This is a sappy gratitude post. Either arm yourself accordingly, or depart these regions before it gets sloppy.
This year I have so much to be thankful for I am dizzy and disoriented.
I have had a Landmark Year. I have had dreams I’ve been working toward and/or pushing aside for years that have suddenly come true. Personal goals, career goals, creative goals. I didn’t see these things coming, pretty much without exception.
Part of this is luck, and yes, I am self-congratulatory enough to admit I worked hard for these things. But mostly it’s because of the people around me.
I have a family that becomes closer and more supportive every year, parents whose parenting and life choices I admire more and more as I grow up to see them through adult eyes. I am perplexed by the boundless generosity of my friends. The platitude says you learn who your true friends are during times of crisis, and this is true–in my case I learned I had more true friends than I would ever have imagined. But–more importantly, maybe–I’ve learned that good friends are the ones excited to celebrate your happiness with you, to add what they can to the mix. To make the best better.
At work, I have a boss who inspires and encourages me. In a very short time, she has changed my life in several ways. I have authors who work hard for and with me, and who have created a surprising warm collaborative community I am thrilled to be a part of. I have coworkers who tolerate my aggressive energies and who go to bat to help out with my visions. The combined whole, the many people coming together, is intoxicating. Together, in a short time, we have accomplished enormous things.
This list is, obviously, not exhaustive. I can only sum up that I have very, very good people in my life, and that my heart is full.
What now feels like long ago, on one of my very worst days at a bad job, I went to a yoga class (my first ever). Icy rain was pouring–it was February 13th, I remember–and my toes had gone clammy in my wet-through socks. I was so stressed out about what had happened at work that I couldn’t stop leaking stress tears from sliding back up my nose during Downward Facing Dog, which added a special challenge to the Flow breathing.
In this unpleasant moment, the universe sent me the message I needed to hear. At the end of the session, when she hit the gong for meditation, the instructor read us Goethe’s “decisive element,” which I had never heard before:
I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make a life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture, or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a person humanized or dehumanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.
When I remembered it again later, I copied it out in green crayon and taped it to my wall. It struck me as the perfect religious creed for an egomaniac–which, if many of us are honest, we are. But it’s also true.
The night before Thanksgiving, as we were driving to the Big Y for last-minute olives, my father said to me, “People make their own luck, and people make their own problems. That first thing is true most of the time, but the second one is true 100% of the time.”
I think he is probably right. But I also think it’s sometimes hard to realize when you’re creating problems for yourself. It’s also sometimes hard to realize how lucky you are.
I’m not sure which is a bigger gift to me this year: all of the great things that I have, or the fact that I’m able to appreciate them.
I am, I think, a believer in karma. I have made grand mistakes, I have gone through long passages of my life where I allowed my behaviors and choices to be guided by poison and ill-will, but I’m slowly learning that is a person I don’t have to be. The best part of getting older is remembering to be self-critical, learning not to jump into those kinds of reactions, and trying to be compassionate even to people one doesn’t think “deserve” compassion. I’ve seen people who are very good at this, and I want to become one of them. I want to be the last stop in the chains of stress, bitterness, reactivity, righteousness, petty vengeance, and disappointment I’ve seen destroy families, companies, couples, and individuals.
This year, I (self-congratulatory, again) can’t help but feel the universe has rewarded me for making better choices: for learning to step back and trying to act with compassion, for continuing to try my hardest even when it looked like all was for naught, for being brave even when there were easier paths. I’ve made some difficult changes in the last couple of years, but I have been gifted with people who have supported me generously through the tough patches and joined up with me trustingly on new, exciting things.
As it turns out, most people are better than you ever thought they would be, better than you think you would have been in their shoes.
I endeavor to deserve the good, good people in my life.
For them I am thankful.
For them my heart is full.