Tis the season to be grateful. Grateful for every lesson that comes my way. The lessons both sweet and sour. Of course, we are not limited to Thanksgiving Day to express gratitude… an attitude of gratitude has no limits on it and we are all free to exult in a state of thankfulness all year long!
But I must say that my Thanksgiving is not panning out as I had expected. I thought I would be on a plane with two grandsons flying to the California desert, but hubby broke his collar bone playing softball trying to emulate a Willie Mays move that didn’t end up too well. This “little” incident put a crimp in our holiday plans, yet it’s been a chance to remind myself that it is about going with the flow and taking life as it presents itself with all its surprises, joys, sorrows, and setbacks. So here I am sitting with my hubby sans family figuring if we are going to make turkey and all the fixings or not! He’s healing up nicely and allowing the bones to fuse back together naturally without surgery. This seemed to be the prevailing wisdom of 99.99% of people he consulted who had had the same injury- let the collar bone heal on its own.
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday because it’s all about, of course, giving thanks and does not involve the oppressive tactics of Madison Avenue pressuring us to open our wallet wide and keep it open until we fall down on the ground, “spent” from exhaustion and stress. Thanksgiving revolves around what I find most important in life… sitting around a table with loved ones, basking in connections of the heart. There has been only one time in six decades where I have spent Thanksgiving without extended family and I said I would not do that again, if I could help it. So here I find myself making a choice, the right choice, to help hubby and make sure he eats well and gets rest. He found a new career after retirement in the Coachella Valley of California: softball. He revels in it, plays almost every day, and even plays through the suffocating heat of desert summers. He finds such joy in this recreational activity that no one can ply him away. A few weeks ago, a big cut above the eye and a trip to urgent care ending in six stitches did not slow him down. And now he’s dreaming about his grand return to the softball diamonds, snagging balls at short stop and looking forward to waking up each day and doing it all again! I am grateful he is so happy even if I am a “softball widow.” It forces me to find my passion! And one of those passions is golf and that is why I agreed to come to the Coachella Valley – the ubiquitous presence of golf.
As I write this, the words of Shakespeare spring to mind:
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” (Wm. Shakespeare, Hamlet)
This reminds me to not put a judgment on the lessons I receive. Some I call sweet; and the others I may call sour but nonetheless, in reality they are neither good nor bad. They are simply experiences and I can choose how to feel about them. I always look for the silver lining and for the lessons in growth. Am I growing, standing still, looking back in regret, or finding the sweet spot in the present? When I play golf (which has been few and far between in 2017 due to injuries), I always look for the silver lining to take away with me. There are a lot of things about a round of golf that I could get upset about, things that certainly don’t go my way. However, each time I walk away I remember the sweet and I try let the sour go. I try to learn from the sour so I do my best to not repeat the same mistakes again. But if I do, I suppose there’s a lesson to be learned. I am grateful to be able to swing a club, be in the fresh air, have some camaraderie and have something to smile about. During my latest round, I was struggling with chipping but I kept plugging away. And wouldn’t you know it, when I had four holes left to play, a thought popped in my head: a tip my son had given me many moons ago. I put the tip in motion and lo and behold I ended my round on a very bright note. My son, perhaps not fully understanding how the memory of an elder can be compromised from time to time, may not want to hear how I did not employ the tip until the end of the round. My takeaway is this: it came to me when I needed it; I was grateful that it came, and grateful that it yielded fruit.
In somehow turning to the subject of golf (I really had no idea this blog entry was going in this direction!), I find that I am so grateful for the rounds of golf that I played with my late Father. I doubt this game would have entered my life had it not been for him. Other players used to love to see the three generations on the golf course – my Father, his daughter, and his grandson and they would comment so positively as if we were a rare appearance, a solar eclipse not in the sky but one fallen down to earth :-). If I could go back in time and relive those precious moments, I would; but that is not how it works, so I will sit in gratitude that it happened. I put down my clubs for awhile after my Father died and channeled my grief through pursuing a yoga teacher certificate. It gave me a chance to breathe and go within as much as possible. I got what I needed at the time even though golf took a back seat, a seat way back in the nose bleed rows. Yet I knew when the time was right, that golf would find me again, and perhaps that time has come with retirement right around the corner.
Often I wish I could go back in time and tell my Father sorry about so many things, but I tell him every night and deep in my soul, I know he hears. I pay my Father back by being the best person I can try to be, and I take care of my Mother liked he asked me to. It is a joy to help family. Whenever I speak with my Mother, she always, these days, expresses her gratitude and tells me how much she loves me. It wasn’t always so, but I won’t wallow in past sorrows; instead I will steer my gaze towards the miracles of the present. When my Mother expresses gratitude, I always reply: “but Mom, that is what families do.” Or perhaps what they should do!
It was my Mother who taught me about the verities of karma. She always encouraged my sisters and me to put more check marks in the “good deeds column.” She talked about the lessons of cause and effect she had learned during her impressionable youth and which taught her “what goes around comes around.” She said that if she made fun of anyone or did something negative, it always seemed to come back and bite her. She gave me a couple of examples which really brought the subject to life. She was an Irish-Catholic girl who hadn’t studied any Eastern philosophy, yet she simply learned from watching and observing intently on the family farm. If the family needed milk, she had to get up at 4:00 AM to milk the cows, and if the family needed protein for dinner, the perky chicken who was running around the farmhouse one minute was suddenly silent. Nature is the great teacher and is quite magnanimous in demonstrating the wonder of new life, bursting with energy and vigor; and She is equally ruthless and blunt in demonstrating the opposite, when the life contract has run its course and the flame of life is blown out. There is no escape. The moment of birth leads to the moment of death. Life is such a mammoth mystery to me that my brain aches from trying to solve the big puzzle, so the simplest thing for me to do is, be grateful.
What is the opposite of death, someone asked me. I said I didn’t know. “Birth,” he replied. “Birth is the opposite of death.” Wow, I hadn’t thought of it in that way, but it certainly made sense. The leaves and apples fall from the tree and wither; yet, they return once again ripe and sweet to begin the whole cycle once again. After death, birth. After birth, death. Birth, death, birth. The grand mysterious cycle. Nothing is lost forever; it is merely transformed.
So I am grateful for each breath of life that expands my diaphragm and ribs. Perhaps that breath is a bit labored due to an impinged shoulder, but still… it’s a breath! My knees ache and so do my hands and fingers, but it could be worst and I’m actually grateful to have an active witness consciousness recognizing the various stages of my sojourn in the physical. Why am I here, what am I to learn, what can I offer? I am grateful that my Mother is 86 and still a spitfire. I am grateful that I have three wonderful adult children and seven unique and brilliant grandchildren, with another genius on the way, ha ha, making it a grand total of eight. Wow, lucky me!
No matter what lessons that my Higher Power sends my way, I pray please let me be grateful and learn. For out of my personal embrace of all that Higher Power chooses to deliver comes an arrival of an INNER TRANQUILITY that is exceedingly pleasant. Why am I so lucky, I often ask myself. I feel so humbled by this feeling of inner peace. Perhaps it is due to my wide open arms and saying yes. I welcome life in all its glory, in all its extremes of birth, death, injury, pain, health, tears, and laughter. I say yes to it all.
And so tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day 2017, I will endeavor to rest in gratitude. There may not be noisy, raucous, energetic munchkins running around; there may not be a pile of dishes from here to the moon, and there may not be my famous “cheesy corn” concoction, but by golly, there will be smiles and sighs of relief that all hubby has is a broken collar bone, because when I stop to think about it, it could have been worst. After all, he’s not 25 and he is not Willie Mays, ha ha.
May your day be filled with sweetness.