what gratitude can hold…

November 21, 2012

It’s starting….the gratitude lists, the thankfulness trees, the season of giving. The time when we take stock of all that we have. When we weigh and score it, and go back to recognizing that our most basic needs are met.

We remind ourselves that we have food (even if it’s ramen noodles), and shelter (even if we always pay the rent late) and are healthy (or mostly healthy, except for that annoying eczema) and it’s true, it’s all so very true and good and important…

…but why is it that this time of year also reminds you of everything you don’t have and shows the craters in your heart that need filling more than you want to know.  Your awkward conversations with your family drive you to liquor up for the 48 hours ahead… or that you shopped at the thrift store of food, the grocery salvage….or that it feels like everyone is in love around you and ridiculously happy…or you want to have your old family together and wish you didn’t have to travel between parents and be with your annoying stepmom…or you just wish that you had a baby to pass around or sit on your hip as you make the green bean supreme and 100 other side dishes.

It feels as though Gratitude asks us to stuff that shit or put it down completely, be GRATEFUL, damn it…and you do, you are, because we want to grateful. …but I wonder if Gratitude never asked us to choose in the first place.

I wonder if she can hold both, because she is that deep, she is that strong, because she knows all of our heart….

I wonder if she is strong enough to hold:

your sadness that your mom isn’t here to cook with you

your clarity of all that matters to you even if it’s sort of messed up

your confusion over why your family is so hard to be with or not together at all

that one prayer your dad still makes everyone pray that means so much to him

your anger for that really old thing that is still wounding you

your souffle triumph

your longing for something more, something whole, a love you haven’t experienced yet

your crazy aunt with all the cats

your frustration that the effin’ turkey is dry every year and no one wants to dress up to come to the table

your deep wish to be in another place in your heart all together

your small moment of happiness when everyone is full and happy after the meal

your kids that can’t sit still and want to bring the DS to the dinner table

your exhaustion from trying to make things special, and will maybe never been seen or acknowledged

your hope that maybe some day, you will be okay on a holiday

your grief, your messy love, your trying

~

I wonder if we let her hold it, it will make space for all the good things we do not see or think we are supposed to see and feel…and maybe just maybe, they can rise and sit together. Side by side, our everything hard and good…and  maybe that will be okay.

…because sometimes, just okay is okay.

maybe then, we can breathe…and let her hold us too.

It started with a duct tape obsession this summer. They made Minecraft figures, purses, hats, anything you could ever imagine with the new craze of colored tape. Josiah asked to be paid in rolls of green instead of money for his babysitting gig. So I asked them one day if they wanted to do a duct tape project together, they were way in. So we made a tree. Josiah covered the top with green, Jack made the cherry hearts…the girls held the scissors.

Shockingly, there was very little drama in the whole project…and you should know there is always a little in every bit of family togetherness. We wrote something we loved about each person in our family on the cherry hearts and put it in the corner. I never know what to do with such things when we are done. I only know they are important to do.  This makes for very un-grown up house decor, but I don’t mind so much.

The tree sat in the corner of our dining room that now has just turned into a revolving laundry station. When the kindness tree project was well over,  I was itching for something more.  Something I could see, something grand…but I wasn’t sure what and maybe it had to be grand and big because my soul was in a funk, it was holding all the wrong kind of reflection. Do you ever do that? Does your soul pick up things that don’t belong there? It was desperately needing some re-arranging. It is usually around this time, when you are funkified that the universe drops something in your lap.

I was looking into storytelling photography sessions (more on that soon!) and I came across Image Bearers Photography …oh such loveliness from Sarah. She had a session with the Kliewer family (Lindsey is also a birth photographer) The session was so dear, but my favorite part was a wall of gratitude that the Kliewer family made in their home. *sigh* It held so much.

This was just the thing. The girls and I got to work, the papers flowed…as fast as we could finish one, someone else was shouting out another to add. “Did you put Myle’s animal noises on there? Those are super funny, so grateful for that!” …what about the trampoline?! Did someone add that?”

We. could. not. stop. I thought it might be a work in progress…but we just kept going until the whole wall was filled. …and we ran out of tape. I ran into the night to 2 neighbors to borrow more.

and then each person, wandered in, mid-papering…smiled, and went to bed.  I was alone to finish the last squares.

…and I stood back, looking up and down each row…and started to cry. It’s hard to not be overwhelmed when you are staring at floor to 10ft ceiling holding everything good about your life. …and your soul can only see the beauty before you, literally. …and you can’t stop staring. It becomes all your soul can hold, nothing more. …because nothing more is needed.

…you have it, you hold it.

“You mean NO one is coming over?” he asked.

“Yep!” I replied.

“And we aren’t going anywhere?” he said, clarifying the entire plan.

“Nope!” I answered.

“It’s going to be just us! Niiccceeee.” my dear introverted child said. Some times I wonder how that poor child survives in this family.

I have to admit part of me was sad, I missed cooking with my mom and sisters, being with friends, but there was this kind of deep relief also. This was the Thanksgiving when:

When your mate helps you make the turkey (and the entire meal) and for the first time in Thanksgiving history the bird was juicy, done on time with zero stress. He made Thanksgiving dreams come true with the togetherness.

When your child decides 2 minutes before dinner that he must come to dinner as a pilgrim and is rifling through boxes in the basement to turn halloween capes and a pirate hat into a suitable and proper costume.

When you have to tell little girls that they can not slurp the very exciting treat of blue Gatorade served in vintage green goblets with spoons and straws at the dinner table.

When you got ding dong ditched the most amazing pumpkin spice cake which sort of saved the day because the pumpkin pie you bought molded and you were already bummed you had to buy one in the first place. This cake dominated 73% of conversation the rest of the weekend just trying to figure out what was in it.

When laziness rules.

When you all go to see the Muppet Movie and cry over endearing Muppets and your childhood.

When you realize the amazing and very beautiful family love and connection you hold was born and has grown from an old and deep pain, and you feel kind of grateful and sad for this all at the same time. …and how you can always count on the holidays to bring such epiphanies.

When you know how deeply you are blessed and loved.

 

Oh, please share your holiday with us…what were your highs and lows? even better, give a link or a picture. This extrovert would love to know in the comments…