The actual definition of Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States that commemorates the date in 1621 on which the colonists and the Wampanoag tribe shared a feast celebrating the Autumn harvest. There has been a lot of controversy regarding the accuracy of the retelling of this bit of history. Nonetheless we continue to celebrate it centuries later with turkey, family, football and feasting.
Why is Thanksgiving so important? The name kind of gives it away..Thanks giving. It is a day to give thanks and to celebrate gratititude. It is a day to realize the blessings you have and cherish them. It is a day to gather with family and tell stories. It is a day that is not focused on material things like gift giving. It celebrates positivity itself.
So, now that we know why Thanksgiving is important, let’s talk about the practice of it. How was your Thanksgiving? Did you celebrate family and what you have? Or did you bemoan the world in general, talk about COVID, and complain about what is not going your way? Our house was pretty peaceful and celebratory, but I am concerned that was not the norm or the majority for others. Do we still know how to be grateful and give thanks? Or is peaceful thankfulness just a distant memory for too many at this point? Sometimes I find it difficult to remember a time when the majority of people that I come across had at least one good thing to say or focus on. I am not asking for the world here. I am just asking to be able to start a conversation with someone that does not start with a complaint or some sort of discontent. I am guilty of it too at times. Most of the time, when someone asks me how I am doing I give my stock answer, “Living the dream!” I give this answer for several reasons: 1) I actually believe it, 2) I don’t want them to worry( there has been a lot to worry about lately), and 3) I know in my heart that most people don’t actually want to know. They are just asking to be polite. Other times I start rambling word vomit about everything that is going on or frustrating me before I can stop myself, even though I can tell immediately that the other person regrets asking by the look on their face.
I am not sure why I do it. I am basically a positive person and try my hardest to maintain that, even with everything that life has thrown at me lately. I really want to keep that going but even I fall into that trap that I feel like the rest of the world is in sometimes. So, I ask the big question again. Have we forgotten how to be grateful, positive, or happy? Is the norm of negativity so engrained at this point that there is no turning back? I hope not. I can tell you this though. If we don’t start looking a little harder for the things that give us joy and pushing aside the negative focus that is locking us in, the damage that we are causing to ourselves will be irreparable.
Did you know that this phrase originally came from a 1914 Morton Salt ad logo? It was developed to illustrate the point that Morton Salt was so free flowing that it could freely flow even in the rain. So, originally this phrase meant something positive and was supposed to be a selling point for a product.
How times have changed! If you were to look it up nowadays, Merriam-Webster states that it is a popular idiom used to imply that when something bad happens other bad things usually happen at the same time. Yup. All negative. We all say it all the time to describe times when the shit just keeps hitting the fan. Even Luke Coombs sings about it. I have to wonder when the phrase took on a negative connotation or why we chose to reassign it in the first place. I haven’t been able to find the answer yet.
I think maybe that the reassigning of this idiom is just one example of how often and easy it is to jump right to the negative first in any situation. We are all guilty of it at one time or another. I have prided myself on being an optimist most of the time, but these times are challenging my glass half full side to the max right now. I can definitely embrace the when it rains it pours negative narrative right now. My family has definitely been through it and is still going through it quite frankly. There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight right now, but logically, I know there has to be. I just have to get there. I won’t get there any faster by dwelling on what is wrong all the time. True, I have to allow time to process but then I think it’s important to make every effort to keep moving forward. You see, I believe that negativity just breeds more negativity and I think that our reactions to what happens to us have a direct effect on the actual final outcome. Countering negativity with negativity doesn’t work because it is just additive. It only adds fuel to the fire. Positivity in the face of negativity allows for the chance for redirection. Whether you believe in Fate or God or the writings of Jean Jacques Rousseau, there is still an element of decision-making and self-direction involved in every final outcome. It makes no sense to sit back and wallow and take it, whatever it is, without at least trying to redirect it and move forward. No good can come of it.
Hey everyone! Long time no write. LIfe has been a crazy series up downs…and downs…lately and my time and mind have been elsewhere out of necessity. But today, something happened that I think is worth sharing so here goes.
I was in line at Kroger today and I slid in right behind this very frustrated guy who was about to have a verbal duke out with the poor blameless cashier, who appeared to already be having a very difficult day. I observed quietly for a second, and then I felt compelled to intervene. I realize that this is a risky move, especially nowadays but I went for it anyway. I was going to bring some peace to Kroger dang it. I said, ” You know, I think we have all forgotten how to be kind. We have all gotten so frustrated with other stuff and other people that we forget how to be nice to others. ” This stunned them into angry silence for a minute. I boldly went on. “When I had my cancer this year and then my husband had emergency heart surgery soon after I was done with chemo, I realized that there are some battles I just don’t need to fight anymore. I just feel lucky to be above ground. Everything after that is just gravy.” Both men got even quieter and just stared at me. I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen. Then, the fighting man asked if he could help me get the stuff from under my cart. I said, “Absolutely! Thanks!” He did. Then he turned to the cashier and said thanks and then went on his way. The cashier thanked me and I noted out of the corner of my eye that everyone was smiling and nodding. I have to admit. That felt really good. I had brought peace to Kroger that day.
You have to ask yourself, why are we all so frustrated? Actually, that is a fairly easy question to answer. Look at all the colossal shit that has happened in all of our worlds lately. We’ve got the ongoing pandemic (depending on which blend of fact and fiction you subscribe to. I am just going to leave that one alone.) We have unemployment issues. We all know someone that has gone through incredible health issues. We have all had ridiculous amounts of financial strain. The list keeps going. It requires no stretch of the imagination to suppose why we are all on edge. The real question to answer now is how are we going to stop it? Are we going to be able to act like logical, sensitive, compassionate humans again once things get better? Or are we so entrenched in the cycle of negativity that we have forgotten how to recognize when things are good? I can understand the negative reactions to negative environments and things that we cannot control. But, I am suggesting that we start trying to remember how to act like civilized rational beings again regardless. Take it slowly at first, deciding to be content with or grateful for some tiny little thing: a single decision that goes your way. Then, go from there. I am just afraid that if we don’t start at least trying now, we won’t be able to do it later. Then, we will have a much bigger problem.
Man oh man it has been quite the two years. I imagine that is a tagline that applies to millions at this point. It’s not that I am considering myself anything special but my gosh, just how much of a shit show are we all supposed to endure? Is there no end? What is the purpose? Are we being punished? I don’t understand.
Let me break it down for you. In the last two years, there has been an ongoing pandemic, businesses have been shut down, people have died, my daughters have had some major issues, I got cancer, and now my husband is having open heart surgery. I am not in a competition with anyone or anything but sheesh, it feels like a lot. I am not a person to complain per se but after awhile, even I am not immune to the occasional breakdown and thoughts of why me and why us? I start asking stupid questions like Does the universe hate me? Is this some kind of karmic retribution? Why can’t I make sense of this?
Then, I stop a minute, take a breath and try to calm myself. I realize that I am asking the wrong questions. All I am doing is making myself crazy trying to find an explanation or blame. This only leads to frustration, confusion, and anger. It won’t get me anywhere. At some point, I need to let it go and concentrate on moving forward and learning from what has happened. Otherwise, more bad things are bound to happen if I get stuck in a vicious cycle of negativity. That negativity will do nothing but drive more bad decisions and lead to further bad outcomes. I am not saying that we are not allowed to be human. We are allowed to feel sorry for ourselves and have boohoo moments. We just can’t let the boohoo moments define us.
I just heard about the unexpected death of an amazing human today and it really got my wheels spinning. It made me take a step back and re-evaluate my own processing of the world around me lately and really embrace the amount of time that I have wasted with misdirected anger, emotions and the occasional dose of self-pity. I need to stop. It shouldn’t take news like this to shake me out of my own festival of wallowing. I should already know that, whatever potentially exaggerated feelings that I have about what my own life struggles, there is always something worse out there that someone else is going through. I am not saying that I spend an exorbitant amount of time feeling sorry for myself or anything, but really any time is too much time now that I think about it. Have I had some shitty things going on lately? Check. Have I had financial issues like everyone else? Have I had any health issues? Check. But, for all that, I have plenty of things to be grateful for too. I still have a job. I am still above ground. I have great kids and a great husband. I work hard and I get to see the positive effects on patients, etc etc. Like I have said many times over, I need to follow my own advice and break the proverbial chains that tie me to negativity like some sort of prisoner. All they do is hold me back and keep me from recognizing anything good when it happens. So, I am going to make myself a promise and grab those bolt cutters with both hands and make way for positivity. Who’s with me?
Shakespeare had the right idea a long time ago. I think that we have just forgotten it lately. There have been songs and poems written by many about the utter preciousness of life, and yet we still complain bitterly, we forget to notice what we do have, and we have forgotten how to recognize the good.
This also begs the question: Is it really a matter of life being too short, or is it a matter of wasting the time that we have? Seneca once wrote that “it is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievement if it were all well invested.” He also goes on to say that most of us don’t even realize that life is passing us by as we are distracted by greed, poor living, etc and that it is only when death is knocking at our door that we finally “get it,” but then it is too late.
The bottom line is that it is up to us to savor live
Have you ever noticed that when an experience ends in a sour note, our first instinct is to try to erase it’s memory as if it never existed in the first place? We attempt to block any recollection of the event as if to protect ourselves from the pain. Sometimes we go as far as to rewrite history to attempt to make ourselves feel better about the whole thing or to justify our decision in the end. I think that we do this in order to regain control and shield ourselves from the bad experience, thus taking away it’s power and impact. This is what we tell ourselves at least. However, I feel like the exact opposite is true. Every experience, good or bad, has value and a take away point. Most experiences that end badly were not truly 100% bad, or we wouldn’t have engaged with that experience to begin with. Nobody is that masochistic. I think that by expending the mental energy to rewrite history or deny any good memories that were also associated with it, we are actually granting more power to the bad part of the experience than it deserves. We are actually chaining ourselves to that negativity and becoming an essential part of the bad experience. We are discounting our own credibility in our judgement regarding what we chose to participate in. By allowing ourselves to acknowledge any positive aspects as well, we truly begin to free ourselves from that negativity and realize that, whatever the experience was, it wasn’t just a waste of our time to begin with. Have a fantastic day everybody!