One of the greatest cards I ever received was blank, still in its plastic wrapping. My sister, Leah, gave it to me for Christmas. It was a drawing of Tom Hanks’ face with the letters “T.HANKS.” I’ve had it for about 10 years now, and I can’t bear to give it to anyone. I chuckle every single time I see it.
We have 30-day challenges from time to time at work, and one recent participant had an interesting challenge: “I want to apologize less.”
It’s so easy to slip into “I’m sorry” mode at the drop of a hat, isn't it?
“I’m sorry I’m late.”
“I’m sorry I completely spaced out that work project I was supposed to do weeks ago.”
“I’m sorry I accidentally bumped your foot.”
There’s nothing wrong with taking responsibility, but doesn’t apologizing get exhausting after awhile? Or is it so instinctive that you’re not even aware you do it?...
I recently learned the phrase “conscious language.” Conscious language is mindful language – awareness of how your words create your reality and using words to create the reality you want for yourself and make the connections you want to make with others. When I first heard about it, part of me thought, “I’m going to start doing that right now!” and part of me thought, “Woah. That sounds like a lot.” Luckily, as with most things, small deviations can make a big difference.
In the spirit of conscious language, this coworker wanted to replace “I’m sorry” with “Thank you."
“Thank you for being patient.”
“Thank you for understanding that I have a lot on my plate right now.”
“Thank you for not kicking me back.”
It works better in some situations than in others, but all in all, I appreciate this approach. It moves me from guilt to gratitude. Again, there’s nothing wrong with feeling some guilt for a gargantuan lack of judgment now and then, but those tiny little I’m sorrys build up over time. Tiny little gratitudes also build up over time, but they generally leave you feeling better, not worse. It’s a beautiful thing.
Well, it’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, due to a surprisingly long-winded recovery from IVF egg retrieval. I look forward to reshaping my couch, which currently bears a Jamie-shaped imprint after having my basically useless body draped across it for six days in a row.
It definitely put a damper on the week, but, you know, any of life’s challenges is a perfect opportunity to shift focus to the positives. It’s easy to fall into a case of the “mehs” when you don’t feel so hot (okay, when even oxy doesn’t really do the job). Still, there’s always something to appreciate. Therefore, to usher in this season of gratitude, I'd like to give a few shout-outs, unintentionally Jimmy Fallon style:
First of all, t.hanks to Mama for giving me so many eggs at birth. Yikes, woman – I have an army in there!
T.hanks to Dennis for attempting to fillet his first fish for dinner. It ended up looking like a Cratchit family meal – a few mangled-looking fillets, plus a little “fish island” of random fish parts that fell off during the filleting process – but it was delicious, and it was prepared with love.
T.hanks to Papa for our weekly phone chat. Those chats are just the best.
T.hanks to Leah for introducing me to the Great British Bake Off. I’m ready to try my first British pudding!
T.hanks to the cashier who randomly said, “You’re very pretty!” Random compliments like that mean the most on days when you feel like a schlump.
T.hanks to the friend who ordered a delivery of Butterfield cookies for me. Food is love.
T.hanks to multiple friends who checked in on me. It’s nice to be considered.
T.hanks to multiple coworkers who said they missed me. It’s nice to be missed.
T.hanks to my ovaries for working so hard and doing such a mind-blowingly stellar job. I commend you for the fruits of your labor!
T.hanks to the Uber drivers who took the shortest, least-bumpy routes when I needed it most. Oh wait – nope. That didn’t happen. Ah well.
T.hanks to the NYU doctor who used the word “ginormous.” It really brought the appointment down to earth in a beautiful way.
T.hanks to another NYU doctor who said that people who are “fit” are more likely to experience a vasovagal reaction. Way to lift me up when I felt like I was about to pass out.
T.hanks for house pants. Nuff said.
And t.hanks to Leah (again) for a card that brings instantaneous joy over and over again.
“It is so much more comfortable to think that we know what it all means, what to expect and how it all hangs together. When we are stunned to the place beyond words, when an aspect of life takes us away from being able to chip away at something until it’s down to a manageable size and then file it nicely away, when all we can say in response is ‘Wow,’ that’s a prayer.”
So writes Ann Lamott in Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers.
Gratitude brings me to a place like this. I pray every so often, even if I’m not exactly sure to whom or what I’m praying, because I believe that I’m somehow connected to something bigger than myself. But gratitude feels more natural. I practice gratitude as much as possible: it’s my favorite spiritual practice.
Musing about all the little gratitudes that whisper from right and left and up and down, the word that makes the most sense is, “Wow.” Wow. Look at all the gifts. Wow. Listen to all the blessings. Wow. Feel and smell and taste the fleeting moments that stop you in your tracks. Careful! You might miss them, but they’re there – large and small and often when you need them most, whether you know it or not. Do yourself a favor and enjoy them.
When I wrote this, I wasn't sure which category it fell into. After a few minutes, I landed on Relationships. After all, we have relationships with other people, we have relationships with ourselves, and we have relationships with life. Gratitude, for me, is a meaningful way to honor life by nurturing my relationship with it.
Wishing you a Thanksgiving filled with gratitudes of all shapes and sizes.
Thanks for stopping by. And keep sharing your stories, because someone wants to hear them.