Oh, my, it’s just about here, that busy, family filled, often harrowing holiday season. But rather than harping on the negatives and the what-ifs, I think it’s more apropos to talk about gratitude. There is certainly a lot to be grateful for, wacky family dynamics aside. It’s time to take a good look of where we are and where we’ve been and start making those gratitude lists. Often times, changing the way we look at things allows us to manage difficulties with grace instead of bombastic derivations.
Certainly, we all have family members that tend to send us over the edge via button-pushing or sheer insensitivity; sometimes it’s the direct result of differences in personality, sometimes it’s the mere fact that they can’t or won’t recognize how much you’ve changed, or perhaps they are too terrified to look at themselves. Sometimes we are a reminder of their own riotous past, evoking memories of their wilder days and the ill-perceived choices of their youth. Some folks, frankly, are just comfortable being resentful. The truth is, it’s not our job to eliminate someone else’s resentment, but rather to take responsibility for our own causative actions. AA’s step 9 asks us to “Make amends unless to do so would injure them or others,” it does not say, “Make amends and all will be forgiven.” The impetus here is to clean our proverbial mess and let the cards fall as they may. Forgiveness takes time and doesn’t always occur when we want it to, but it will eventually happen especially if we learn to take the higher ground.
When I say, “take the higher ground,” what I mean is practice being the non-reactive party. No one is better than anyone else, but rather, we are all a piece of the larger puzzle. Just because the other pieces are lost and mismatched doesn’t mean we have to join in their dysfunction. Our job in recovery is to really learn to just be in the moment, regardless of what that moment might be. Taking things “one day at a time” allows us to deal with things as they come. In Recovering Spirituality, Ingrid Mathieu says, “I can’t feel my feelings in advance. I can’t prepare enough, know enough, be enough, rise above enough to shield myself from the things that are painful. But I can do my best to be present for what is happening right in front of me. Even if that thing is tragedy and even if I can only do it for one minute at a time.” For me, this is a prompt to remember two things: to breathe and to allow myself to take a step back, noting that prayer and meditation won’t eliminate any feelings of discord, but rather, they will allow me to feel them and process them accordingly. This, in its very nature, allows for gratitude. Without the ability to be in the moment, I am apt to fail to recognize the vast pulchritude that is my life today.
This year, this Thanksgiving, I’m choosing to be present. How about you?