While I spend a lot of my time on here pontificating and waxing (un)poetically about the nature of life, the difference between faith and belief, truth and lies, love and hate, etc, today I am convicted to write about thankfulness. I have much to be thankful for, and even though I don’t always feel like doing it, taking the time to recall what I am thankful for does in fact stimulate those feelings of thankfulness. I could launch into a long list of such things, but instead I am going to write briefly about two things.
But before I do that, I need to hop down a rabbit trail for some reflection on integrity and thankfulness. There are times when it feels inauthentic to be thankful. Sometimes it seems that at my core I am anything but thankful. This seems to be a paradox when I consider my own value of integrity with myself; I never want to fake something or express a sentiment that I consider to be false. So practicing thankfulness when I don’t feel thankful seems disingenuous. This of course assumes that feeling a certain way is the sole litmus test of personal truth, while simultaneously ignoring the practice principle: if you want to authentically be something you’ve got to practice it. As hard as this is to accept, if you want to be thankful start thanking someone for things.
First, I am incredibly thankful for my family.
This one is obvious and seemingly easy, but family is sometimes trying. It’s been six months since Ford was born, and during those months there have been moments when I felt like it was all for nothing. I knew, objectively, that it was worth it, but raising an infant as a stay at home dad is something I was unprepared for. There was just so much that I needed to be able to offer emotionally to Ford without any reciprocation; without receiving anything in return for my emotional investment. And to be honest there were days when I felt like it was all for nothing. A person can think like that when they are unable to embrace thankfulness.
Now, six months in, Ford is smiling, laughing, scooching, grabbing, chewing eating hugging “kissing” (open mouthed baby kisses. Imagine a baby going to nurse on your face but instead of sucking he just holds his mouth there. At first we thought he was hungry, but then we realized he was showing us affection in the same way we were- we kissed him a lot), and basically being a tiny, adorable human. And while I can still remember the feelings of wasted life, I can now see them as disingenuous. Part of what helps me see that is being thankful. Taking the moments to recall and recount the things that Ford does and the person he is becoming. When I think about those things I cannot but be thankful for the life I have with him. Stay at home dads for the win!
The other part of family is my incredible wife, Lesley. It is not just anyone who will recognize that, for the time being, she needs to be the breadwinner of the family and willingly gives up her dream of being a stay at home mom for the sake of her family. Lesley is that woman. And on top of that, she has seldom been anything but encouraging to me as I sort out my feelings and thoughts about our new roles. She even is happy to let me go out with my academic friends for a beer in the evening; without complaining or even getting upset! And on top of that, she’s gorgeous. I don’t know how I got so lucky to end up with her, and I am so incredibly thankful for her.
The second thing I am thankful for are futures.
For those of you who do not know me, I’ve spent a lot of time around death. I don’t talk about it often, but an alarming number of my friends are no longer living. They each have their own story, and I cannot do any of them justice recounting it here, but suffice it to say that the question of death-and why I am still alive-has been one that I have travelled with for a good many years. And during that traveling I’ve started to realize what death means beyond the end of a body’s life: it is the loss of futures. In this sense, people can be dead while still alive. Death is the impossibility of a future, a friend once wrote, and she was right.
In all of the myriad ways it can be applied, the possibility of a future is something that I am incredibly thankful for. A future transcends my own paltry existence; a future conjures up themes of meaning, purpose, legacy, etc. My future does not end with me, or even my son, but can continue in the legacy of the work I do here and now. That legacy, that future, is love. I want to be remembered as someone who loved deeply, without reservation or arrogance. My future will be the past to someone who is loved. That is something I am thankful for.