I was on Zoom with Barcelona, Spain, friends Anne and Alex. I’ve mentioned Anne before; she consulted with NASA on how to keep astronauts mentally healthy during prolonged space flight. (Her blogs may be found at www.annekearneyartist.com.) During our chat, the ubiquitous question, “How are you coping?” was posed. Fine, I said, because I go to a world inside my head each day I write. Anne replied, “Astronauts who do the best are those with a rich inner life and who don’t need to move around a lot.” I was elated! First of all, “rich inner life” is so much classier than saying “those who hear voices,” and I always wanted to be an astronaut. That was my job choice from ages ten to thirteen—then it became clear girls didn’t get to go into space (happily, that’s changed).
The words “don’t need to move around a lot” absolutely apply to me. In the past, I wouldn’t have taken that as a compliment. But now—how wonderful my natural inclinations have found their moment! I am grateful that something I’ve never considered to be a positive trait is currently an attribute.
There are plenty of everyday occurrences that slipped by unnoticed pre-COVID. Now they make my “thank you” list. Things like finding a telescoping back scratcher at ACE instead of the light bulbs I went there to get. In the past, I would’ve considered the trip a bust, now I’m giddy with anticipation of the next itch attack. To fulfill the original need gave me a second chance to get out of the house.
I’ve encouraged everyone to keep a gratitude journal. It’s an evidence-based approach to staving off depression. I started the current one on April 13th and I need a new book. I’ve also learned another appreciation practice. Look around your space and focus on one object. Revel in memories of where you got it or who gave it to you. Consider how many were involved in its creation: the person who conceived of it, those who manufactured the pieces that went into it, how many people put it together, who shipped it, and who got it to the point of sale… you get the idea. Each item we own has had many hands on it, often from all over the world. I love the notion we’re connected in ways we’ll never know.
Unfortunately, the virus connects us in devastating ways. If you read my blog (or saw the national news) about the Millinocket, Maine, super-spreader wedding, you know COVID is an efficient disease. It typically doesn’t show symptoms for the first five days—if you get them at all. This is how the virus assures its survival. While you’re living your life infected and unknowingly affecting others, you don’t stay home because you don’t feel sick. In six days, our country surged by one million new cases. This week is likely to be worse.
The three west coast states have imposed significant restrictions in advance of Thanksgiving. Perhaps you’re still planning to have the traditional dinner with a “safe” number of guests in your home. Maybe you’ll use every precaution and ignore the governmental orders you believe are meant for others who don’t exercise your level of caution. I’m not portending you’ll get the virus or a ticket (Oregon’s restrictions have teeth to them). Even if you can get away without a knock on the door by law enforcement, should you? My personal opinion is it’s a moral obligation to participate when we know we can avert grim consequences as a population, even if we think we’re not the problematic folks. If everyone assumes they’re the exception...well, the numbers will tell that story. If we act for the greater good and comply, maybe we’ll be able to gather with a few people at Christmas or New Year. I’d sure like that, wouldn’t you?
None of us anticipated we’d be in this situation eight months after we learned of COVID last March. So, if you feel you have slim pickings to appreciate this season, try expanding your view. There are literally thousands of things right in front of you that deserve a measure of gratitude and that connect you to others. Feasting with a crowd of loved ones can wait. Regardless of your circumstances on November 26th, it is possible to have a Happy Thanksgiving. Just look around.
How will you hold onto the “thanks” part of Thanksgiving this year? Please comment in the box below.
Sending you physically distanced encouragement—and a reminder to do your part. Happy Thanksgiving!