In the month of November, so many of us will gather with loved ones to list and intentionally give thanks for the good things.
Here it comes: “Let’s go around the table and say what we’re grateful for.” In that moment, you ask your brain to weed through all the memories and find the good stuff. Tck – tck – tck – tck – ah! – got something!
- You got the raise; you got the new car.
- He said yes; she accepted.
- You closed the deal; you’ll probably be able to get a new car, too!
- I am surrounded by nice people.
- We’re safe and sound.
- We won!
You’ve got your prayer of gratitude. You clasp your hands, you hold your glass up to toast, or you extend your arms to hug, and you might even high-five. Our bodies literally seek to touch, experience, and embrace good things.
At the Thanksgiving table, we talk about what we have, not what we don’t have. We are so grateful for the good things. We thank for the good, and we leave the mounting pile of bad for some New Year’s Eve ritual, in which we “release” the bad to make room for more good. We will always intend to have more good. If we would never wish for more bad, why celebrate if we had it?
But what about the not-so-good-things? Where do they go in November? Do we shake ‘em off? Do we ask them to step aside so the good things can take stage? We definitely leave them behind.
Yet, I bet your ‘not-so-good’ list is easier to recall.
- Didn’t get the promotion.
- Lost the bid.
- Spent too much time with the wrong person.
- Have that “problem” colleague.
- Oh, and our country feels unstable.
- And I can’t afford this thing I want.
- I lost a loved one.
- I lost my home.
- I didn’t see that awful thing coming.
For me, one pretty bad thing happened the weekend after last Thanksgiving. Then January through May was just one crappy/sad/scary thing after another. Summer and Fall felt like building layered Jell-O squares; let one layer set, then add another layer, wait, and repeat. All together, not a year of good stuff.
As my brain tries to make sense of how to say this the right way, and tears wet my eyeballs, I admit that I’m more grateful for the bad stuff that happened, than for the fun, and good, and safe, and easy stuff. The worst stuff is challenging. It’s incredibly sad. It’s timing is incredibly bad. It’s sick. It’s made of layers of crap, just like Jell-O salad.
And it forces us to shift. To reprioritize. To care. To show up. To be more intentional. To be different, maybe better. And it adds something less obvious, we did not know would be so beautiful.
- You didn’t get the job you wanted…..so with nothing to lose, you ended up deciding to make a different kind of move you’d been too scared to do before.
- Your relationship ended….and you discovered the individual you’d buried.
- You lost a loved one…..and you re-committed to your living loved ones.
- Others got ‘stuffing’ and ‘whipped mashed potatoes,’ but I was assigned ‘Jell-O’……and it was the most colorful thing on our plates.
We are within holiday season. We are inundated with pretty visual things, tangible gifts, and those in the form of gatherings and fellowship, and giving thanks. Our plates are full with turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and prayers of good things. But the plates come to life with the pops of color that only cranberry sauce and Jell-O salad provide.
Our sides may contain artificial colors and actually wiggle, but they sure do bring life to the plate over which we bow.