I was thinking about what I wanted to write about for Thanksgiving, after my Dad reminded me it would be nice to send out a holiday post. Thanks Dad.
Naturally, my thoughts went to gratitude.
And I realized that in recent months my gratitude practice had been impoverished, not as rich as it used to be. And then I realized why.
In recent months, I’ve been calling on gratitude when I feel overwhelmed, sad, depleted. Learning to be a mom, weathering the mommyhood sleep deprivation, putting a book into the world and navigating everything that goes with that, accepting that our sweet five year old golden retriever has a very aggressive cancer…well, I’ve needed gratitude.
When things are tough, I will often pause and remind myself it’s time to think of everything I’m grateful for. I’ll name the list – occasionally on paper, but usually just in my mind. Sometimes, moments of that day make up the list: the special note or exciting opportunity that showed up in my inbox, the time with a friend, the walk in our neighborhood filled with so many majestic trees. Sometimes, the list is the big things – my husband, my son, our doggie, the good health and presence of so many people I love.
This usually helps to put things in perspective and lift my mood. But something about it feels like that – it’s a tool to lift my mood. Like now I’m making a column of the good stuff to remind myself it’s there.
I realized that this week that this is one kind of gratitude, what I’d call “gratitude for” – because the emphasis is on noticing what we are grateful for.
There is a deeper kind of gratitude that I used to experience more and that I’m going to start searching for again. It wasn’t so much “gratitude for” as “gratitude to.” In other words, I wasn’t just thinking about what I was grateful for, but also about the fact that those blessings had a source, a source that is a fount of abundant goodness, a source that keeps generating diverse expressions of life and gracing me.
It wasn’t the gratitude for but the gratitude to that brings tears to my eyes, that would make me feel not just lucky but held. Gratitude for makes me feel fortunate, gratitude to makes me feel in my right place -as a humbled, limited, human being. Gratitude for is about counting our blessings. Gratitude to is about being on the receiving end of a conversation with something larger. That is the gratitude I want.
May your experience of gratitude be deep and rich, and this year may you remember not just what you are grateful for, but also that there is something unnameable from which our blessings flow.