As we near the end of this difficult year, I decided to go back to the last one, 2016, to see what I had to say during that “darkest of times.” Here’s what I wrote two weeks after the worst election of our lifetime. I even found something nice to say about social media!
It’s tougher to feel thankful this year. If you watched John Oliver’s takedown of 2016, you might agree this year will go down as one of the worst. Most are thankful the Cubs conquered their curse at last, but it’s almost as if the price of the Cubs’ good fortune was to drain fortune from everything else.
But that, of course, is superstitious thinking. I’m thankful superstition doesn’t rule my reckonings. Instead, let gratitude rule.
Unexpected good may eventually come of the Great American Electoral Catastrophe of 2016. We just don’t know what it is yet. In the meantime, I’m thankful life is never all bad and that suffering can lead to good.
One bright light of the mindfulness movement contends there are two kinds of pain: suffering that leads to more suffering and suffering that leads to less. I’m thankful for the latter and pray for that outcome. I’m thankful for the mindfulness movement and for Terry Kinsey’s Unity Temple meditation sessions each week, which have helped me become less emotionally hyper-reactive.
I’m thankful for Wednesdays with my grandsons and for Pope Francis and Barack Obama and for family and soul friends, for Mary Oliver’s poetry, Krista Tippet’s On Being, Sy Safransky’s Sun magazine, Paul Krugman’s columns, and books by Parker Palmer, for breakfasts at Hemmingway’s Bistro, pizza at Malnati’s, bike rides on the Salt Creek Trail, movies at the Lake Theatre, outdoor plays at Festival Theatre, and myriad other small delights that make living enjoyable and/or meaningful.
But this year of all years, I’m trying to look beyond the usual.
I’m thankful there is so much more to life than politics. I’m thankful I’ve lived long enough to fit even an avoidable calamity like the 2016 election into a much wider context than I had when I was younger. I’m thankful that growing older bequeaths the gift of perspective, that the disappointments of life are inseparably intertwined with its joys and that somehow suffering makes our appreciation of life’s beauty all the more intense. I’m thankful for such moments of grace and for those who contribute to the beauty of the world and teach us how and where to look for it.
I’ve never been so thankful for social media as this past year. We have mourned, commiserated, celebrated, vented, hoped and tended our dashed hopes together, as a community. We are not only stronger together, we’re smarter together. I am thankful for the shared path through life because it is inclusive, and inclusiveness always triumphs in the long run. The alienation, isolation and divisiveness of exclusivity cannot last. I’m thankful for the long run.
I’m thankful that everything doesn’t have to be completed in one lifetime, that we can hand over the torch as our faculties falter. I’m thankful for the humility of imperfection and for the release of perfectionism, which is too heavy a burden to carry after a certain age. I’m thankful for the ability to let go and also the ability to hang on: to what is important, and especially those we love.
I’m thankful our capacity to love grows as we “grow” older instead of withering on our aging stalk — a ripened, less self-centered love, a love more freely given, a bond stronger than the centrifugal forces that would pull us apart. Stronger, I pray, than death itself.
I’m thankful for love’s gravity, which is more like the moon’s — lighter than earth’s, allowing us to transcend its “surly bonds” and soar together.
I am thankful for the moon, and the earth’s long-distance dance with the sun, and the expanding universe’s long-lasting dance with destiny, wherever it leads.
I’m thankful that we don’t have all the answers but seem to be evolving toward truth.
I am thankful for being and for becoming and for patience when it pays dividends. I’m thankful for the gift of acceptance and the ability to make the best of flawed situations — and also knowing when not to accept what is plainly wrong, as wrong as the look on you-know-who’s face.
I’m thankful that there is more to us than meets the eye and more to us than ego. I’m thankful that among the things hardest earned is wisdom. I am thankful that when life breaks our hearts, it breaks them open instead of apart, as Richard Rohr said. I’m thankful there is always more to being human.
I am thankful for God, a notion that approximates something greater, beyond our ability to comprehend, a tractor beam pulling us forward to some end — or to some endlessness.
I am thankful for the mystery of it all.
I’m thankful for this planet and that its future lies in our hands, forcing us either to grow up and become responsible or to perish. I am thankful for every “moment of truth” that awakens us and for the awakenings that may eventually save us. For the dreams we pursue in our waking state and for the dreams that visit and replenish us in the night and offer glimpses of what might come later — or what might come after …
I am thankful that we have the capacity for gratitude even during the darkest times.
I’m thankful for resilience and persistence, even when we long to just give up.
To whatever and/or whoever makes all this possible in spite of everything, I am deeply thankful.
Four years later, it’s nice to know our resiliency and persistence paid off. I wonder what we’ll be saying four years from now …