During the Great American Teach-In last week, I arrived a little early and caught the presentation before mine. A rabbi, the mother of one of the other students in the class, gave a presentation on mindfulness. Every kid (and adult) held a raisin in his or her palm while the rabbi asked the room to consider the journey of this one piece of fruit – from seed, to plant, to harvest, to production. She asked us to consider how many people were involved, how much energy was used, how far that raisin had to travel, who designed the box it was in, who stacked it on the shelves. And then finally, she asked us to hold the raisin in our mouths for a while – to really feel its ridges and valleys and taste its sugary flavor before swallowing. It was the best raisin I’d ever tasted. It made me think about how raisins are eaten in bunches, tossed in the mouth, rarely really noticed.
The rabbi’s lesson was about mindful eating, but obviously she was talking about something much larger. In the rush and crush of the day to day, how many of us are really paying attention to the moments of our lives, savoring, enjoying, and giving thanks? With world events so devastatingly violent, true peace and love among people apparently elusive, how many of us take the time to observe what’s right in the world, how much good people do?
I worry. I’m prone to that, deep thinking about what’s dark and wrong, what nightmarish scenarios might unfold – from what happens as violence escalates on our planet and world climates change, to whatever drama is unfolding in my daughter’s world, in my extended family. I am a perfectionist; I try to fix and control things that are not fixable or in my control, leaving me feeling anxious and lost. And then I remember to breathe, and to ‘get micro’ as we say in our family. Meaning, I remember to focus on the raisin in my palm.
Thanksgiving is a good time to focus on our raisins. There are obstacles to that – worry about the future, anger about the past, busy-addicted rushing around. We don’t have TIME to focus on the small things. Until we realize that only those small things matter. When I think about the terrorist attacks, not just in Paris, but around the world, and all the people who left for concerts and sporting events, evenings out with friends and families, school events, or weddings and never got to come home, I am ashamed for not showing more gratitude, more often, in my life. Each of those people – the mother of small children, the college student, the architect – would surely love to be able to fold laundry, or read one more story, or cook for a family, to study, to put pen to paper. We can honor people who have lost their lives by being more mindful in and more grateful for ours.
I am grateful for so many things this week:
Today is my fifteenth wedding anniversary. Sixteen years ago, I met my husband Jeffrey at Sloppy Joe’s in Key West. It truly was love at first sight, a whirlwind long distance romance, and a fairytale wedding a year to the day that we met. A marriage is a journey. And any real traveler will tell you that there are highs and lows, good days and bad ones. The journey is a mosaic, a beautiful whole made up of parts, some glittering, some dull, some broken, some golden. Ours has been characterized by a deep abiding friendship, a ferocious desire to explore the world, joyful parenthood, striving together towards goals, as well as sinking our toes into the sand and loving our life. Our love — which was crazy and wild and change-the-world passionate – has only deepened. My husband is my boyfriend and my playmate, the person I turn to first when I am happy or sad, excited or angry. He knows everything about me – good and bad. And I know everything about him. (There is no bad. He’s a purely good spirit.) We have walked together hand in hand, or carried each other, or prodded and pulled, or sprinted on this journey. And I can’t imagine having traveled it with anyone else. Night and day, he is the one. I am grateful beyond measure for our wonderful marriage, our partnership.
This week is also my mother’s 75th birthday. That my parents are healthy, able and present in our lives is a gift. My mother, former librarian, an avid reader and lover of story, was the earliest and most important influence in my life as a writer. The things she taught me turned out to be most of what I needed to know. 1) Be yourself. 2) Don’t let anybody push you around. 3) You can’t do more than your best. 4) They put erasers on pencils because everyone makes mistakes. 5) Make sure you lock the door and keep that hair out of your eyes. 6) Never order the tuna fish. Okay, there was a lot. Really I could keep writing. I am grateful for my mom who has always been there for me, who is generous, loving, and supportive in so many ways. And who still has tons of advice to give. Like: 7) Why aren’t you wearing anything on your feet? 8) Don’t talk on the phone during a lightning storm. I love you, Mom. Happy Birthday!
There’s more, too much more to list here – that my creative, funny, brilliant daughter makes paper dolls with my face on mermaid bodies, that my labradoodle howls at sirens, that when I open the door to my office I hear palm fronds whispering and halyards clanging in the wind, that while I was writing the other day a ladybug traveled across my screen. For the million little things, the glittery pieces in the mosaic of my life, I am grateful.
There’s a cacophony of negativity around us – unhealthy messages in the media, every day more bad news at home and around the world, an ever growing list of must-dos, and must-buys, and get this, be this, or else. Inside our heads, too, sometimes there is a litany of criticisms and complaints, worries and fears, that we have for ourselves and others. I find that sometimes it is possible to quiet that, to breathe, and consider the journey of my life, to be grateful. So may your Thanksgiving be filled with family, friends, or something meaningful to you. May there be much laughter, love, and good times. And most of all, I hope you look at the raisins in your palm, give thanks, and really taste every single one.