Good writing, with a strong point and with life oozing out.

Thanksgiving, and Not

November 23, 2006
You take the good,
You take the bad,
You take them both
And there you have
The facts of life
The facts of life.

–The Wife, quoting ancient wisdom

I was thinking of dressing in black and staging a tiny personal protest today. Of ignoring the voices in my head and the ones I hear around me that say, “you know, you still have a lot to be thankful for” (which is true, true, true). I was thinking of staring my own superstitions in the face—the ones that say, ‘if you’re not thankful, then you might lose something else!—and tempting fate by declaring my unthankfulness. I was thinking about parsing out some fine differences between gratefulness and thankfulness (I’m definitely the former, and not so much the latter). I was going to try to find the words to say, “you know, Ella is not enough—I’m not satisfied to have her, not when I loved her brother, too! She’s not some kind of consolation prize.” I was going to crank up the courage to say, “no, the glass is not half full—it’s empty!”.

But then I was reading a book which points to some helpful Jewish practices. It reminded me that religious practice is as important as belief. That we foster attitudes by doing disciplines. That feelings sometimes follow actions. That I’ll probably become more thankful if I am thankful.

So let me list some of the things that I’m thankful for:

  • My wife, who is a great wife and mother, and who is the very best person I know.
  • My bright light, Eleanor Elisabeth, whom I love so much that I miss her, even when I’m right with her.
  • Our extended family, who are ever faithful, always supportive, and very understanding.
  • Our church, which has walked with us through a very difficult year.
  • Our friends (which group, I’m glad to say, overlaps the one I just mentioned!) both near and far: some talkative, some quiet, but all in solidarity with us.
  • Our home, which is perfect and beautiful and affordable.
  • Coffee.
  • Books, which get me into and out of my head, all at once.
  • Music, which expresses my feelings when I can’t.

At the same time, I’m thinking today about another Jewish practice: the Seder. During that meal, participants take the Cup of Deliverance and remember that salvation is not without sacrifice and sadness. They say that a full cup is a cup of joy, and that this cup—which commemorates their escape from Egypt—should therefore not be full. So they diminish their cup and their joy by pouring out a little wine as they recite the ten plagues that brought about their freedom.

So today, my glass is half full. More than half full, probably. But I’m diminishing it as I miss my son. I’m thankful that God gave me the chance to know him, to be sure. But that’s not enough, not for me.

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3 Responses to “Thanksgiving, and Not”

  1. Lisa and crew says:

    We sit here at work, ever thankful, ever grateful of knowing your wonderful family…Happy Thanksgiving, we love you.

  2. Greta says:

    Mike, I’m proud and impressed with your willingness to be honest and ignore the pressure to say you’re thankful for what you’ve got. I’m even more impressed with your willingness to then turn around and practice being thankful for what you do have…an impressive list I must say. But we all miss Will, not as much as you, obviously, but I still feel that hole, and I feel your disappointment.

  3. WMS says:

    Mike, it seems like people are getting a lot from you being honest here and not sweeping your feelings under the rug and acting like your glass is 1/2 full, when it’s not.

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