22 November 2007

Thanksgiving now

It’s an ordinary morning in Venice. No one here knows this is the day my countrymen pause to acknowledge and express their gratitude. A fine thing indeed! Among my many life lessons, this one falls very near the top of the list: “The Universe won’t give you anything else until you’re truly grateful for what you’ve already got.”

At one time I was convinced of the opposite. I feared that offering thanks would somehow stop the flow (or trickle, as I saw it). The concept of gratitude eluded me, kind of like when you’re a kid and you can’t possibly imagine how it could be better to give a Christmas present than to get one. But eventually I got the hang of it. Now thanksgiving – small “t” – is a healthy habit that makes me feel better every time I do it, like flossing.

Currently, my “plus column” is crammed. That’s not to say there are no “minuses” in the other column. In fact, at this moment I’m feeling the all too familiar sting of the Universe withholding something that I want very much! I’ll have to get around that today and focus instead on all the wonderful stuff I’ve received lately. If I am quiet and attentive enough, I will even find a way to be grateful for that perceived “withholding” (which is probably something else good that I just don’t recognize or appreciate yet). Grudging acceptance of what’s real right now is often my first step toward genuine thankfulness.

And that’s my point! Gratitude is all about NOW – about being alive and awake and aware of who and where you are and how you feel right this very moment. Usually, whatever is on our plates (literally and figuratively!) here and now is what moves us to give thanks. The bank grants the loan, the lost dog returns, your kid is unhurt in the accident, the medical test comes back negative. All “now” stuff. You can’t be grateful about something that hasn’t happened yet, so the future doesn’t apply here. You might well be grateful about something in the past, but you tune into it because the sweet feeling about it still lingers now. See? This is a great way to be present for your own life while you’re actually living it.

So, while I won’t see the Macy’s Parade and I won’t have any sage stuffing or pumpkin pie today, I will take myself across the Bacino to the lofty, hushed San Giorgio Maggiore. When I’m in Venice, that’s where I go to light a candle and give thanks. I hope you have a similar place and will do the same before all that turkey makes you too sleepy to remember just how lucky you are. Right now.

(David, you cannot imagine how very much I will miss you and Mikey and your wonderful family today. Say my “hellos” for me. I will be there in spirit, but call me from the car anyway. You know my U.S. cell number.)