How to Keep Thanksgiving

give thanks-candleA perfect picture of Thanksgiving is sitting at my parent’s large dining room table, beautifully decorated with an autumn tablecloth, centerpiece, nice plates, glasses and silverware, surrounded by wonderful family and friends.

I was in this type of scene a few nights ago, however it wasn’t a Thanksgiving dinner, but rather a birthday celebration. My mother still enjoys gathering her five children and their spouses home for a feast three or four times a year to celebrate birthdays. Lots of laughter is heard while we enjoy each other’s company. This is a happy table, yet I came to it feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. I tried to mask the weight of my daily tasks and worries about Mark’s health. When the conversation turned to past vacations my siblings had taken and the possibilities of future trips, I forgot all my many blessings and had to leave the table. Instead of feeling joyful for their experiences, distress set in. I was no longer focused on how lucky I am to have all my siblings live close by and both my parents still alive. For a moment, I forgot how fortunate I am for the love and support we all share with one another. Unfortunately my thoughts turned to all the places I’ve never been nor could possibly go to. I wasn’t living in thanksgiving, yet I know I’m happiest when I do.

Thanksgiving is more than the annual national holiday which commemorates a harvest festival. It is an expression of gratitude, especially to God. I appreciate this time of year which reminds us the importance of giving thanks, however, every day should be a day of thanksgiving. But it’s hard to give thanks in all things.

Life with Mark is a happy one, largely because he knows how to keep thanksgiving. He appreciates everything, including his adversities. He is cheerful and content and loves to bring joy to others. However, he has reason to be bitter, resentful or has cause for deep sadness due to loss of abilities, a beloved career and painful health issues. I know I am lucky to be a caregiver to one who has such a grateful heart. I know many caregivers who are not as fortunate. Three of my favorite ways he shows his appreciation daily are:

Says “Thank You” Often — Two simple words, yet they are so powerful! Hearing those words is a great payment for the care or deed that is done. Joy and appreciation is felt when I hear those words and it makes my efforts worthwhile.

Writes Thank You Notes — Letters of appreciation are a keepsake and tangible evidence of gratitude for what has been given or done. I have hundreds of such notes written on regular lined paper in three ring binders, which I treasure.

Compliments — He notices the work that goes into a good meal and lets me know how much he enjoyed it. He tells me when he thinks I look nice or likes my haircut or outfit. He is constantly looking for and stating the positive.

I’ve learned from Mark that expressing appreciation brings happiness not only to yourself, but those around you. It also lessens stress and anger, which makes you a healthier person. When we focus on our blessings, we see more blessings because our attention has been turned in a positive direction.

Recently in one of my writing groups we were given a blank piece of paper to write as many positive characteristics about ourselves in five minutes. The goal was to fill the page. I enjoyed the assignment and kept it to read when I’m feeling low.

thanksgivingdailyfinishLikewise, making a gratitude list to read when you’re feeling like you’ve missed out in life, maybe another good idea. Some general ideas to help you get started:

  • People
  • Physical abilities
  • Material possessions
  • Spiritual gifts
  • Nature
  • Things about today
  • Places on earth
  • Modern-day inventions
  • Foods you are grateful for.

How long can you make your list?

How would your life improve if you lived in thanksgiving daily?

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4 thoughts on “How to Keep Thanksgiving

  1. Sometimes I feel like as caregivers we are holding back this wall so the dam won’t break. When I get tiny little cracks in the wall, I stuff big pieces of chewed pink bubble gum in the crack and it hardens and holds until another crack shows up and I chew another piece and repeat the process. Some days the crack is so big, there isn’t enough bubble gum at home and by the time you get to the 7-11 and chew the gum you are a mess. Allow yourself to have those days . . . they are therapeutic. Heaven knows, YOU, Barbara, deserve them. Knowing you, you probably have a 1 year supply of pink bubble gum in your food storage and fix the crack right away, but let the crack leak for a while and cry. Even let Mark be your caregiver for a while and soothe you soul. It will be good for him and for you. xoxo Laura

    • Laura, I love your analogy, you are the best and you know me better than I realized. One year supply of pink bubble gum in the food storage is a good idea. That made me smile! I’m afraid to let the crack leak, it might get too big to repair.

  2. Barbara, I loved reading your thoughts when Laura shared your post with me today. As a survivor, I desperately need to hear all Laura’s feelings as my amazing caregiver. It allows me to know her ups and downs and gives me a chance to take care of her. If we don’t share our feelings, it builds a barrier between us and doesn’t give me a chance to give back to her. Being brave and talking about our good and down times helps us be closer. We’re getting the opportunity to switch roles now with Laura’s frozen shoulder surgery and recovery. It’s given me a little glimps of all Laura has done for me and how hard it is sometimes to take on everything. But, I NEED this heart warming experience to care for her. I need chances like this to be a caring partner and show my love and warmth with my best friend. It feels amazing to give :). Thanks for sharing Mark’s gratefulness and his sweet notes to you. A lovely way for him to take care of your needs!! Happy Thanksgiving!!! Warmth, Greg.

    • Thanks Greg for you comment. I’ll bet you’re a fantastic caregiver to Laura! I hope she heals quickly. I’ve heard shoulder surgery is no fun. Happy Thanksgiving to both of you and thanks for all the care you give to Mark and I.

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