Surprising Results Can Follow Counterintuitive Choices
Such sweet words.
Here in the US, we’re just ending a four-day celebration we call Thanksgiving weekend. True, the official day for Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday of November each year — but it’s also true that most families spend the entire four day weekend continuing to celebrate, spend time together, and enjoy this holiday set aside for gratefulness.
Plus, you probably know that “the holidays,” starting with Thanksgiving and lasting through New Year’s Day, is a difficult time for some people. Yet many others actually enjoy all the festivities, sharing, eating, and laughing that goes with good times together.
Whether you’re a celebrator or an abstainer from these gatherings, there are some things we can talk about to improve these days for the grievers, and improve sensitivity for the revelers.
Thanksgiving was first conceived by the Pilgrims after their original successful harvest in the New World.
That doesn’t mean it was their first harvest, but rather the first time it was successful and there was food to eat. There’s nothing like starvation to inspire gratitude for food.
They called it their harvest festival.
George Washington made a proclamation that Thanksgiving should be celebrated in 1789, and it was sporadically celebrated. However, Thomas Jefferson chose not to celebrate the observance, so the day of gratefulness tended to be hit and miss until 1863.
In the midst of the Civil war, Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving be observed as a federal holiday on the fourth Thursday of November … and that has continued to this day.
It might strike you as odd that President Lincoln started a federal holiday observation when the country was at war with itself, when families were torn apart by sons, fathers, and grandfathers marching off to to battle…
Homes and farms were burned. Families were seeing more funerals than birthdays.
Does that sound like a time to be thankful…?
Can you imagine the uproar?
“Have you heard what he’s done now??? He’s declared thankfulness as a national holiday, of all things!!”
“I’m not surprised…after all, seeing as how we do have SO MUCH to be thankful for right now… I’m so sick of this war and this administration! I’ve lost my farm! How will I feed my family?!!
…and on and on it might have gone.
Doesn’t sound all that different from what we hear today, does it?
Counterintuitive Declaration in the Middle of the Chaos
Is it possible he had a higher purpose than just creating confusion in the midst of the terrible war?
We do know that he had an abiding faith. He seemed to understand that choosing thankfulness can inspire better decisions and better outcomes. Thinking of others inspires generosity…and his nation needed generous hearts from top to bottom if it were to heal.
Some of the most liberating principles of life have been around for hundreds of years and dozens of generations. And sometimes they’re hard to grasp because they’re locked in counterintuitive thinking.
Oprah Winfrey put it this way:
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” — Oprah Winfrey
And therein lies the secret. The secret of justice and unity that President Lincoln reached for, the secret of poverty vs. abundance that Oprah warned about, the benefit that we all receive when we take the time to focus on everything and everyone in our life that’s good.
The Secret of Gratefulness.
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” –Albert Schweitzer
Albert Schweitzer may not be a familiar name to anyone under the age of 50. But, he won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for his extensive work in Africa in an area now known as Gabon, near the Republic of the Congo.
He had studied extensively in theology and medicine, and as a newlywed set out with his bride to live in this place where sickness and suffering were crushing the people. Over the course of his life he built an enormous hospital complex to treat the thousands who came to him for help.
He wasn’t perfect — and even embraced perspectives that would offend us now in our modern culture — but he gave what he had from who he was and helped make life better for thousands.
It’s no mystery why he might have felt his “light go out” from time to time. His work was demanding and unrelenting in a place where hardships abounded.
But he understood gratitude.
Do you ever feel as though your light is going out…and you need it rekindled? Me, too. In fact, most of us can say that words of encouragement spoken at the right time can help to turn us around.
Beloved 20th Century Actress Doris Day has seen it all. She knows the value in that counterintuitive assertion of gratefulness. In her own words:
“Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty.”
On her way to becoming a dance star, her car collided with a train. Her injuries took a serious toll that permanently ended her dancing career. But, rather than give up, she turned to singing under the training of a voice coach. She soon made movies that were wildly popular in the mid 1900’s … and her fans assumed her life was perfect.
But behind the sweetheart-girl-next-door image she presented to the public… was a victim of domestic abuse, a history of 4 marriages, the widow of the only man she loved, loss of her fortune, and complete exhaustion.
But she, too, understands gratitude in the face of adversity.
As humans we may envy what another has that we don’t. Wealth, charm, health, fame…but focusing on what we don’t have does nothing to improve our situation.
Turning a laser beam of attention on our envy of another person only fuels a raging fire of jealousy inside us. And we grow more bitter and focused inward. It isolates us and doesn’t improve anything.
On the other hand, being grateful for the gifts, the benefits, the talents we do have, empowers us to make those gift, talents, and benefits bigger, brighter, and more abundant.
Helen Keller said that she cried that she had no shoes, until she met a man who had no feet.
Helen Keller, if you’re not familiar with her, was blind, deaf, and mute… so you can see her metaphor about the lack of shoes…
“Necessity is the mother of invention,” they say. So her gratitude for having feet led her to find ways to serve mankind, and especially others who were blind, deaf, or mute… or all three.
Miss Keller knew there was no place in her life for self pity.
She came to understand gratitude at a young age.
During World War II, as able-bodied men went to war, and women and children were left behind, women who’d never considered such a thing went to work for wages. It was a time of hardship. But, rather than complain, these women put on their work shoes and headed for the factories.
Many of us had grandmothers and great grandmothers who worked in the factories to make bombs, aircraft, trucks, and other tools needed to fight the war.
Is it any wonder that gratefulness and the can-do attitude that was required to rise above those difficulties led to a song in the last year of the war that strengthened that frame of mind? :
You have to accentuate the positive,
Eliminate the negative,
And latch on to the affirmative,
But don’t mess with Mr. In-Between.
Comical? Maybe so…but you get the message.
Like we saw with the man with no shoes, there is always something to be grateful for. And gratitude has a way of propelling you above the circumstances you wish would change, so you can see the bigger picture.
Gratefulness transforms your perspective.
And when that happens, you’re no longer a victim, but rather on top of your circumstances. The circumstance may not change the way you want it to, but your improved outlook can give you power over it.
No one is without flaws, and no one’s life is perfect. But each of us can contribute to the lives of others in some way, and in the process gain the freedom to overcome our own struggles on some level.
Psychiatric disorders can render you emotionally paralyzed… trapped inside inertia, fatigue, and despair. And as you know, there are other types of paralysis. If you’ve experienced this, you may be able to relate to Jon Morrow.
Jon Morrow is a wildly successful blogger whose body is paralyzed by Spinal Muscular Dystrophy. He can move nothing except his eyes and lips. Helpless? Well, he was for awhile. But he has pushed through from a point of inertia and despair to doing what he could do…until he learned to drive traffic to his blogs and has achieved the status of the most widely read blogger in the world.
He has generated more than 200 million views of his blogs and earned $50 million as a result.
A spoiled rich kid? Not in the least. This guy was facing the end of his life because of his need for healthcare, and no money to pay for it. His story is hugely inspiring. If he can accomplish his dreams…anyone can.
And Jon understands gratefulness.
Look for his blog Unstoppable.me. It will give you a shot in the arm to choose and express gratefulness and overcome adversity.
Gratefulness is liberating, empowering, and humbling… all at the same time.
So now that the Thanksgiving 2018 holiday weekend is behind us…let’s not lose sight of the lessons we’ve learned together as we venture through the rest of the winter holiday season and into the new fledgling year 2019.
With gratefulness you can turn on the light in someone in your world, and illuminate your own heart at the same time.
Still, if you’re suffering under the weight of a psychiatric disorder that hasn’t yielded to any medicine you and your doctor have tried, there is something more you can do as you focus on gratitude in your life.
Ketamine treatment is a series of IV infusions that have demonstrated in thousands of cases an extraordinary capacity for relieving depression and anxiety in the vast majority of those who have not been helped by anything else.
From severe treatment-resistant depression, bipolar depression, and suicidal thinking, to social anxiety, PTSD, OCD, and addictions, ketamine has the remarkable ability to rebuild signaling structures and systems along with regulating a wide variety of puzzle pieces in the brain that make up the sense of wellbeing, joy, motivation, and initiative you long for.
With gratitude for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you this year, I want to wish you a warm and heartfelt joyous season of holidays.
To the renewal of your best self,