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What I Learned this Thanksgiving

This year, as in the past four years, I went to New York to celebrate Thanksgiving with my brother and his wife’s family. It has become a wonderful opportunity for me to become a part of her family and for her family to become my family, as well as to meet up with my New York friends.

In past years the sympathy factor has been in my direction because I was still in the throes of the bitterness of my life/divorce. But now I have been in my own lovely apartment for six months, and the most visible remnant of the bitter divorce is the court case that's coming up in a week and a half (I haven’t given up on getting from him the $14,000 he owes me), all of which means that I am basically on par with everyone else in the “dealing with life” aspect of things. Which brings me to what I have uncovered or acknowledged: that we are all simply dealing with life. It doesn’t seem that we are enjoying it, rather we are simply handling the things that keep coming at us and we just keep going at it. I wonder, then, if we need to adjust our expectations so that the “dealing with” becomes less of an intrusion into what should be our unending happiness and instead we should understand that life as it’s lived is not just an intrusion but life itself. Would we feel better about our lives and ourselves if we expected the complications and not the beaches?

Most of those gathered round the table are in our forties and fifties, and we are all in the midst of lives that we have found to be ours—none of us can claim that this is the life he or she expected when we were the ages that our mostly teenage children are now. None of us was complaining in the “woe is me” way of the world, but we are all dissatisfied or still hoping for better times ahead or at least times that aren’t so full of pains, and exhaustion, and concerns.

Happiness. What is it? Is it sitting around a table passing plates and platters or is it being untouched on a pedestal? Is it sharing words spoken and heard, or unending attention? Is it sharing stories of aches or being free from compassion? I wonder.

I wonder if now that my house is as in order as it’s ever going to be the time has come to reassess what being thankful means.

Thankful. Full of thanks.

Thanksgiving. Giving thanks.

Thanks, not for what could have been or should have been, but for what is. Is that a new, working definition of happiness?



I think happiness comes in bits and pieces and, yes, especially in seeing the good more than the bad. There is no "happy every after." In my opinion.


Being completely engaged in the "now" without worrying about "before" or "later" allows one to simply appreciate all their life is - today.
EM Forester once said, "We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us."
One of my sons did a stint in the Army that delayed his entry into college and so he has always been an older student.
After he graduated with a BS in physics he made the decision to pursue his PhD full time but I could see he was frustrated that he was so far "behind" (in his mind) his peers.
Finally, we had a discussion and I told him while he keeps racing to get "there" he is missing all that is wonderful and enjoyable "here."
I said, "It doesn't matter if this is not what you envisioned your life to be at this point; it rarely works that way for any of us. THIS IS your life and you need to embrace that and just live. Because tomorrow, this will all be gone and you will have missed the opportunity to just enjoy being alive in this moment in time."
I think he has taken some of that to heart because he seems more settled and happier. I hope so, anyway.

Elizabeth A.

I was the happiest when I realized there's nothing wrong with living the life no one approves of or having my happiness residing in "just" being comfortable. I feel blessed to live a middle of the road life.

Life is a series of issues and complications, but I'm thankful for having the resources to deal with said issues.

I think there are a rare few who have life turn out exactly as they planned but I bet they aren't as thankful for that life as those of us who had to work for a life that works.

6 years ago I still thought I wanted to be a doctor. Now I'm just thrilled I haven't had a nervous breakdown in three years. I'm just as proud of the latter as I would have been of the former... Unless I've been drinking bourbon, don't ask me then. :)


It is a tough age to be content and happy when life is throwing us so many unexpected curves. I think your new definition is a good one - realistic, not cynical.
Don't think being free of compassion could ever make me happy, although some people seem to thrive without it...

Laura of Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman

Pseudo, I guess it's all about acknowledging the journey and not just the destination. I am telling myself the same thing regarding my book, not to worry if it gets published but to find fulfillment and purpose in the writing, because that is, surely, the reason for writing it.

Bits and pieces. Such a hard think to acknowledge when we are constantly called to do great things. But aren't those steps, those increments as great as a momentous accomplishment which is, after all, the culmination of so many steps touched with greatness.

rockync, I guess the addition to the Forester quote would be so that we can appreciate the life we have while creating the life we are reaching towards.

All the best to your son, and his journey.

Elizabeth, that's a good point you make, about those who get the life they expected not being satisfied or pleased with it. Acceptance, maybe that really is key.

Doctor heal thyself. Maybe you're your own doctor.

Beth, seeing that an individual life is never individual; perhaps that's the root of compassion.


Happiness is just like any other emotion; with a beginning, a middle, and an end. I think some sense of dissatisfaction is necessary and healthy even, to keep us going in our own right direction - even if it's not at all what we expected. And when you've gone through some of life's events that are to be dealt with, you earn a new appreciation for that emotion happiness the next time it comes around.
The idea of taking a day to give thanks is a great one, but it doesn't necessarily always fall onto the day that we're supposed to give thanks.


There's a beautiful line from a Waif's song:

"I've been around long enough to know
that when shit happens it is just your turn,
and shit happens every day"

I've always thought that was wiser than it sounds.
As for me - on another blog yesterday I saw someone saying life was good, but not anything like they expected. i'm kind of in that spot right now.

Laura of Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman

April, so what's supposed to be the underlying emotion of our lives? Is it supposed to change or is there a kind of white noise emotion that accompanies our lives? Why can't that be happiness? Why not expect to be happy--pleased, content--and not let the more downward-turning emotions to rule? I guess that's where I am now, wanting to feel good, even in the face of what ever trials I face, or know that others face. Maybe that's what it feels like to not be fighting for survival but to be living.

kazari, I wonder why we're told to make all these five-year plans and think long into the future when that's just an exercise in futility. Not only that, it also sets the vast majority of us up for disappointment. Maybe shit happens would be a better thing to proclaim to the young.


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