“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever” ~John Keats
November approaches again and of late I greet the month with part dread, part joy, part appreciation, and part hope. It's the month of my birth, and, of course, Thanksgiving, so I generally like to share daily notes of blessings during the month. Two years ago, though, I did not feel any gratitude, having lost a grandpa, dad, and uncle in succession within less than a year. Still in deep mourning, I could not find my way to thankfulness. Yet I wanted to try, and, more, I wanted to honor the men our family had lost.
Two years later, and I continue this tradition to honor them.
Two years later, and I still find feeling gratitude difficult, almost a chore, something I know I should do and even something I know is true when it comes down to it. This life is a gift, a miracle, and every minute there are thousands of microscopic reasons to express thankfulness. I know this. I see this. I appreciate this.
In the past two years, I have lost several more people who were special to me. It’s hard to be in this world without them. We will never again be who we were before losing them, and I feel such a deep sadness, anger, and fear inside now. The sorrow permeates everything in this new world, new normal, new me, and the anxiety is easy to see—too many awful things happening in our country, in the world, all the time now. But I didn’t realize the rage until last week when I was triggered into a memory of the moment my mom called to tell me that my uncle had died. If I think about it, I can still feel that moment and my body’s reaction as if it is happening right now. And, when I thought about it last week, I was livid that UD died, that the doctors didn’t catch it in time and help him, that God allowed it to happen, that we have to live in this world without him now.
Two years later, and I’m still finding my way through this new normal.
Gratitude is an attitude, a perspective that we choose, or not. And I want to choose it. But, how to do so in the midst of the grief, fury, and fear.
The online dictionary defines gratitude as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” I am ready to “return kindness” when I can find it. Yes, I know that there are still many kind people out there, but in the past few years, acts of kindness appear few and far between. UD had a spirit of love and a kind, giving heart, and we all still miss him so much.
In my blog entry two years ago when I started this tradition, I wrote, “A Thing of Beauty is combining gratitude with seeing things in a new way and with authenticity; it’s living in the moment and acknowledging what is (good and bad) and reinventing what life gives us. This reminds me of Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem, “Valentine for Ernest Mann” where the narrator sees beauty and connection in the eyes of skunks. This I feel I can do. I can look at what is, whether I like it or not, whether it’s ugly or bizarre, and find beauty or create meaning out of the muck. Like a lotus flower, I can find a way to blossom out of the mud….A Thing of Beauty is just that: to approach life with the “openness” and sense of “wonder” in order to reveal meaning.”
And last year, I wrote of how I needed this, needed to focus for a few minutes every day on something positive, on seeing beauty, noticing blessings, and acknowledging kindness.
So, once again, I will find “a thing of beauty” each day to share. I pray that it revives my spirits and that it influences others along the way. I invite you to find a thing of beauty in your life and share it with us.