Thank You. Thank You Very Much.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  There is so much to be grateful for that clearly one day does not do it justice. Even with its significance increasingly eclipsed by Black Friday specials that start at 8pm on Thursday, celebrating the spirit of the day for a full 24 hours before succumbing to the onslaught of the Christmas season seems the best way to honor what the pilgrims put in place.

The thing that seems to have taken me longer to grasp than it should have is the more grateful I am, the more I have to be grateful for.  Just noticing all there is to appreciate seems to multiply the number of things, people, places, and experiences to appreciate.

I love it that for one Thursday in November I get to take a break from the busyness of my life simply to delight in good food and dysfunctional family dynamics, dive into a good book, catch an old movie or watch a parade, play a board game or take a siesta.  I love it even more if I’m not responsible for the main source of sustenance. 

The thing I really appreciate these days is spaciousness.  My life has gotten so crowded with public to-do’s that accomplishing private ta-da’s like actually posting this blog entry instead of just drafting it in my mind has been a bit challenging.

I’m so grateful when I can do the things that matter at the pace of grace instead of the pace of a 5k race.  Challenging the race pace conspiracy means sometimes I have to bargain with my muse and agree to get up and write at 4am on a Sunday morning since I may have the luxury to nap later when fatigue sets in and words fail me.  Or setting out at 10pm for a dog walk, knowing my dog and I will both sleep better for it.

I understand the importance of schedules, time tables, and getting to the church on time.  It’s just that after wandering the desert for a decade or two, I do not like to be rushed and really rebel at a  9-5 existence.   Fortunately I have a job that allows me a little flexibility in my comings and goings since the overall agreement reads like a Hotel California clause.  (I can check out any time I like, but I can never leave.)

So this year the real Thanksgiving feast consisted not of turkey and stuffing but additional time off and the space to enjoy it.  Since the big birthday six months ago, my life has taken a wildly adventurous and expansive turn.  I’m not complaining. I asked for it.  And after all that dilly-dallying in the desert,  I needed to make up for lost time in the places to go, people to see, books to write, risks to take, experiences to savor department.  But all of this shifting of items while in flight can be a bit discombobulating when I attempt to touch down.

Maybe it’s a midlife thing, this sorting out and letting go and accepting of limitations and coming to terms with the fact that I can’t really be whatever I want if I just try hard enough.  I’m never going to be a lion tamer, an astronaut, a back-up dancer for Madonna, or Olympic swimmer like Dara Torres, no matter how incredibly these Midlife MacGyver women kick ass. 

I may get to see a tame lion at the local zoo, join the protestors justifiably outraged at Pluto’s planetary status demise, learn the dance moves to Vogue on the Wii, or seize the opportunity to swim in a slightly chilly and consequently empty pool when I have the chance. 

This giving up of impossible dreams allows me to go wholeheartedly for the one dream that is possible. To be myself in all my creative quirkiness.  Not that this is an easy task by any means.  It’s quite terrifying, now that I mention it, which must be why it takes so long to surrender to it. 

Your thing, the thing that makes you doesn’t have to be grand, glorious, or even obvious to anyone.  It simply has to be something you know in your bones is your baby and leaves you completely stoked when you’ve done it well. 

For me it is stringing a few sentences together that capture the essence of an idea or emotion.   For you it could be untangling a string of Christmas lights and hanging them with such finesse the entire neighborhood has no choice but to admire your handiwork.

If you’re still not convinced that you’re kind of a big deal and you have something unique to contribute, get out a pen and paper. 

We’re not making a Christmas list here.  We’re making a Thanksgiving list.  That’s right. List what you’re thankful for.  Start with the basic stuff like oxygen, running water, and chocolate chip cookies.  Work your way up to a hot stone massage, fleece sheets, or Istanbul in October.  Just keep writing.  Make sure there are as many things on your Thanksgiving list as your Christmas list. 

Carry this list with you through the end of the year.  Better yet, add to it each day or week through the end of the year.  Dare to be merrier than you might normally be by year end.

Regularly reminding ourselves of who and what we’re grateful for is a good thing.  It definitely deserves more than a one day celebration in my book. 

I’m grateful that you are reading this because I love to write.  To me writing is like a circle.  I’m one half, but like Jerry McGuire I must confess , you complete me.  Without you reading and responding, or reading and recommending others do the same, my words sound like one hand clapping. 

So thank you.  Thank you very much.

Now get your grateful on and go give thanks for your gorgeous gift by sharing it with me or your loved ones. 

Expiration Dates

There’s this thing that tends to happen once you hit a certain age whether you’re having fun or not.  Time flies. 

I spent a significant portion of my child bearing years wandering around the desert, searching for the meaning of life instead of bearing children – or arms, for that matter.  At that time I felt as if I were living in a perpetual pause waiting for my real life to begin once I figured out the right combination of person, place, and thing that would deliver me to the Promised Land.

Now, it appears, I have arrived.  I must admit, I’m a bit surprised that the Promised Land is in Maquoketa, Iowa.  That’s the tricky thing about Promised Lands.  They seldom look like I imagine.  Even family and friends seem a bit curious about how I landed near water after decades in the desert.

Simple explanation:  dehydration.  Eloquent explanation: unquenchable thirst.  Either explanation leads me to my home by the river where I am gifted with a constant reminder to let go and let flow.

This new world order means there are certain ideas, dreams, clothes, canned goods and commitments that must go.  Instead of serving the greater good, they serve as a reminder that the time for that particular good has come and gone.  Consequently, a conscious and continuous clearing out of clutter is in order. 

Often times it takes a move, a loss, a change of status, or the beginning or ending of a relationship for us to look at our life and our accumulated possessions in a new light.  Most of us are not so motivated to don a new perspective when things are going smoothly.  Usually we need to hit what life coach Martha Beck calls a “rumble strip” or series of unfortunate events before we are forced to wake up, assess our situation, and act or react accordingly.

I’ve recently resurrected my limited food preparation skills as I’ve started hosting spontaneous Friday night parties at my home.  In my efforts to throw a few things together on the fly, I’ve encountered a disturbing trend.  Things in my pantry are older than they appear. 

The great thing about canned goods is they have an expiration date listed right on the label.  Clothes and hair styles have their tells as well.  There is no denying when they need to go. 

The paperwork and projects littering my home office, on the other hand, have no such signs.  Pulling the plug on timeless ideas that are brilliant in theory but difficult to deliver is much harder than pitching the pizza mix from 2010.  But as these projects continue to take up more space, I concede it might be time to let them finally rest in peace, freeing up the considerable psychic energy attached to them.

Inherent in the death of anything is the seed of rebirth.  The thing that I’ve been acutely aware of in the past 6 months is that the phoenix does rise from the ashes.  But often the bird that emerges is one of an entirely different feather. 

Reinvention, while exhilarating, is often uncomfortable and leaves one feeling alternately invincible and vulnerable, unquestionably alive and, in my case, extremely thirsty.

Which leads me to my home by the river.  I’m guessing we all have an alternative version of reality where we are living large in a land of luxury with plenty of umbrella drinks or green smoothies and private chefs and our favorite form of entertainment available 24/7. 

But growing up requires waking up.  Some of us may be living the life we imagined for ourselves at this age.  Others may be completely confounded as to how we got here. 

As I continue to let go of what has expired, I’m committed to breathing life into what shows up and finding ways to be utterly delighted by this second, third, or fifty-fourth wind.

What about you?  I invite you to sit down and tell me about it.  I’ll even offer you a snack.  Just let me check the expiration date on it  first, okay?