A regular gratitude practice, it turns out, is helpful. Healthy. A resilience-builder.
Oh, I know that we just had Thanksgiving and that grateful feeling might still be on everyone’s mind in spite of the interference of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Or of family dynamics that aren’t perfect. Or of the fact that the Gophers lost to the Badgers. Whatever.
I’ve learned, in no uncertain terms (as Charlie Brown might have said), that practicing gratitude has made me a different person – one who adjusts and moves on better than I used to. The evidence booped me right on the nose this past holiday weekend. More than once.
Thanksgiving Day found me a little grumpy when I had to get up at 6 a.m. to drive part of my family to the Mall of America for the Walk to End Hunger. The grumpiness only lasted a few minutes because who is going to stay grumpy when their own kitchen is full of food? What if I were on the receiving end of the money raised at that walk? And there was a time when I was very close to that reality, years ago when I was a single parent and there was never, ever any extra money. Our family raised over $700 to help hungry people. Other teams raised much more. Gratitude. Much gratitude.
After the walk, I was a little sad that my daughter Abby and her husband Joe were not going to have Thanksgiving dinner with us. They had planned on it, but Joe’s mom moved back to Minnesota and hoped for Thanksgiving dinner with all three of her kids for the first time in several years. Was I really going to be sad about that? Joe and Abby got up early to go to the walk with us. That was wonderful. My son Shawn and his family arrived before Abby and Joe left, and everyone got to visit. Bonus: Shawn and Beka brought yummy appetizers and good whiskey. There were still plenty of people around my table later and there were people around Joe’s mom’s table too. That meant lots of happy, well-fed people. Gratitude.
The day after Thanksgiving, we had planned on hiking. But the weather stunk. That didn’t stop us from staying in the holiday mood; we visited our local Lions Christmas Tree Lot instead. We brought home a sweet little Fraser fir tree, which is now scenting our family room in a wonderful north woods way. So we didn’t hike. Big deal. Weather changes. More gratitude.
Saturday was the biggest challenge to my gratitude practice. The weather stunk that day, too, with icy roads and blowing snow. We decided, after going out to breakfast and realizing we didn’t really need to go anywhere else, that we could hunker down and watch random television shows and Gopher football while decorating our little tree. All of that was interrupted when our ten-pound dachshund Truffles decided to bolt as my husband Mick took her outside to pee.
Truffles is an anxious dog who doesn’t love being outside in bad weather. Normally, she would have done her thing and turned right around to head back to warmth. On Saturday, she saw our neighbors across the road shoveling their driveway and decided it was time to go bark at them. Up close. She dashed away before Mick could stop her, ran right in front of a car. She somehow hit the bumper (we think) and rolled under the car, without getting under any of the wheels, and out the back. The driver kept on going; we don’t think they ever saw her. Our neighbors, who saw the whole accident, said they didn’t recognize that vehicle which meant the driver wouldn’t have known a small dog might come bursting out from behind the driveway snow pile. Even if they had seen her out of the corner of their eye at the very moment she dashed, they would have been too close to stop in time.
When I heard Mick yell, I ran upstairs and out the door. Truffles limped at the end of our driveway. We picked her up and saw she had quite a head wound. We grabbed our coats and drove her to the University of Minnesota’s Small Animal Hospital, which happens to be a few minutes from our house.
This dog is a tough girl. Somehow, none of her bones are broken. Somehow, the wound on her head, despite the skin scraped down to bone and muscle, is now stitched closed. Somehow, her heart and lungs and abdomen are intact. She came home with pain meds, an NSAID for potential spinal inflammation, antibiotics, and a cone. She can’t go on dog walks for four weeks. But here she is, annoyed with her cone with its little icon of a cat, curled up in her dog bed in the living room. She limped to the kitchen while I was cooking on Monday night and looked at me with that hey where’s my portion look. Gratitude.
Big fat gratitude.
A Thank You
My deepest thanks to everyone who donated money to the Walk to End Hunger. Thank you, too, to those who considered but weren’t able to donate this time. You all rock!