It’s never a bad time to show some gratitude, and no better excuse than the dawn our annual Thanksgiving day here in the US. As I write this I’m pumped full of Flexeril and Ultram to mellow a lower back spasm, so I’m tempted to thank big pharma – but this is intended as a serious meditation on things I’m deeply thankful for and an encouragement to you, no matter what your current circumstance, to do the same.
1. My Family
The value of raw, stupid luck early in life can’t be overstated. Over the years I’ve come to know people whose view of themselves, the world and existence itself was poisoned, to a large or small degree, by families ranging from malevolent to indifferent. I can think of no greater pain than believing yourself incapable of shaping your reality – to be permanently bound to stress, anxiety, fear, anger, attachment – because your primary teachers taught you that you are something less. My parents, brother and four sisters – along with the weird supernatural lessons/nonsense of Catholicism – allowed me to believe in myself (as long as I wasn’t being stupid – stupid was understood to be inexcusable). I was a little slow figuring out I was the captain of my ship (and that was all on me – hubris is my primary skill), but once I did, there were no mental hobgoblins or landmines to trip me up. If you had a great family, thank them – if not, forgive them and cut ‘em loose.
2. No Crazy Diseases
I’ve made it this far never needing to develop a “relationship” with a physician, and while I’m sure they’re nice folks, I’m happy about that. I’ve known people plagued by, or taken out, by chronic or acute poor health throughout my life, and seen triumphant spirit in the process. With the exception of nickel and dime injuries, I’ve dodged every bullet, and it’s freed me to easily focus on the aspects of life I control. And that freedom is priceless. If you’ve lucked out and been the recipient of robust good health, cherish every second of it, use it, enhance it with exercise and diet – because it will end. When it does, have the peace of mind knowing that you used every second of your healthful life to your best advantage. And never forget we’re all just one accident, clot, leaky valve, funky cartilage (or any other card in the deck of human frailty) from infirmity or a permanent dirt nap – act accordingly!
3. Access to Freedom
Being born white, male and middle-class in the US is hitting the birth Powerball of societal access and personal freedom. It’s luck, pure and simple, and what I do with that luck isn’t weighed down by all the (psychological and systemic) baggage confronting women, people of color, people with disabilities, immigrants, refugees, political prisoners, war ravaged communities, crime ravaged communities, and all manner of bad luck birth scenarios. I don’t say this to gloat, I say this in gratitude – I’m crazy lucky and know it – and stay mindful of this when I encourage others to create and pursue their own personal freedom. We’re all (in countries that allow it) capable of enjoying the benefits of a decision-based life, some of us have more obstacles than others, but all of us have the capacity to continuously evolve under our own direction – and that’s an amazing freedom.
Everybody has great ideas, but only creators take the time to document them. I’m grateful for all of them, the great, the good and the bad – they open worlds that would be closed. Creators of philosophy allow us to look at (close to) all the ways we can approach a life well lived, and what constitutes one. Creators of music, film, visual art show us the beauty, ugliness, pain and transcendence of life, through their personal prism of understanding. Creators of life – women – give us a connection to the infinite, the immortal. Creators of cuisine allow us to taste new combinations of earthly edibles, enabling us to transmute simple sustenance to sensual passion. Creators of technology allow us to whine about long air travel, slow downloads and sketchy cellular access. Did I mention how awesome these drugs I’m on are? Creators of medicine have transformed what we think of as a lifespan – in less than a century. This list is endless – human creation is the wondrous distinction between us and the three-toed sloth – and I’m thankful to be alive, in this moment, right this second.
5. Learning from failure
(NOTE: I’ve been looking for a reason to use this stock photo for twenty years – love it!) When I was young, I was terribly concerned with being right, not failing, being perceived as smart. Then I got a face full of life – I still clung to those old illusions – but the facts on the ground were making it clear I needed to change or get sucked under by a mediocre life (of my own design). When I finally got around to admitting I was full of shit, I stopped laboring to interpret my failures as successes, and got to the alchemical business of creating my life. It didn’t happen quickly – it’s tough admitting your entire approach to life is fundamentally flawed – all your old scapegoats escape the pasture and all you’re left with is you. I’m still a little too cautious for my own good, but I’m thankful I didn’t get stuck in a rut, that I can still dream big and have the passion to risk big.
Stephen Covey opened my eyes to the idea of the scarcity mentality (there isn’t enough) and the abundance mentality (there’s more than enough), a big part of living in abundance is gratitude – remembering no matter what the current situation – there’s something to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!