The One Thing We Can’t Not Talk About On Thanksgiving
What with all the delicious food, it's easy to forget what Thanksgiving is all about (hint: it's right there in the name). So we're taking a moment to talk about gratitude, because really, how can we not? We hope it inspires you to spend some time thinking about what you're grateful for this year, and appreciating all the love and light in your world. Gobble gobble!
I swore I’d never be one of those people.
You know the ones. Like a walking, talking (oh, always talking) motivational Pinterest post preaching saccharine platitudes about positivity and gratitude and the universe.
It’s not that I think those things are categorically bad—not in the slightest. While it’s true that I’ve always trended toward the cynical, that’s not to say I don’t get that a positive outlook is beneficial. I’m just a realist. And, honestly, look around. The world can be kind of dark.
But something happened a couple of years ago. Actually, a lot of things happened, all at once. My life kind of blew up. The pieces were spinning and I couldn’t quite grab onto any of them and I was spiraling. And I’d been there before. I needed to get a grip, obviously, but I didn’t want to just tolerate life. I wanted—genuinely wanted—to enjoy it. For perhaps the first time, I resented my natural disposition, my determination not to look on the bright side. I wanted to feel better. I wanted to be happy.
Growing up was part of it, but what’s more, I grew into a new way of looking at the world that changed everything for me.
The want was the catalyst. The change was to take control, flip the script and overhaul my internal dialogue. I couldn’t change my reality—not entirely, not all at once—so instead of focusing on the less-than-ideal elements, I just changed the way I thought about them. I stood on the other side of the same room. And the difference was radical.
Temporarily ensconced in the suburbs, in my childhood home, commuting hours every day to a freelance job, I chose to focus on the good in the situation (that I had a job to go to, that I wasn’t without opportunities or proof of my worth), rather than dwell on the bad (that I’d effectively hit pause on my independent adult life, that by some measure I’d failed). So I looked around. I paid attention. I saw the sky. I stood on the train platform every morning and breathed in the crisp air and appreciated the trees, with their autumn leaves on fire. I reveled in the extra time to read a book as the town became the city outside the train window. And when I boarded that same train at the end of a long day, instead of feeling defeated, I felt grateful to be exactly where I was, to have a safe, comfortable place to go home to, and to have people around me who loved me, despite it all (despite a lot).
A lifelong wallower, it was as if someone had suddenly turned on a light in my life. I decided on gratitude. I chose a different mindset. And it changed everything.
To the gratitude people, this might sound obvious. Of course it changed everything. We told you it would. I know, I know. But what you have to understand is that this mindset has until recently felt like a betrayal of self. This calm, patient, content person isn’t me. Or it wasn’t. You can choose to be different, to be better, but it’s always unsettling at first, stepping outside of yourself. It’s never easy.
When I talk about this experience, I always include the disclaimer—the one I already mentioned, that I swore I’d never be one of those people. But then I go on to say what I now truly believe: that gratitude really is what it’s all about. Adult life is about managed expectations and finding solace, happiness and contentment with whatever is. To paraphrase a mantra you might have heard before, you have to find the courage to change the things you can, but also accept the things you can’t. And acceptance doesn’t just mean tolerance (though some days that’s enough). To thrive, you have to find the little bits of goodness, no matter how small, and celebrate them. That’s where peace lives.
So call it maturity. Call it the blessedly brighter other side of a quarter-life crisis. Call it a divine revelation, if you’re one of those people. What I know is, I’m still me, but I’m grateful now, not just for family and health and love and home and the big blue sky. Now I’m grateful for gratitude. Now I welcome the light.
What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving? Tell us in the comments—and have a happy, healthy, loving holiday.