12 Days of Thanksgiving
I’m starting my annual thanksgiving writing tradition today — 12 Days of Thanksgiving. I started it several years ago as a way to cultivate a more grateful heart during this busy time of year and hopefully to gain a deeper understanding of how the act of giving thanks can impact more of life than just a day in November.
Every year I’ve learned something through this writing experiment. Something about myself. Something about God. Something about discipline. And, yes, something about Thanksgiving. But, it is sometimes hard work. To figure out ways to delve into my soul every day during this harried time of year.
This year seems more harried. I think I probably say that every year, of course, but it seems that lately I’m spending a few more moments at the point of frustration or desperation than normal. I’m a year into adjusting to life as a single mother now. The sole provider, the chief taxi service for our schedules, the lone educator and encourager — spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally for my three little ones. I tell myself that I was really all these things already through the last few years of Mike’s illness, but it’s not much consolation. Some days, the simple fact that I’m the only adult in my home is my single biggest barrier to peace. For, it leaves the responsibility for all our well-being squarely and completely on my shoulders. I suppose the difference is in the expectations. Something I expected and imagined from childhood to be a life shouldered and experienced by two, is now mine alone.
There’s never been a time in my mothering when I felt the weight of my own limitations more. And there’s never been a time when I felt as dumb-struck by the level of distraction in need of weeding through. This, paired with the conviction that I simply CAN’T get this wrong has me wide-eyed most days. It is admittedly stretching and confusing and overwhelming to find the most important need to address at any given moment — for a client, for a child, for myself. Sounds like a pretty good time to consider gratitude, huh?
To be honest, I almost didn’t take on the 12 Days for 2013. After all, I’ve barely written anything this year. I’ve even considered letting EyeJunkie go (a post for another day), but I just wasn’t ready yet to give it up and it’s connection to my soul. “Tradition” was pretty much the only thing that tethered my heart to this process this year. But, really, any motivation will do. I predict that the outcome for my emotional adjustment will be no less a change of course.
Earlier this Fall, my parents and I took the kids to Memphis for our school’s Fall Break. I booked our stay in a Downtown hotel this time because I wanted to give the children some more urban scenery. Some new experience. A new perspective.
I spent some time on our walks encouraging them to look up. After all, we rarely see buildings much taller than a couple of stories. I challenged them to think about how walking on Main Street in Memphis with it’s canopy of buildings and bricked walks and bustling traffic — the lights and sounds and movement of a big city — was different from walking on Main Street in Starkville. Their response was an alternating combination of that just barely perceptible rolling of the eyes, looks of confusion and exuberance of un-contained wonder. From riding on trolleys and in horse-drawn carriages to street tumblers on Beale and people pushing their belongings in shopping carts, the experience was quite a change from what they know of a “town.” A shift in perspective.
Of course I took my camera. I was very excited to capture the “space” and details in Downtown Memphis. Some of my encouragement to the kids to “look up” was spent in trying to capture building details, painted murals and roof ornament. I used my Canon Powershot, which has a pretty nice on-board zoom feature. Invariably, after I shifted the zoom lever, watching the details get closer, and used my arms somehow to steady my hands on the camera, I had to look away or bring the camera down to answer a question or make sure no one had moved too far out of my reach. To bring the camera back to my eye was completely disorienting. I knew where I should be looking, but I couldn’t find any reference points in that altered micro-cosmic view. Every time I had to zoom back out, find my bearings and re-focus on the detail of interest. Perspective.
I’m approaching the 12 Days a little differently this year. I’ve decided to write each day contributing to an overall theme. That theme is PERSPECTIVE. It’s the thing I think I’m most thankful for this year.
Perspective is filled with irony, to me. I’ve gained a lot of it in the process of grief. In the realities of losing a husband to suicide. In the process of trying to live prior to that. And after. Dear friends told me that although a one year anniversary isn’t magic in the grieving process, it IS significant. It allows clearer perspective, and I’ve seen that. The time helps to organize the life-and-death with the simply and lovingly mundane. And yet, as much as I know I’ve gained, perspective remains the thing that seems most easily and quickly lost. The more I feel I have a handle on, the easier it seems to see what still needs to be handled better or even handled at all.
I don’t know yet where my thinking on perspective will lead. I guess we’ll see over these twelve days. I know that God has gently moved the lever on the zoom feature of my life, shifting the view in and back out again in profound ways over the last fourteen months. I know each new phase in our process is one of seeing some things more clearly and accepting some things for their inherent blurry-ness. I know we have been in this process together. And with Him. I know I’m grateful to see in ever clearer ways how this process is bringing us back to life.