Thanks Again

Believe it or not, I’ve been publishing this weekly blog for nearly four years.  In all that time, I don’t think I’ve ever repeated a post.  As tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, I wanted to do something special to acknowledge my multitude of blessings.  Several years ago, I posted about my Thankful Thursday project.  That piece is still one of my absolute favorite blog posts.  I recently presented a devotional based on that piece at a church women’s meeting.  Because that devotional seemed to strike such a melodious chord with my sisters in faith and because that piece is still one of my favorites of all my posts, I decided the post merited an encore performance this Thanksgiving week. 

Thankful Thursday

When I was working, I used to sponsor a weekly “Thankful Thursday” event in my office.  Each Thursday, I would send an email to my entire staff, listing five things for which I was especially thankful that week and inviting everyone to come to my office for a cookie or donut or some kind of treat I brought to work.  The price of admission was simply to share one thing for which the worker was thankful.  I tried to be strategic in my five weekly “thankfuls,” using the opportunity to recognize employees’ exceptional efforts or to reinforce some key message to the staff.  I also included some thankfuls that were “just for fun.”  One day, one of my subordinate managers came to see me before “thankful time” and said, “You must be having a bad week.”  When I asked him why he said that, he explained, “When you said you were thankful for the color pink, I figured you must be scraping the bottom of the barrel.”

The color pink notwithstanding, Thankful Thursday was a positive experience.  Usually, about a third of the staff would show up. I think it was an opportunity to leverage positive energy and acknowledge what was truly important in life.  Even if I am fooling myself believing it was helpful to my employees, it was rejuvenating and uplifting to me to have a dedicated time to revisit my blessings each week.

Now that I am retired, I think it is important to continue the tradition.  I have gone too long without remembering the bounty of things for which I am thankful.  Here goes….

  • I am thankful for my retirement and the luxury of not having to do everything in the most efficient way humanly possible.  When I was working, I craved sleep like crack addicts crave cocaine.  Now, I rest and putter through my existence at a pace slow enough to live mindfully and fast enough to avoid stagnation.  I am also thankful for my career.  The years of labor that led to my retirement were filled with meaningful, interesting work.  Although responsibility and leadership are stressful and exhausting, it is also incredibly rewarding.  I had the opportunity to nurture strength, kindness, and integrity in myself and others.
  • I am thankful for the financial stability and economic benefits I enjoy.  I am thankful that I can meet my basic needs with abundant food and safe shelter.  I am thankful that I have the resources to give to others.  I am thankful for the plenty that allows for little extras for leisure and pleasure, like books and movie tickets, modest shopping sprees, vacations, and day trips to explore the interesting adventures of my new state.
  • I am thankful for my country and the freedoms it provides.  I am thankful for the men and women throughout our history whose courage, honor, imagination, intelligence, and decency created the rich, intricate fabric that we now know as the United States of America.
  • I am thankful for the people I love and I am thankful that love has no boundaries. I am thankful for the people who live close by, filling my daily life with grace and love.  I am thankful for those who live far from me but whose spirits are never far from my heart.  I am thankful for those who have passed from this life.  They live in my heart and continue to enrich my life each day. I am thankful for my readers, who fuel me to explore my mind and to create.
  • Most of all, I am thankful for my good Lord from whom all these “thankfuls” generate.  I am thankful that I am a child of God, who has saved me and blesses me constantly in strange and mysterious ways.  I am thankful that He has chosen me to be His light unto the world.  And I am thankful that, when I let that light fade, He patiently forgives me my weakness and rekindles my flame… again and again and again.
  • Despite the challenges and stressors that exist even in retirement, there are blessings everywhere.  An attitude of gratitude does wonders.

P.S. For the record, I’m still thankful for the color pink, too!

Thank all of you so much for reading and sharing. You have no idea how grateful I am for your interest and support.

Now it is your turn!  Double extra bonus points for adding your thankfuls!  Please share by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Belatedly Thankful

After my mother suffered her stroke, I subscribed to all kinds of forums and discussion boards aimed at caregivers.  It was definitely helpful to hear other people’s perspectives on the issues I was encountering.  I learned some valuable, practical information.  Knowing that other people struggled with the same feelings helped me tolerate the conflicting emotions I had misfiring all throughout my sympathetic nervous system.  

There was one recurring theme that kept coming up in different posts that I just couldn’t get behind, however.  So often a participant would write to encourage someone in the throes of caregiving by saying that the day would come when the caregiver would be grateful for the experience.  While I was living it, I don’t know that I could ever really say I was grateful for the experience.  It wasn’t that I thought the well-intentioned commenters on the discussion boards were lying.  The term “Pollyanna” might have come to mind.  On the whole, I accepted that those people were being honest about their own experiences and their feelings of gratitude, but their experiences just didn’t seem to apply to me.  

People said that caregivers end up triumphing over the drudgery, exhaustion, and sadness.  They said that it is common to transcend the difficulties of the long struggle so that providing care becomes easier.  I didn’t see how that could happen with me, as inept as I was.  They said that the difficulties of caregiving take a backseat to the benefits the caregiver receives, like the satisfaction of providing for a parent’s comfort.  I didn’t see myself really providing for my mother’s comfort, just witnessing her decline.  They said that a caregiver can consider any additional time with the dying parent to be a gift.  I often felt like this gift came at too high a cost to both my mother and me. They said that, no matter how painful and difficult it is to walk with a parent on this final journey, the caregiver is rewarded by a closer, more intimate and loving relationship with the parent.  I didn’t see how this could be possible with my mother and me.  Our relationship has always been closer than that of any other mother and daughter I know.   

So, all in all, I could not find much for which to be grateful while slogging through the tragedy of my mother’s last thirteen months of life.  I admit that I found the folks who posted about the “gift” of being a caregiver to be somewhat suspect.  When I read those posts, I remembered the saying, “If you can keep your head while everyone around you is losing theirs, perhaps you don’t understand the situation.”  In other words, if the posters who were touting the joys and benefits of being a caregiver were sincere, perhaps they didn’t really understand the situation.  I admit that this was probably a bit of misplaced anger on my part.  Still, I also knew that I was not finding caregiving to be a gift.  I felt that I was somehow fundamentally flawed because I couldn’t get past the pain to grasp the joy. 

Now that my mother is gone, I am beginning to understand a little better. I can look back and be grateful for the time we had together at the end of her life.  I was not a very talented caregiver, but I did learn a lot of the skills necessary.  I see that my mother did derive substantial comfort from my presence.  Yes, it was very difficult for me to observe my mother’s decline, but I do now appreciate the time I had with her in the last months.  Even though we have always been exceptionally close and our ability to communicate verbally all but disappeared in my mother’s last months, I feel our intimacy grew richer and stronger and more honest as we took this journey.  No, I never did get completely past the drudgery and exhaustion and sadness, but I do now see the gift.  The gift was loving my mother through it all and letting her love me.  Now I am thankful for it. 

Gratitude deferred is not gratitude denied.  Gratitude deferred is growth.

Have you ever had an experience that you hated while going through it, but came to appreciate it after it was over? Please join the conversation and tell us about it!  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a thankful day!

Terri 🙂

P.S. Special programming announcement…. I am going to be on a trip around the world (Disneyworld, that is) for a few days next week.  I’ll be posting on Thursday evening instead of Wednesday morning.  

Thanks To You

This Thanksgiving, I wanted to post a special shout-out to all of you readers and cyberfriends.  Friendship in any form should be cherished and I cherish you all.  You have helped me realize a lifelong dream.  I always wanted to write, but was always too scared of failing to translate the dream into reality.  Thanks in large part to your energy and validation, I have found the courage.  I have been writing this blog for nearly two years now.  

When I was teaching leadership classes, I used to tell my students, “Leaders have followers.  If you turn around and no one is following you, you aren’t leading.  You are just taking a walk.”  I think it might be kind of similar for writing.  I can write, but I’m kind of missing a key component of the process if no one is reading. I’m not communicating; I’m just recording my mutterings to myself.  I’m just memorializing the voices inside my head for my own posterity.   

I thank you for listening to my mutterings. I thank you for the confidence you gave me when I saw that people truly seemed to be reading.  I thank you for not thinking I was ridiculous for believing anything I have to say could possibly be meaningful to anyone else.   I thank you for helping me grow my little circle of blog besties by sharing my writing with others.  I thank you for your thoughtful comments. I thank you for your suggestions.  I thank you for the kind words of encouragement.  I thank you for turning my one-sided blogging into a rich, interesting conversation.  I thank you for the support and sympathy you showered on me while I was my mother’s traveling companion on her journey towards the end of life.  I thank you for your understanding and empathy when the blog became grief-heavy as I watched my mother struggle and die.   

All too often in life, we get caught up in our day-to-day existence and forget the miracles that bring joy to our lives. We are inclined to bemoan our struggles because they demand our attention.   It is hard to ignore the difficulties.  They always seem to be in our faces, commanding us to do something to halt the pain they cause us.  Even when we try to push them into the darkest corner of our minds and hope they stay there, the effort is time and energy consuming.  And, by the way, “hope” is not a strategy.  Those difficulties rarely stay put when we push them into the darkest corner of our minds, so we have to spend even more time and energy on them.   

On Thanksgiving, at least, we get the chance to stop and smell the miracles.  We take one beautiful day to be honestly, truly, deeply grateful for our blessings.   

As you enjoy your Thanksgiving celebrations, please know I am thinking of you and thanking you for the joy you have brought me.  Happy Thanksgiving!  You are a blessing in my life. 

What is your favorite thing about Thanksgiving?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can send me an email at terriretirment@gmail.com.  

Have a blessed day!

Terri 🙂