I have aging, in part, to thank for the magnitude of gratitude I feel this season. I have enjoyed getting lost in the light of the holiday while doing an informal inventory of the things, people, experiences, and notions that have shaped me. There is something about getting older and becoming more comfortable with traditions, pushing back less and less against the angst-filled days of Gen-X-dome. Each year I age, it seems I am arguably more able to see and feel gratitude for the small things, the rituals of time that move us to slow down a bit, consider our situations, and simply be grateful. Rituals that encourage such things have great value.
Still, not to make too much light of it, getting old is a drag, no doubt. The sadness of the loss of youth does not get easier with practice. However, on the upside, can aging make us a bit more keen to be grateful and feel gratitude as the temporary nature of this life becomes more clear? Easy thing to recognize? Perhaps not for everyone. Bittersweet? Definitely. Profoundly so. It is this new “muscle” that seems to be getting plenty of exercise at this point in my life – feeling gratitude for such small notions. So, it is my hope and prayer for everyone I love that you, too, may find yourselves lost in the light of your own flavor of it this season.
For this humble narrator, there is gratitude for the new experiences and people that contribute to every insight, as I am certainly not single-handedly responsible for any of them. Spending time alone in new places, among new people, being challenged in new ways, diving deep into that experience with a minimum of fear and expectation, and generally allowing myself to enjoy the startling current of this river of living in earnest, are all ingredients that make for some mighty satisfying living. Though not easy, such intense, life-changing experiences sometimes enable us to reconnect with ourselves, again, for the first time in a very long time.
It can be easy to give up too much of ourselves, our self-identities, especially when trying to build something new, whether in our work, our love, whatever it is that gives us satisfaction in our lives. Especially when the giving or trusting are not returned in kind, it is still okay. Should it fail, we can rebuild again. And again. Isn’t this what children are so adept at? Is it why we get so much satisfaction watching them at the shore building sandcastles only to stomp them down and then to rebuilt them again, and again? Is the stomping, like the building, a sort of gift, even as it may be a counter-intuitive one? Is the stomping an equal and opposite reflection of the complimentary gifts of vulnerability and forgiveness? In this context, is it simply that sometimes we trust and it just does not work out? It does not mean we stop trusting. Or trying. Building. And rebuilding.
These ideas and questions are but small parts of the gratitude I am basking in this season.
I am grateful for the past year of challenges, for all those who have been lost, those who have been gained, and those who remain. None of these are greater, of course, than a certain little boy, who has taught me more than any single mentor so far in all my life. For new giving me so many things, like new steps towards understanding what mindfulness is, my sweet son, I owe you a lifetime of gratitude and service, something more than I can ever repay you. Thank you.
This is all just a long, drawn-out way of saying – Merry Christmas to all our friends and families. May the next year bring you all closer to your own hopes and dreams, and find us all, once again, basking in the light of gratitude.