Among the many gifts my mother left me was the capacity to be perpetually grateful. When bestowed with the smallest act of kindness, she felt treated like royalty. Someone who offered her a seat on the bus or a cup of coffee was spoken of with high esteem for days to follow.
My mother’s family lost their Nebraska farm land in the Great Depression when she was ten. With her 8th grade education, she left home at 16 to work as a housekeeper. She married and lived in and out of poverty with my alcoholic father. She bore eight children and buried one who died of AIDS. She was widowed at fifty-nine.
How did my mother stay in appreciation when life had dealt her unfairness, disappointment, and even cruelty? How did she maintain that sense of gratitude in a life brimming with heartbreak? How did she say, “I am really blessed” and mean it?
Mom let her past be a marker of how hard things could be, and her present be a choice of how she saw life. Challenges in life made her strong and she saw her each day through the lens of gratitude. Grateful for her friends. Grateful for her good health when she had it. Grateful to have a little left over after the bills were paid. Grateful always.
During a divorce, countless emotions can override our appreciation when a holiday like Thanksgiving arrives. Envy of the other parent who has our children for the day. Resentfulness as we serve up the stuffing in our one bedroom apartment instead of our big dining room in the house we lost. Loneliness at the end of the day.
If you are divorcing, sadness, anger, or envy are normal feelings on days like this, even as others are basking in the glow of gratitude. Have a heart of compassion for your emotions. Try not to judge them. They are common for anyone experiencing this season of life.
Wherever you are this Thanksgiving, may you share a bit of my mother’s grateful spirit. May this day be an opportunity to receive something that will bless you for years to come: the capacity to let your past be a marker of how you made it through a challenging time, and your present a choice to see the gifts which are now before you.