Suitcases were packed, to go boxes were stuffed, and smiles were fading as we started our goodbyes. It’s the hardest part of family get togethers. Being a planner, I start the process with spreadsheets of food delegations and lodging possibilities weeks ahead. Everyone can say they had a part in the feast from the pies to the turkey, although the prized dish in our family are the stuffed grape leaves and cabbage rolls we make together.
Did it all go perfectly? No. I eliminated “perfect” from my vocabulary long ago. Did it go smoothly? Not really. But that is not the point. Gratitude is the point.
Before the holidays began, I shook my hand at God and asked why everything that I had worked for years to accomplish had to happen in a two week span. Couldn’t God have adjusted the timetable a bit? My book, The Sea Glass Gift, was launched in ATL and Melbourne with release parties and a book fair. Nearly 700 people came to an Inter-Faith Thanksgiving event that has been in the works for months, and my husband’s 60th birthday party all happened within the same two week period! Add to that his extended family, my extended family and our children were staying with us for the weekend. Really God!?!
In all of these events I learned myriads about patience and gratitude. For instance, on Thanksgiving, I could spend my time focusing on the late guests or the insufficient amount of oyster gravy we made, but instead, I choose to see neighbors family and friends sharing stories of blessings. My neighbor could focus on his cancer, but he chose to celebrate with us his last chemo treatment. We could focus on our dogs who chased each other into the clubhouse and almost knocked people over, but we managed to smile as we recollected how it is the closest thing we have to watching our infant children play together on the floor, now that there are no children around.
There are many things on my wish list I didn’t get to this year: long conversations with my very deep children, a good game of Catan (I was too emotionally exhausted at night from the holiday coordination), more than one good healthy political conversation where we hugged and thanked each other for the ability to talk civilly across “enemy lines”, and more of that oyster gravy for the stuffing. But gratitude is all about focusing on what we have “in paradise” instead of what is “lost” in our dreams of perfection. With family, friends and food around, I’m always in paradise!
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