These the hours after the celebrations, the days that come like lull between storms, the eye of the hurricane of holiday. These the weeks of slowing, before sprinting through the marathon of gathering, of purchases, of the obscuring through wrapping that hides the contents of our best guess at desire. This, a day of contemplation after a week of meals shared and guests hosted, of socialization maybe appreciated, often endured. These hours, these stained with the realization of injustice that still haunts the tables we fill with poultry browned to crisp perfection, the potatoes mashed, the berries cran, bring about possibility, not only for reflection on all that still goes without reparation, but on a subject altogether ignored in a climate that praises cynicism over hopefulness, want for more, over appreciation for what is. Dare we, in these fragile days between marquee holidays, dare we feel grateful? Dare we buck the trend and speak out loud our gratitude for whole width and breadth of this existence, the peaks, sure, but the troughs as well? Dare we embarrass ourselves by bowing slightly at the altar of this life?
We dare. Or at the least, we should dare, indeed.
To feel this for the joy in our days, a simple task. To stand back and bask in the glory of fulfilled wishes, dinner tables stuffed to the tipping point of excess, health prime and free from worrying results, these are easy asks. We excel in the revelry that comes when all feels as all should feel, where happiness rises like steam from the kettle within us and sings out through our mouths in beautiful words, in songs with lovely melody. What comes not so naturally, what strains the bounding ropes wrapped tightly around the cages around our hearts, is to feel that same gratitude for the days we went hungry, the hours of nauseating worry spent waiting for results to tests we didn’t want taken, for the health that seemed to fall down the elevator shaft in a free-fall towards rock bottom. For the sorrow.
Maybe now we dare, dare to step back and for perhaps the first time, truly invest the energy once so effortlessly reserved for unadulterated appreciation for all the beauty in our lives, for more. Maybe true joy lives in this, hiding in the wide folds that separate the ache from the amusement. Should we dare to iron them flat, to pull on the ends until all is smooth, what floats into the sunbeams that trickle in, like dust motes suspended, like stillness made tangible?
So much time wasted on wishes, on the misplaced hope that all things can improve, that we should avoid sadness like a leprous thing, dodge its grasp as though contagious. We cannot know elation without depression, cannot see for miles unless we strain and struggle up the slopes. I propose a thanksgiving for these hours, these months of hurting and wallow, a flashlight into the darkness of it all, a shine cast on the shadowed bits. It is work, certainly so, but that of noble pursuit, and shouldn’t we try for a touch more nobility?
This day, this soft-edged day that comes after the binges, in meal, in company, this day of all days, can be one of beginning. We are nearer now to the end of this year, a month and change before it tips and begins again, turning 3 to 4 at the tail end of our calendars, and we are gifted choice unwrapped but gleaming. It’s up to us to do the opening, isn’t it, to peel back the kraft paper, untie the twine, and discover the contents within. I think I know, though perhaps still I only guess, but I offer the benefit of my surmising for your disposal, as I know what comes when you aim appreciation at more than just the effervescent animation of your life.
To love your life for all it encompasses, the joy to the delicious sorrow, is to be alive truly. It’s the whole of it that constitutes a life well-lived, and all we learn of peace comes from all we endure from war. There are a million wars we fight to stay afloat.
We must be grateful, this is the truth I know, and how strange that it’s these truths that are the most tested. Take these tests, stand against the cynical tide and let the waters wash over you, it is ok to be still against the crashing, it is ok to shiver in the cold. Be grateful for your life, but not only the pieces that feel like relief. Stare back at the tribulations and thank them, too, for what they teach you of survival.
For the whole of it, I ask you with pleading lips still sleepy from conversations over tables shared, the great wide entirety, feel grateful.
Finally, you will feel full.
For the whole of it,
joy to delicious sorrow,
we must be grateful.