Making a Habit of Thanksgiving

When I was a kid in Catholic school, the nuns worked hard to instill in us the value of good habits. (Sorry, unintentional pun…) They taught us that habits, once formed, are there to rely upon in every situation. Once we established the habit of looking left and right, we could cross the street in safety. By learning to keep our uniforms tidy, wash our hands and brush our teeth after meals, we would always be presentable. Opening the door for other people became second nature, as did offering to share what we had.

My parents and the adults around me gave me similar lessons. As a child of a Texan father and a Canadian mother, I come from two cultures, both of which prize courtesy. From the time I was old enough to talk, I said “Yes, ma’am,” and “Yes, Sir,” to my elders. “Please” and “Thank You” were automatic. I never sat on a bus if an older person or a pregnant woman were standing.

The habits I learned as a child endowed me with a lot of useful social capital. And every skill I’ve learned in life has also involved building habit patterns.

As part of my spiritual evolution, I have made it a habit to be grateful. I’m human, of course, so when something happens that I would prefer to be otherwise, it may take a minute – or an hour or two – for me to adjust. The really big things take longer. But even while a part of me is crying, “Why me?” my more conscious self is reaching for gratitude. I know that in every situation, however unwanted, there is the opportunity to learn – and often, there are deeper, richer gifts hidden within.

A month ago, I was on mile four of my morning walk when I fell and tore my Achilles tendon. This is a bigger deal than you might imagine, as it involves surgery and a period of recovery that goes on for months. After surgery, while hopping around on one leg on a walker, I fell again and sustained a concussion. Then, my immune system having undoubtedly taken a beating, I came down with a bad case of bronchitis.

Oh, and one more thing. The week of my surgery, we were scheduled to move. I had not yet begun packing.

All this did not make me happy.

I am the oldest child in a big family, and the matriarch of my own big family. Somewhere along the line (that’s another story) I got the idea that I’m in charge of making things happen. To keep everybody provided for and safe, I had to work hard. In fact, I’ve been working hard my whole life.

I confused myself with God. Now, I believe we are all an expression of God, and God has given me some things to do in life. But I do understand – in my head, at least – that this idea I have that I’m in charge of running the world is a delusion. So for the last decade or so, I’ve really been working on that.

Have you ever noticed how, when you decide you want to make a change, the Universe comes in and supports you?

During the past month, my world has contracted dramatically. I spend the majority of my time sleeping. When I’m awake, the room is often spinning. I can’t take a shower without help. I’m not going on daily walks communing with nature. I’m not taking yoga class. It goes without saying I’m not homeschooling my grandsons, or cooking, or cleaning, or working much on my business.

I have cancelled Family Christmas, the annual get-together I always host. It’s my favorite event of the year.

Yet, in the midst of all this, I am grateful.

As much as I hate it, I am grateful for this enforced inactivity. It’s a pattern interrupt, as we therapists say. I have been forced to stop working, stop doing for others, stop living on automatic pilot. I am just beginning to glimpse the gifts I know I will be receiving these next few months.

I’m grateful for my family and friends who packed and moved us. I’m grateful I was able to let go of my need to be in control and turn it all over to people who love me.

I’m grateful this challenge is a relatively minor one, in the big picture of life.

I’m grateful I am not in pain. As injuries go, this has been remarkably painless.

I’m grateful the injury is on my left leg, rather than my right. In a few weeks, I’ll be able to drive again.

I am oh, so grateful that I will make a full recovery. I’m a compassionate person, but this experience has given me a much deeper appreciation for the trials many people face in daily life.

I’m grateful I was able to get out one night and listen to some music. I’m grateful to my friend who took me out to lunch this week. Getting around is quite a performance, and it’s a lot of work for anyone who accompanies me.

I am grateful for our new home. It may not be unpacked during this calendar year, but I am already loving it. My office has two walls of windows, and eventually, I will be able to work surrounded by light.

I am grateful for my husband, who takes care of me around working himself. There was a time I could not have imagined being so cherished.

I am grateful I can now write for an hour or two at a time, snuggled up in my reclining couch with my computer on my lap.

I am grateful to be reminded that I am enough, just being, rather than always doing.

I am grateful to Spirit that supports me, even when I imagine I am doing it all myself.

I am grateful to you, dear friends, for being my companions on this journey, and I wish you a joy-filled holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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3 thoughts on “Making a Habit of Thanksgiving

  1. Way go Jill. Are you and Dempsey still in the Austin area? Hope you had a “comfy” thanksgiving. lol
    Cheers, Bob

  2. Dear Jill, I am so moved by this beautiful blog. You are one of the most loving and generous people I have ever known and it is an honor to call you a dear and close friend. You so deserve all the love and care you are receiving. Just wish we were there so we could take you out to play too. Enjoy this time to the fullest.

  3. Thank you for this. I’m grateful to watch someone truly making the best of a bad situation. Hope your healing is fast and you get to enjoy those two walls of windows in your new office soon. How wonderful to know your family and friends will step up when you need them, and that you really can step down.

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