Musings on Thankfulness
by Trudy Boyle
This past weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving. And I love the fact that as a country, we set aside time to shine the flashlight of our attention on all of our blessings. And there are so many.
Obviously, we aren’t grateful for everything: a diagnosis of a serious illness or an expensive car repair, or a house fire. (You put your own scenario in there) But in every single moment, my experience is that we can be grateful for something.
I was not grateful when my windshield wipers completely stopped working in the middle of a snowstorm. I was grateful that it happened in a parking lot and not on the freeway. Or how about when I had a major housefire? No gratitude for that, but overwhelming gratitude that no one was hurt, and that firefighters showed up and put it out.
I am thinking about health this evening, physical and mental health. Although cancer is the most feared disease, I have reflected on a myriad of other illnesses that gets little attention and can be most difficult to deal with. Please believe me that comparing illnesses does not lead to anything good, so don’t do it. I am treading carefully here.
Mental illness, however, comes to mind. When I reflect on the resources available to me and my family, because of cancer, they were overwhelmingly supportive. It is not the same for mental illness.
Today this theme continued when I recalled a surprising and thoughtful email from a friend suggesting that at Thanksgiving we may want to consider, in our litanies of thankfulness, how particularly fortunate we are if we have the gift of good mental health.
He also spoke about children and adults with developmental disabilities and those who support them, and the scarcity of resources required to fully meet their needs. He took the time to commend the caregivers, who often go unnoticed and unappreciated. I think of people I personally know, and I couldn’t agree more.
Finally, in all this thinking about thankfulness, blessings, and gratitude, I am struck by the many overlooked things to be grateful for. Life has a way of getting our attention and I am now being nudged into reflecting more deeply on what difficulties I have avoided, escaped, missed, because of what . . . good luck, grace, not being in the wrong place at the wrong time, heaven only knows . . . but certainly not because of my own efforts.
It may seem odd to give thanks for the things that haven’t happened to us but at least once a year I now want to consider this aspect too. It certainly can only help to put things into perspective.
Have a wonderful day and many thanks for reading these musings,
Trudy Boyle is the author of Ikigai and Illness: A Guide to Living Fully with Purpose, Meaning, and Joyful Moments, and is the Director of the ToDo Institute’s Initiative on Living Fully with Illness. As a former program director of Wellspring Alberta, she continues to play an active role in that community. The love and joy of this work, along with her many adventures with her grandchildren, are part of her ikigai – a reason to get up in the morning.