Aging Well

An Orientation Towards Gratitude on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2020 headlines were marked by loss, loneliness and deaths due to COVID. This is a different year with much to be grateful for.

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An orientation towards gratitude
Liisa Ogburn

It’s Thanksgiving and all over the country, millions, are traveling to gather with loved ones. Those who are hosting are busy with preparations.

It’s a very different year from last year. While numbers of COVID cases are rising in some parts of the country (Midwest), in many places, where vaccination rates continue to increase, there is less fear around spreading the disease to loved ones and more knowledge on ways to prevent doing so, while also gathering together.

There is joy (or maybe tentative joy) that families can safely get together again. We will likely never return to unguarded joy or a sense of “normal,” but with the barometer of where we were last Thanksgiving, we are in a very different place this year.
Where am I? I am sitting at my parent’s dining room table, typing this out, waiting for my college age children to arrive from the east and the west. My dad is blowing leaves off the driveway and my mom is putting the turkey into the oven. I am very conscious of the fact that I have a lot to be thankful for. Working on a daily basis with seniors in various states of health and ill health, I know Thanksgiving will not always be like this.

Archibishop Desmond Tutu once said, “In South Africa, when you ask someone ‘how are you doing?’ the answer is always in the plural. A man may be fine, but his grandmother is sick, so he answers, ‘We are not well.’”

This hits home in a direct way this year. There is a beloved member of our extended family who is not well, who I came here several days early to see, someone who has loved me unconditionally since birth and reflected a vision of me and my strengths and talents back to me in a way that I didn’t often see in myself. We are all a product of those who have loved us through time and my dear aunt is someone who put this anxious child at ease in fundamental ways over the last 54 years. ‘We are not well,’ Desmond Tutu said. "We are not well," I say to myself.

To orient my heart, I logged into an online live meditation group I started attending in the early days of the pandemic. What struck me when I found this group and even today is that while this group logs into Zoom from all over the world (this morning from Croatia, Botswana, Nigeria, the Yukon, Iran, Wales, Germany and multiple US states), we are all seeking the same thing: community and the tools that can help us generate a sense of peace within ourselves so that we can be present with whatever arises outside ourselves, be it a global pandemic or a spat with our spouse.

Joys and sorrows. Joys and sorrows. I know joys and sorrows are part of every life. Some years are abundant with joys, some feel rife with sorrows. Most often it is a mixed bag and we are holding both simultaneously.

Whatever the case in your family, here is wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving. May you find new ways to be together. May you glimpse gratitude and joy.


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