I'm not a grinch about Thanksgiving. I enjoy this holiday.
My wife just finished making an apple pie. Soon I'll prepare our main dish, a vegetarian Trader Joe's Turkey-Less Stuffed Roast, which requires all of my cooking skills: heating the oven to 375, basting the roast, and cooking it for 45 minutes.
Whew! I feel exhausted already.
I'm also totally fine with feeling thankful. I just have a different view about what thankfulness means. Last night I saw people interviewed on the evening news about what they're thankful for. Family. Friends. Having a job. That sort of thing.
OK. Totally understandable. Around millions of dinner tables today, there will be similar talk of what everybody is thankful for.
But here's my problem with singling out certain aspects of life for a blue ribbon thankfulness award. This leaves out most of what we experience each day.
I'm a big fan of mindfulness, even though I often suck at it.
Basically this is non-judgmental awareness of the present moment, accepting whatever lies within and without ourselves. If we're angry, we know we're angry. If we're stuck in traffic, we know we're stuck in traffic.
We don't push what's happening away. We embrace the good and bad, the beautiful and ugly, the pleasurable and painful.
This doesn't mean fatalism. We still try to fix things, improve our condition, help others in need, fight injustice. Mindfulness just leads us to a understanding that we've got to accept what is before we can move toward what can be.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that encourages positivity. Nothing wrong with that. But with all the pressure to have an absolutely wonderful Thanksgiving, maybe some people would resonate with this perspective:
Be thankful for nothing. Which means, everything.
I'll explain why I like this notion. In my everyday life, I'm simply living my life. I don't divide my life into what I'm thankful for, and what I'm not thankful for. I do say "thank you" occasionally, but that's different from putting things in thankful and not thankful buckets.
I have some health problems. I deal with those. I guess I'm thankful that I'm alive, since being dead would be worse than having those problems (though it would eliminate them). But that doesn't come to mind as I go about my day.
Our dog usually is a pleasure to have around, but sometimes she can be annoying. Ditto with my wife. The same is true of me. I'm sure our dog gets annoyed with me calling her when she's engrossed in hunting mice or moles. And I know my wife finds me annoying at times.
Such is the nature of life. It's a whole, not a bunch of separable things.
If I could eliminate everything unpleasant about life, it wouldn't be life anymore. Living is a combination of what we like and don't like, of pleasure and pain, of happiness and sadness. Living life mindfully means being aware of everything, not just the part of life we'd say we're thankful for if someone asked.
I love our property, ten natural acres in rural south Salem. Our house is surrounded by large trees. They're beautiful. They're also annoying when they drop leaves, branches, and needles where we don't want them.
But I can't separate what I like about the trees from what I don't like. They're just trees, doing their tree thing. I have to accept everything about the trees. That means not thinking of them as something I'm thankful for, because they're a combination of annoying and pleasurable -- as is life as a whole.
I both like and dislike dealing with leaves.
So rather than being thankful about some aspects of the trees, and not thankful about other aspects, I prefer to be thankful for nothing particular about them, which enables me to be thankful for everything about them -- though the whole notion of thankfulness then becomes irrelevant.
This afternoon I did what I usually do on Thanksgiving: pick leaves out of bushes in our yard, since by now almost all of the leaves have fallen and been blown into the brush, so I'm into the refined part of dealing with the leaves.
And when I looked around the back of this bush, I saw flowers blooming that I hadn't noticed before. Again, this wasn't something I was thankful or not thankful for. It was simply part of what I was doing.
Life is just what life is. We can try to categorize and divide life in a myriad of ways, but in the end, our life is a whole.
Which is how I look upon thankfulness.
When we're thankful for nothing in particular, the door is opened to being thankful for everything -- even though "thankful" ceases to be a word pointing to something special, since all of life becomes special.