Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Reason for the Season

As we are all well aware, it's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! No... I'm not talking about the Christmas season with all its twinkly lights and festive charms. And although it comes in as a very close second, I'm not even talking about the back-to-school season, when, after three long months, we can finally shoo the kids back to the classroom to once again become the problem of their respective school teachers. No, folks, I'm talking about Thanksgiving. Or, as I like to call it, The Day of Pure and Unadulterated Happiness.

As a child, the arrival of Thanksgiving wasn't as greatly anticipated as Christmas morning... until the moment I awoke on Thanksgiving morning one year and was hit by the aroma of my mother's homemade stuffing. She always began by sautéing the mushrooms, celery and onion in real butter and the smell of it hit my nose like a freshly opened can of tuna fish hits a hungry stray cat. I'd take in a deep breath, close my eyes and say to my young self, "THIS is happiness."

And the day only got better from there.

From Mom's stuffing and cheesey carrots (friendly parental tip: you can add cheese to any vegetable and a kid will think it's the best invention in the world) to Dad's homemade rolls and pumpkin pies, Thanksgiving soon and easily became my favorite holiday. Even above Arbor Day, if you can believe that.

We weren't the kind of family that played football on Thanksgiving or even watched it on TV. We were the kind of family that helped prepare the meal together, ate until we were ill, took a nap by the fireplace then rinsed and repeated. And, at Mom's encouragement, we were the kind of family that expressed gratitude. As in go-around-the-table-one-at-a-time-to-say-what-you're-thankful-for kind of gratitude. It was always a little embarrassing and despite Mom's intent to keep things serious, it usually turned into a bout of riotous and irreverent laughter. But the lesson was learned. We were thankful and we made sure that at least on Thanksgiving Day, we explained why.

It's been a very long time since I've blogged and it's taken a few weeks to convince myself that formulating a post after all this time has passed wouldn't be worth anything more than the few minutes it takes to tap it out. Life has thrown my family a few curve balls the last couple of years and priorities have had to shift. But as another Thanksgiving Day approaches, I'm compelled to stop a moment and really ponder on those things for which I'm grateful. Mom would be so proud.

Lest you think I'm going to divert from the focus of this blog, however, think again! People never read my blog to gain insightful wisdom or learn the meaning of the universe, after all. People read my blog for the ridiculous running stories. And so, not to disappoint those who've come to know me for such fodder, I offer another running story to you. But in an attempt to perhaps interject just a little bit of meaningful insight this time of year, this running story is somewhat serious... although I'm sure Mother will be highly suspicious.

One of the most profound lessons on gratitude I've learned was a couple of years ago at about mile 24 of a marathon course. One by one, I'd knocked off all the previous miles and my physical and mental state was severely showing the brunt of them. Yet, I had two more miles to go and in the state I was in, I might as well have had 100. I was tired. I was in pain. I was done. I cursed myself for ever thinking it was a good idea to run a marathon (yet, this was my fourth one; I'm a very slow learner). I wanted to quit in the worst of ways and had convinced myself by covertly ducking off into the crowd of spectators, nobody would ever know I gave up.

With an escape plan in place, my feet agonizingly shuffling forward and my brain matter dissolving into melted jello, my eyes caught focus of a woman about twenty yards ahead of me on the side of the road. She was a spectator and on her face was the brightest smile I had ever seen. Clapping her hands loudly, she called out words of encouragement to every runner that passed. "You can do it! You're so close!" Time felt as if it was moving in slow-motion as I more closely approached this woman. She turned her attention solely to me, the smile on her face bright as day and clapped her hands for me. It wasn't until that moment, in my foggy mental state of misery, that I saw this woman was sitting in a wheelchair. As I tried to compute from my eyes to my brain the image in front of me, I realized she had no legs. For whatever reason and how ever it came to be, this woman was crippled. For all I knew, she may have never known in her life what it felt like to walk or to run. Yet, here she was, a spectator at a marathon of all places, cheering enthusiastically for people who run for sport. As the weight of this realization hit me, I became very emotional and choked back a few tears. My head lifted and my step quickened as the lesson so humbly taught to me in just a moment's time hit my soul like a ton of bricks.

Gratitude isn't just being thankful for what we have. It's celebrating all the miracles of life in the ways we're most capable of demonstrating, in spite of our own personal challenges. I finished that marathon with a renewed sense of vigor and honor for my own life and for the blessings I've been granted. And when I feel a little down and out, I remember the woman on the side of the road, her bright smile and a few perspective and life changing footsteps.

Now, enough of the soft stuff. I have a Thanksgiving to celebrate and a turkey-related coma to induce. And if I'm really lucky, a little riotous and irreverent laughter for dessert.


Middle-aged Mormon Man said...

Lovely story. Thank you.
(On another note, it's a shame we have to wait 6 months between posts.)

Linda Gibbs said...

Great story, Ang! Have fun on Turkey day!

mintifresh said...

I am grateful that Thanksgiving brought TallGirl out of hiding:)

Awesome story! You almost had be blubbering in my car in the parking lot with a van full of kids waiting for a prescription! I bet that lady I one great lady!

Happy Turkey day!

Spring and Sean Family said...

Angie, I stumbled upon your blog and loved this post!! Hilarious and yet really touching. I will be thinking about it all day and perhaps all week. Thanks so much! Happy Thanksgiving!!

Mel said...

What an awesome post! I too am so thankful for a body that carries me wherever I want to go. Reminded of that every time I strap my little boy into his chair. Please don't stay away from blogging... I miss your posts!

Jennie G said...

That was an awesome post!

Jenn said...

Turkey, cheesy carrots AND running! So much goodness in one post. Thanks for sharing such a memorable and inspirational story too.

Jenn said...

Turkey, cheesy carrots AND running! So much goodness in one post. Thanks for sharing such a memorable and inspirational story too.

Nitmos said...

Hey, I didn't know you posted again. Nice trophy. See you on the blog in 6 months then?