Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I Am Thankful

What are you thankful for? It’s that time of year, and I hope you’re putting it to good use. Of course, it is best to be mindful of such things all year long, but having a single day to highlight thankfulness is also beneficial. It is like a shot in the arm, a rejuvenation of ideas that helps to bring everything into bright focus. In order to live a truly mindful life, we should always be aware of and thankful for the blessings in our lives, but it isn’t feasible to catalogue those blessings every day. So we have one day set aside for that purpose. What are you thankful for?

I am thankful for my health. That may seem like a cliche, but I can assure you it is not. Just two years ago, I was diagnosed with diabetes, with blood sugar numbers so high that, when I told my brother about them, he joked that if you plugged those numbers into Web MD it wouldn’t even give you advice but instead it would just tell you to see your doctor right away. At the same time, I was given a heart attack risk assessment of 7 on a 10-point scale. All of this was less than a year after we lost my dad, who was diabetic, to a massive heart attack. Life sometimes has a rather direct way of reminding you of your priorities.

Today, my A1C is routinely at healthy levels and my heart attack risk assessment, last time I checked, was down to a 2. We put a great deal of hard work into it and I am certainly grateful that it has paid off. When I say “we”, by the way, I mean it in the plural. I’m not just being a writer. Heather has put in at least as much work as I have (and sometimes far more), and deserves the lionshare of the credit for my successful results. She remembers things of this sort far better than I do, and, to be perfectly honest, takes care of me far better than I do as well.

I am thankful for my wife, and not just because she may have saved my life. You who read these pages get only a small window into what living with me might be like. She gets the whole house, and sometimes that house seems like it was designed by M.C. Escher. These pages are put together after careful thought and consideration. She gets all of the turmoil that surrounds that careful thought and consideration. I have no illusions about how much “fun” living with me can sometimes be, and she loves me at my worst just as much as at my best. If you have found someone like that, you know how much it means and why I am so thankful. If not, I wish you the best. You really can’t understand it otherwise.

I am thankful for my children. Sometimes I don’t think they realize it, but they are the reason why I do so much of what I do. They bring out the best in me, because I want to show that best to them. I want to present them a world that is worth having, and I want to present them to the world as people worth having it. It goes hand-in-hand, and it’s great how often they meet me in the middle.

They have also been known to make me laugh when laughing was the last thing on my mind. Having children is sometimes like controlled madness (and sometimes with very little control involved), but usually in a good way. There have been many times when I was deep in one of my valleys when one of the kids would do or say something so out of left field that there was no way to not laugh. It’s almost like magic. They seem to know how to do it without knowing what they are doing. Perhaps I am just lucky and, if so, I am doubly blessed, so I will be doubly thankful just in case.

I am thankful for my family, and I am thankful to have a family who have always believed in family. We’ve been there for each other, stood by each other, thick or thin, rain or shine, and none of us would have it either way. I believe that’s what family means.

I spent many years believing that other people were unusual. I would see other families who did not have the same kind of commitment to each other, and I thought they were missing something. I still think they are missing something, but I have figured out that they are not as unusual as I had believed. Though it took me well into adulthood, I have learned that it is my own family that is unusual. The less committed are, sadly, more common. I am thankful for my unusual family, though. If I could make any change, I would make others more like us, and certainly not the other way around. I wouldn’t change the connection we have for anything. If that makes us unusual, I can live with that. Just add it to the list.

My family taught me the importance of family, and how much we can do when we help each other. I try to pass this on to my children, and I believe this is a great time of year for that lesson. I am thankful, but not for things. Things are incidental. I am thankful for my health, and for my family, and for all of the good people around me. I am thankful for the love my family has always held for each other, and the lessons that love has taught me. There are many things that I am thankful for, but one of the biggest is I am thankful that I had a mom and dad who raised me to be the kind of person who notices and is thankful for all of the rest. Thank you Mom. Thank you Dad.

We’re adding a child to the mix through the foster process this year, and that has certainly been a learning experience. She keeps us on our toes, and we are working to bring in some new traditions for her. I am thankful for being able to help her be in a better place and, I hope, live a better life. We’ve learned a lot about children in the foster system over the last several months, and I am glad that we can make a difference. I am thankful that we can do this, and I am thankful that it helps.

Events around the world lately have reminded us that some people don’t have as many reasons to be thankful. There are lessons we can learn even from this, if we make the effort to do so. I hope that we learn the right lessons. Be thankful for the people you have and the good things in your life. Be thankful enough to never take them for granted, and be thankful enough that you want other people to have the same. Be generous where you can be. Things like love and kindness don’t diminish by being shared. That is actually how they grow, so help them grow. Share love and kindness, and we can all be thankful for more love and kindness.

I am thankful that I have enough to give. I think that might be my new definition of Thanksgiving. The more we give, sometimes, the more we have. If you grew up in my family, you knew that. We always gave each other all we had to give, and we always had more to give. We didn’t always get it all right, but we sure had fun trying. The world could use more fun, don’t you think?

From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you for being a part of the Frequently Interrupted Family.

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