The contentment challenge is getting harder, so I guess that's why it's called a challenge. But I'm sticking with it. This is part two on gratitude. Part one is here.
Shortly after Thanksgiving last year, I heard a commercial on the radio for Verizon. In promotion of their holiday deal, they hijacked the word Thanksgiving and their slogan was Thanksgetting. Did you hear this ad? It’s both amazing and awful to me that someone approved this in their marketing department. I'm not calling for boycott or outrage, because if I was it would be over the fact that my data use counter suddenly spins faster than Clark Griswold's electricity meter at Christmas. But, hearing the ad did give me pause. I know I'm not alone in this because I searched the hashtag on Twitter and there are other people who disapproved. I'm not sure if we're upset because Verizon was wrong to appropriate the holiday that way or if it's because they really got it right and we don't like to be called out like that. Sure, we like to think we're thankful people and life is a Norman Rockwell painting at the Thanksgiving table. But, are we? I mean, the gravy hasn’t even congealed in the boat before we’re supposed to scramble out of the house, jumping over grandmas and small children to go get that great deal. On the other hand, as if we aren’t already so self-absorbed and self-indulgent, the slogan took the only holiday about giving thanks and turned it into another reason to think about ourselves. We don't need additional reminders that the question constantly hanging over a lot of our actions and decisions is, "What's in it for me?"
Thanksgetting: Just another reminder to keep it all about you. You're the boss. What can you get out of this?
My sister and her family moved into a new house last summer. She did a great job of packing up as much as she could prior to moving day - boxes were labeled and stacked in the garage, the truck and trailer were ready, and we all seemed to be as prepared as we could have been. I know some people move often. They have it watered down to a simple solution of gathering boxes and hiring movers and, “What? Moving day? Oh, yeah, that again.” Military families know this well. My family, on the other hand, likes to move as little as possible. Both sets of grandparents have been in their houses for over fifty years. Fifty years, you guys. My parents, prior to their own moving this summer, were in their house for twenty years. This is a thing younger generations know nothing of – staying in places for this long. Putting down roots. But for my family, moving is just not something we do. We cozy up in our space and make it our own. We stay. And every time someone does lose their mind and move, we’re reminded of why we don’t do this and why moving companies are so lucrative.
Well, on moving day I had a bad attitude. It didn’t start bad, but began to avalanche pretty quickly after the first load and unload was complete and it was clear we had, at the very least, another round of the whole process. You know what you should really give away before you move? Books. I mean, there’s a reason the Kindle is so popular. Another thing you need to set down and back away from when it comes to moving is the thought, I think I can make it fit. It does not fit. Even if it does fit, it will make the box too heavy to lift or carry from the truck to the house. Trust me. It doesn’t fit.
Anyway, there was somewhere else I wanted to be – it was a hot summer Saturday. My friends were together and my FOMO (fear of missing out) was off the charts. It wasn’t long before they started to notice I was annoyed. I was hot and tired and over it – all of the lifting and carrying and back and forth and sweating my face off. I was somehow acting like moving was everyone else’s favorite thing to do. Like they all got to sit in the front seat, watching the DVD player, while I was relegated to the backseat of the station wagon looking at where we had been – there’s kind of that thrill in the beginning but then you just start to feel woozy and want to get out.
So I’m carrying a box down the side of the house again and I'm thinking of all the places I could be instead, the things I could be doing, how much time this was taking and how late it was getting and, "Oh my word, you guys, where does this go?" and then somehow it just hits me. In the yucky stuff, the stuff we don’t want to do, the stuff that hurts and the stuff that’s hard, the days that are long and boring and you're thinking, "What am I even doing? What is my life?", even in that there’s something to be thankful for if we're open to it. Isn’t that what I had just learned leading up to my 30th birthday? It's amazing how quickly lessons flee to the corners of our minds when just months ago they were shining revelations. Well, let me tell you what I needed in those moments – a heaping pile of joy.
Legs to walk
Arms to carry
I started an internal list of things in those exact moments that I could be grateful for instead of continuing to spiral into the black hole of self-pity. I was physically able to carry boxes and walk down the stairs. I had no pain. I was not ill. I could see. We take those things for granted because we just expect that when we wake up every single morning our bodies will function how they were designed to function. Our brains will convert the images our eyes take in. Our lungs will breathe. Our toes will create a balance that holds up this whole gangly frame. I don't know if you know this or not, but those things don’t come with a guarantee. All it took for my otherwise healthy aunt was one stroke at 15 years old to change the way her body has worked for the rest of her life. I'm not trying to freak you out, but if you're well today, that's reason enough to be glad.
A family that needs me
Not moving in the rain
There are people in the world who face the immensity of spending their days alone. Maybe it's you. Whether it's because of life circumstances or job circumstances or whatever, you don’t have people to walk this journey with you right now - to step into the hard places. You don’t have the tribe of friends who will show up anytime, day or night. It makes me sad to think people could be left to celebrate the good and feel the sorrow on their own. If you even have one single person to share your joys and sadness, text them or call them and say thank you for always showing up. We need more of that. Showing up and saying thank you.
My organized sister
Celebrating a new season
I kept my list running, my bad attitude seeping out of the bottoms of my feet with every step. There in the middle of the sweat dripping, legs tired, repetitive back and forth of moving, I kept coming up with reasons to be thankful. You might be thinking, "Wow, easy for you to say. Moving is one thing, but you aren't dealing with ______." I'll be the first to say that I'm abundantly grateful to be in a really good season, but that doesn't mean I've always been here or that I'll stay here. There will be other days to discuss the way I battled anxiety for years, the way 2009 broke my whole heart and the way my life circumstances felt, for a little while, like one long, running example of how God must hate me. We all walk through the ugly in one way or another. No one is exempt. But I think that's why it's so important, when life is good, to be thankful and celebrate instead of let it slip away marked by anger and complaint.
I'm not always in a good mood. My family can vouch for that. I don't always do the right thing and I don't always make mental lists to talk myself out of a bad attitude. But, if you think of it, try to stop yourself in the midst of complaining next time to find at least one good thing about all of it. And remind me to do it, too. Maybe I've said the same thing 12 different ways now, but I want to start 2016 with the right mindset. I guess I just hope we’re not the people of thanksgetting and more and more shift our thinking back toward thanksgiving. And it's easy to be thankful for the good things, to feel fuzzy feelings of gratefulness when we're on that vacation and get the promotion. We easily slap #blessed on our good days. But if we don’t know the mundane, if we don't know how to find joy in the ordinary, we will lose our ability to recognize and appreciate the extravagant.