What I’m Thankful For

image borrowed from http://uprightcoffee.com/happy-thanksgiving-2013/20131128/

Since leaving my job–and a reliable income–behind me last June, I have been trying mightily to avoid buying more books.

Okay, “mightily” is perhaps the wrong word. I still download books to my Nook, and I still buy a used book here and there…and I impulse-buy a book now and then. Of course poetry books (especially when signed by the poet) don’t count.

So I’ve been accumulating plenty of books, even though I have boxes and boxes full of books from my old office that I’m haven’t yet figured out what to do with.

One of my impulse buys is Will Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Bookclub. (Click on the link to find a video introduction to the book.) I love this book. I love Will Schwalbe and I love his mother, Mary Ann Schwalbe. My husband and I began reading it aloud on the ferry (traveling to see my mother) back in September. After the first couple of chapters, he (my darling husband) took it over, and then it was misplaced for awhile. I bought a second copy (at a library book sale–not expensive!), and I misplaced that. Then, last week, the original copy emerged and I started carrying it around with me, reading a page here and there. This morning, after making the dressing for our turkey dinner, I retreated to the bedroom and read 50 pages. Usually Will and Mary Ann read novels, but today I found them reading books on mindfulness. Here’s a passage that begins with a reflection on thank you notes, and concludes with a description of Naikan, a philosophy developed by Ishin Yoshimoto (from a book by David K. Reynolds). I thought it was perfectly appropriate for the holiday.

“What I suddenly understood was that a thank-you note isn’t the price you pay for receiving a gift, as so many children think it is, a kind of minimum tribute or toll, but an opportunity to count your blessings. And gratitude isn’t what you give in exchange for something; it’s what you feel when you are blessed–blessed to have family and friends who care about you….

“If you are sitting in a chair, you need to realize that someone made that chair, and someone sold it, and someone delivered it–and you are the beneficiary of all that. Just because they didn’t do it especially for you doesn’t mean you aren’t blessed to be using it and enjoying it. The idea is that if you practice [gratitude], life becomes a series of small miracles, and you may start to notice everything that goes right in a typical life and not the few things that go wrong.” (211-212)

Today I am grateful for the joy of having all of my daughters home for Thanksgiving dinner, plus a couple of their friends. I’m thankful for my husband who is a very good cook. And I’m thankful for books and the people who write them and the people who make them and the people who read them.

2 replies
  1. Abby Benoit
    Abby Benoit says:

    I like that thought very much, Bethany – being thankful for the people who designed and made the chair I’m sitting in, etc. It goes well somehow with this thought: at the end of our strenuous yoga class we rest on our backs on our mats and our teacher comes around and places a warm smooth black stone in each of our palms, first running it down the arm, and then goes and gets a third warm stone to place on our forehead. She has warmed these on a heating pad. We rest for at least 5 minutes. I often hold my warm stones and remember how very ancient they are, all the places they’ve been, perhaps how they were formed. I acknowledge the energy and life in the stone and wonder how the heating might speed up the dance of the atoms. I wonder if the stones have any wisdom to offer me if I am open to receiving it. Thanks Bethany! Happy Thanksgiving. Love Abby


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