So, I have been noticing how everyone is thankful this month. And that’s not surprising because it’s going to be Thanksgiving.
Everyone’s internet personas are posting all kinds of gratitude all over the social media and I have been silent.
And I almost felt guilty and then I felt like, “Well, what if people see my silence and think that I am an ungrateful person?”
And then I thought maybe that was silly because my internet persona is not all of me–it’s only a part of me. (Maybe the ungrateful part?)
And then I tried to go and type up something about being thankful. And I just froze as my fingers went to touch my keyboard.
And then I thought, “What is going on with me? Of course I am grateful! And if I can’t think of anything myself, all I have to do is look on Facebook and choose from a plethora of ideas! It’s not hard. Why am I not whipping up 1001 Gifts or something?”
And then, I must admit to you, my dear readers, that at that point I decided to engage in the illicit activity of eating Milk Duds.
And then, my teeth hurt because I am old and old people shouldn’t eat Milk Duds.
And then I felt sluggish and gross because of the corn syrup because I haven’t had corn syrup in about five years.
Where was I? Oh, yes, gratitude.
I wondered why I was being gratitude shy. Why wasn’t I sharing publicly why I am grateful? And I realized two things about myself.
First of all, I just thought some of the things I was grateful for were so, well “first world.” Here I was looking at the genuine suffering of people in the Phillipines after a typhoon and feeling like me saying, “I’m grateful for….,” just felt disingenuous. Those people don’t have anything, and when they are saying, “I am grateful for the clothes on my back,” it was so heartrendingly true–compared to that, I sounded, well, shallow and almost fraudulent.
I wanted to fix it. I really did.
I needed to fix it.
After all, gratitude is what has gotten me through all of this whole SMeE thing, and through a lot of other stuff. And gratitude makes me feel happy, and I know it makes Heaven happy, so everyone wins.
So, in pondering what in the world was going on inside Planet Misty, I learned the second thing about myself.
I needed to ascend to a higher level of gratitude.
Maybe that sounds mystical or something. But, whatever it sounds like, it was true.
I realized that I was having a fight with my gratitude, because, after years of noting my blessings, and thanking God for them, and really being aware of them, and sometimes even trying to be a generally better person because of them, it was no longer enough.
I knew I was having an issue when I would say my prayers and the oft repeated, “I thank thee for this day,” was like lead on my lips. I struggled to even say it. I could feel a fight within me, and I realized that I was in the same boat as Dallin H. Oaks.
(Yes, I was in the same boat as Elder Oaks for approximately five minutes. I felt pretty spiritual.)
I will let him explain:
A few years ago I showed one of my senior brethren a talk I had prepared for future delivery. He returned it with a stimulating two-word comment: “Therefore, what?” The talk was incomplete because it omitted a vital element: what a listener should do. I had failed to follow the example of King Benjamin, who concluded an important message by saying, “And now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them” (Mosiah 4:10).
For many months we have studied the lives and accomplishments of our pioneers, early and modern. We have thrilled to some modern reenactments, in which many have been blessed to participate. I was humbled to walk in the footsteps and wagon trails of my 31 pioneer ancestors….
You may be wondering how this could make he and I in the same boat. After all, my ancestors consist of alleged pirates and not a few questionable characters.
You know, I realized that for years I have studied gratitude and its effect in my life. I have thrilled and been blessed and been humbled as I have acknowledged my many, many blessings, both terrible and beautiful, and some beautifully terrible. Elder Oaks continues:
Now after all these studies and activities, it is appropriate to ask ourselves, “Therefore, what?” Are these pioneer celebrations academic, merely increasing our fund of experiences and knowledge? Or will they have a profound impact on how we live our lives?
Now, Heaven was pushing me out of my comfort zone and gently prodding me to the next part of my journey.
The words stung and pricked my heart. I struggled and fought and, there were tears. There were a few more Milk Duds involved. It was difficult and I am a prideful and somewhat stubborn sassy pants. I didn’t want to have to ascend to the next state of gratefulness.
I am not a monk or a kung fu master or a prophet or a pioneer. (Although my husband is a ninja!)
I am just me.
At some point I ran out of Milk Duds and had to face the reality that if I wanted to progress any further spiritually, I was going to have to do something more about my gratefulness. And I didn’t know if I was willing to do that.
After all, sometimes, when I wake up in the morning and I can’t walk and I am doing lamaze breathing through the pain, and the children are all committing acts of treason and running amuck, it takes all the willpower and gratitude and strength and courage I have to mean it when I say I am thankful for this day.
And then I realized that I was already beginning the path of ascension. Like a powerful ninja or something.
I couldn’t say I was thankful for this day without realizing there was a responsibility that went along with saying those words and meaning them. If I truly was thankful for this day, then what was I going to do about it? I realized my hesitation was because I was actually concerned about what it really meant to be thankful.
If I am thankful for my husband, what am I going to do about it?
I am grateful for my kids, therefore, what?
I feel gratitude that I live in a beautiful home far from most of the terrors of the world–what will I do about it?
Specifically. Not generally, like “Well, I’ll just “like” and “share” some uplifting videos on Facebook, and pin some inspiring quotes on Pinterest. No. I know I need to be specific and I have to act.
It has caused me to be really, well, quiet this November. Because when I let Heaven know I am grateful, I have to listen afteward. I can’t just say, “I am thankful for this food and our home and our abundance, amen,” and then Netflix an episode of _________. I have to listen.
Those of you who have been with me a long time know that I have spiritual ADD, and so this listening part has been difficult. Because I don’t feel right about talking about my blessings without knowing what Heavenly Father wants me to do about it.
But, when I listen and I wait, He always answers me. And then, I feel something profound. It reaches into my soul, into the deepest parts where my best self is, and every time, one more small little fragment of my best self starts to surface, and I know what I am supposed to do.
And it isn’t always necessarily logically related. Sometimes, when I say I am grateful for my home, I feel like taking extra good care of it, which would be logical. But sometimes, the answer is “Go talk to your sixteen year old and give him your time and love right now,” because being grateful really is just turning my heart to the God who has given me all things, and submitting my will to Him, and sometimes, His plans make no sense to me.
Sometimes it’s, “Then be at peace with your physical limitations right now. Be patient.”
My favorite is when the answer is, “Give John a kiss,” (I love John!), because it’s, well, fun. And pretty easy most of the time.
Unless he’s just had kimchee or something.
So, if you are noticing an absence of thankful related posts from me, I hope you will understand. It’s not ingratitude. It’s just that I’ve grown up a little. Most of you have probably known this for quite some time, but it was a revelation to me.
And I am thankful for it.