Linda Arnold: ThanksLIVING — A Holiday Twist To Celebrate
Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday — only to be surpassed by New Year’s Day — the ultimate new beginning (but that’s another column!)
My family, friends and co-workers have been known to secretly (or not so secretly) groan when I’ve pulled out the traditional decorations over the years and “The First Thanksgiving” story - encouraging everyone to read a stanza while passing around the pilgrim hat to wear. One can never get too much of Miles Standish, Priscilla Alden and Squanto!
I’ve always taken it in stride, though. It’s like charades - everyone rolls their eyes when it’s mentioned, yet they really get into it once the clues are given - and people start acting out their parts. Hidden talents and pockets of creativity emerge that you never knew existed!
The alphabet and the calendar
Rather than focusing on one day a year for giving thanks - which often gets blended with football and naps - I’ve started to reframe the holiday as ThanksLIVING. It’s really a way of life, rather than the observance of a single day.
What a difference a letter makes! Just think about it. Unlike other traditions, the season of ThanksLIVING has no beginning or end - no retail displays in October or clearance sales in January.
Taking Creative License
My license plate says LIVE. People ask me if it’s pronounced like the word, alive, or whether it rhymes with the word, give. My original concept was the latter, although they’re really interchangeable concepts.
Either way, the license plate is there to remind me to live fully now - that this is not a dress rehearsal. Sometimes I take notice of it during my daily rounds, and sometimes it just fades into the background. Its visibility helps me stay conscious of my intention to LIVE fully, though.
Switching gears from autopilot
It’s easy to take things for granted - and to sleepwalk through our lives. And then we can get jolted by a sudden event. Or a wakeup call from a medical report, illness or accident.
To put things into perspective, think of the stories of newly-released hostages. They’re so grateful for the green grass and blue sky. It’s almost as if they see colors more vividly and smell things more intensely.
Maybe they’ve “come to their senses” through being deprived of these everyday wonders - whereas our senses have been dulled by the overabundance of such exposure. And then we catch ourselves complaining about trivial things. Let’s face it, though - is the traffic delay really that bad?
Of course, it’s impractical (and inauthentic) to stay in a state of euphoria all the time. Life is full of contrasts, and we all have our ups and downs. I’m just saying that an ongoing consciousness of ThanksLIVING may help.
Practice makes perfect
That’s the thing with gratitude. It takes practice to keep this discipline front and center in our lives. And, while it may sound mechanical, establishing a framework of gratitude requires repetition - just like any other habit. After awhile, though, the triggers are in place. And the mindset comes along more easily.
If you start to look for elements of gratitude in most everything that happens in your life, you’ll develop some new patterns. The theory is that you draw experiences into your life based on your level of consciousness. If you’re continually in a downward spiral, you’re likely to attract more of that type of energy.
Not feeling the love?
You may be so overwhelmed by circumstances in your life - or the world at large - that you don’t feel like counting your blessings. And then you can end up feeling guilty about not being more grateful. Guilt is actually fear turned inward, though, and there’s enough fear going on in our outer world!
Go ahead and wallow in your pain a bit. Once you’ve had your time in the valley, start crawling back up to the peak (or at least the line of scrimmage). Look at the things that are going RIGHT.
If you always focus on what’s wrong - or all the things you don’t have - you can wind up feeling a sense of lack. And that’s what will likely manifest. Which reminds me of the saying, “Be careful what you wish for.”
You may not think you’re “wishing” when you continue to stay in the valleys of your life. However, your system picks up on these repetitive signals and interprets it this way.
If I have one wish for you this Thanksgiving, it’s that you treat yourself with a little more kindness. Author Stephen Levine says to “treasure yourself.” In most cases, you’re doing the best you can.
If you’re not “feeling the love,” this Thanksgiving, remember you can change your perspective to ThanksLIVING: An Endless Season.
And then watch what happens.
2018 Linda Arnold Living Well, all rights reserved. Linda Arnold, M.A., M.B.A., is a syndicated columnist, psychological counselor and Founder of a multistate marketing company. Reader comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org For information on her books, go to www.lindaarnold.org or Amazon.com.