. Other than that, he was a perfect dog. He died when I was in my first semester in college (and a rough one at that) and while my parents went on to have two dogs after that, none was to me what Pasha had been.

My Friend Pasha

They say that people come into your lives for a “reason, season, or lifetime.” My belief is the same for dogs and other nonhuman companions. That has certainly been true for me. The next four-legged friend who “showed up” in my life was Shiloh, a pit bull-Rhodesian Ridgeback mixed breed. He unexpectedly became part of the family when my children were young. In many ways Shiloh was for them–particularly for my daughter–as Pasha had been for me: a strong and loving friend during some emotionally difficult times. He was that for me as well, coming along just as my marriage was ending and I found myself once again needing an understanding friend. He wasn’t much of a conversationalist, but was a really sympathetic listener. While I was deeply saddened by his departure from the world, my daughter, who was a senior in high school at the time, was devastated. Part of her recovering involved the procurement of a new companion, which brings me to my third influential four-legged friend, Honor.

Three Red Dogs: Shiloh is the big one on the left

I have written about Honor in this blog many times, because she too has been a significant presence in my life through difficult times. She was my steadfast companion during the year that was 2011, when many things fell apart in my life, and has been my lone roommate since we moved east in 2012. For the first time in my life I was living on my own–no parents and siblings, no roommates, no children–just me and “Honnie.” Now as I prepare to embark upon yet another adventure in a new place, Honor will come with me, no doubt helping my adjustment to the new place, representing once again, a familiar and safe presence.

My canine friends have saved my life in some ways. Not literally in the sense of pulling me from a burning building or other “Lassie” like actions of epic proportions; but simply by offering their friendship to a lonely kid/adult, giving the unconditional, forgiving, enthusiastic love that they can bring. So pardon me if once again I offer deep gratitude for my four-legged friends. May all who need it find such friendship as I have enjoyed over the years.

My Friend Honnie

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Lessons in Gratitude Day 984–Yep, It’s Family Again

Sometimes I stand still in the midst of a moment and take it in, savor it, experience it as fully as I can. Mostly these are very simple moments–like standing in my sister’s kitchen this evening as the family is lined up at the stove preparing to eat leftover Thanksgiving dinner. Anyone watching would have seen the sort of normal banter between people deciding between dark meat or white meat, wondering where the spoon was for the gravy, and asking if the cranberry sauce was on the table. I stood there, momentarily transfixed, simply grateful to be connected to and surrounded by loved ones. Across the country my son, who lives in Northern California, was probably at work. No turkey, no gravy, no family. I do not know how that affects him, but I felt sad for him even if he himself was not sad. It makes me grateful for those times when we are all together, as rare as they are, and yet still appreciative of the time I am able to spend with at least some of my loved ones.

From where I sit in my bedroom I can look across at photographs lining the bookshelves. Most are of my parents and my children and one of me and my sister on her wedding day. The most prominent of these is of my father as an old man looking into the camera and saluting. This picture has brought me great comfort over the past few years–I also have a copy of it framed and hanging in my office. It evokes in me different emotions depending on how I am feeling: one is a reminder that no matter how difficult things get, I should “soldier on,” tough it out, grit my teeth, and keep moving. The other is an acknowledgment that I did it, I accomplished an objective, did what I set out to do, I made it. “Well done!” that salute seems to say to me. At times when I’m feeling a little insecure, I can look across and see both my parents smiling from other framed photos on the shelf, the two of them reminding me that everything is going to be alright. Of course, they are not really there saying that, but it is reassuring to think that it is so or that they are somehow watching over me.

I am grateful to those faithful few who read this blog each day. Mostly they are family and friends as well as the occasional Facebook “friend” whom I’ve never met in person but who seems to get a lot out of reading it. Tonight someone said to me that they don’t know what to do when they don’t have my blog to read (as was the case last night when I was too tired and decided not to write.) When I reach the 1000th day sometime in mid-December, I am not sure what I will do. One of my sisters has indicated that 1,000 is a nice round number and I should stop then. I thought I might stop on December 31, which I did last year and then started back up again several months later. I am uncertain as to what I will do with myself if I stop writing at night. My bookend writing practice of journal in the morning and blog at night will be disrupted if I cease this blog (though I could return to my other blog, “Consider This,” which I began last January…) Still, I have couple more weeks to figure it out.

I am grateful as always to and for my family. They have loved my my whole life (well most of it anyway.) There is not a single day that goes by when I don’t think about one of my siblings or my children or my parents (of course, I do see their pictures every day.) And so I don’t take for granted those sweet, basic, every day moments of grace that I experience simply from being in their presence, laughing with them at something silly, talking over serious life issues, working together on something in the kitchen, reviewing their house renovation plans and myriad other connections made over the course of weeks, months, years, lifetimes. My family remains the greatest single treasure in my life. In 1001 days of gratitude past or 10,000 days into the future I could not be more grateful to have these human beings in my life. So it is, and so it ever shall be. Amen.

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Lessons in Gratitude Day 983–The Search for Purpose

Sometimes I have these really brilliant insights. Unfortunately I have them at very inconvenient times when I am nowhere near a computer or pen and paper or voice recorder or any way of capturing these insights and my fickle memory fails to hold onto them for any longer than it takes me to utter said insights into the ether. Someone once told me that the brain is a complex machine that potentially remembers everything it sees, hears, thinks, etc. Thus the failure is not in the memory, it is in my ability to retrieve what is stored there. Either way, my brilliance is lost to the world. So I hesitate when I am writing this blog in part because I am usually writing in the evening after a long day at work when my ability to achieve coherent thought and then on top of that retain an ability to string those coherent thoughts into a cogent, coherent piece that is well worth the five minutes or so it probably takes an average reader to peruse it and digest its meaning. So on any given evening I come to my computer with the hope that I can take what I am sensing in my spirit, feeling in my heart, and thinking in my head and put it into a form that can be useful to you who take the time to read it. May it be so.

Tonight I am grateful for slowly gaining the clarity I have been asking for and seeking for many many months, perhaps even years. At the very least it’s been a few years as evidenced by my titling my daily journal “Writing My Way to Clarity,” when I began writing in mid-2011.  This morning I was looking for something I had written some time ago. I couldn’t remember when exactly, but I had flagged it with one of those post-it-note flags that now littered various pages of the five journals currently stacked on my bedside table. In looking for it what I found was a movement toward clarity that perhaps I could have only seen looking back at it rather than while it was unfolding. Reading journal entries from five and six months ago revealed a depth of thought and analysis of my situation that I couldn’t have realized was happening real time. I am a big fan of writing as a tool for clarifying what one is thinking and feeling and therefore understanding a particular action or direction one needs to take. For some folks talking it out works better, but my little introverted self does much better when I can process things alone, more slowly, and in writing.

I was talking with a close friend today about finding one’s life purpose. “I’ve been wanting to know my life’s purpose for my whole life,” I told her, “But it’s been slowly dawning on me that while I was trying to figure out what my life’s purpose was, I was actually doing it!”  I can remember a several years ago picking up the book, “A New Earth,” by Eckhart Tolle and being caught by the promise held in the subtitle, “Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.” At last someone was going to tell me how to determine what my life’s purpose was. I listened to the entire book on Audio as well as reading along with the paperback. I was keenly disappointed when I got to the end of it and felt no closer to knowing my life’s purpose than I had been before I invested the listening and reading time. If I had thought about it a bit more I would have seen the clue in the subtitle “Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.” It wasn’t about running around trying to figure what I was meant to do, what my purpose on the planet was. What I am meant to do, my calling, my life’s purpose is already laid out before me and I have been walking in it throughout much of my life. My job is to awaken to/discover what’s already true. Simple, huh? Yeah, right!

I won’t pretend to have the full answer to this whole finding life purpose thing. But I have a bit of experience and wisdom on the matter gained through a wide variety of life situations that have provided some measure of clarity. Over the next few days I will do a bit more contemplation on the matter and share my outcomes. If I can remember my brilliant points, form them into coherent words and sentences, and  stay awake during the writing them out (I’ve fallen asleep three times since I began writing this), I will share them in this blog. In the meantime, as it is now after midnight (I started this blog at 8:30 p.m.) I will wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.

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Lessons in Gratitude Day 982

Tonight I am grateful for relatively small but important blessings. First, traveling mercies, as always. Every weekday I jump into my car and drive 26.4 miles to work on one of the most congested corridors in the country. Then I turn around and at the end of the day drive 26.6 miles home on the same highway, only the way home takes more than twice as much time. Tonight it took me nearly two hours to make the 37-minute drive. It’s even harder after we “fall back” and my commute home happens almost entirely in the dark. Most days when I’m driving home I’m exhausted. Driving home exhausted in bumper-to-bumper traffic in the dark is really challenging. And yet I do it every day and do so safely and for the most part without incident. That is a blessing for which I am exceedingly grateful.

I am once again grateful for and awed by my coworkers. A few years ago when I was unemployed, one of the exercises I did as I thought about my “what’s next” and what I wanted to do in my next job was to outline the qualities I wanted in my new job. At the top of the list was wanting to work with and around good people. I was fortunate to have ended up working with a great, funny, dedicated, passionate, knowledgeable, hardworking, irreverent, sometimes oddball group of people. Again and again I’ve watched them pull together to coordinate an activity or initiative that went way better than we would have or could have drawn it up on paper. Today was such a day and I am in awe and grateful beyond measure for their good work. May I continue to find such good people moving forward. I’ve written about them before and recently but there’s nothing redundant about gratitude for continual, ongoing blessings.

I am grateful for–in advance–a few days of rest. First, for the first night in several days I am not listening to the scrabbling of claws and the pitter patter of tiny squirrel feet running across the ceiling above me. It would appear that the animal control people have successfully eradicated the squirrels from my attic; and while I’m a little sad to have displaced them out of my house and out of the neighborhood, I will be relieved to have–I’m hoping–solid sleep that is uninterrupted by the antics of overactive wild rodents (or my dog growling at them in the middle of the night. A few more days and the cages will be removed from the roof of my house and all shall–I pray–go back to normal, at least upstairs.

I am grateful for two excellent, now-grown (or nearly so) children who continue to exhibit good “home training.” While we cannot predict that the lessons we attempt to instill in our children “take,” it’s always nice to hear when they do, especially from someone else. I heard from an old friend the other day who told me they’d bumped into my son on a street downtown. “He greeted me very warmly, which was a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t at all sure he’d even want to speak to me.” This friend and I had had a falling out a few years earlier and while I have mostly recovered from it, forgiven, and moved on, they had no idea whether the same could be said of my children. As they recounted the story of how cordial my son had been, including the suggestion that perhaps they might have tea sometime, they sounded genuinely surprised. All the while as they described the encounter to me on the phone I was thinking to myself, “Well, of course he behaved that way, I raised him to exhibit good manners and consideration.” I am proud and pleased that he exhibited it, and frankly not at all surprised. People recover, forgive*, and move on; children grow up, mature, and do the same. It’s a very good thing to hear that acknowledgment come from someone else.

Finally this evening I am grateful for gratitude itself (which I admit sounds a little odd.) On Thursday, many people in the US will take a pause to celebrate the “thanksgiving” holiday. While the origins of the holiday itself are disputed and the history somewhat questionable from a cultural perspective, it nonetheless provides us with an opportunity to focus for a moment on those things in our lives for which we are grateful. Family, friends, food, and football often dominate the discussion when people go around the Thanksgiving dinner table and say something that they’re grateful for, and perhaps there’s as much focus on getting ready to rise early for “doorbuster” sales on “Black Friday,” but it still offers us a moment to give thanks. For me, every day is one for giving thanks, for being grateful for all the good things that I have in my life. Every day is Thanksgiving day. I am looking forward to the holiday itself as a time to once again gather with much-loved kinfolks, play games, eat wonderfully prepared, flavorful foods, and ponder the many blessings in my life. So I shall again this year with a full belly and a grateful heart.

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