I’m pleased to feature an article today from Sharon Tousley, who is my partner in Soulful Equine. Sharon is an exceptional writer but she usually stays behind the scenes here at Soulful Equine helping to make sure things are running smoothly. Although Sharon is not the horse lover between us (she’s more the dog lover), I’ve been working on convincing her to write more for Soulful Equine. Please make her feel welcome by adding your comment at the bottom of this article.
You’re sitting down, right?
Don’t worry. I don’t have bad news and I’m not going to shock you (at least not intentionally). I’m just trying to picture what most of my readers are doing right now.
You’re probably reading this on some kind of device or printed off on paper – holding it with your hands – reading it with your eyes – breathing freely in and out. Probably in a cozy home, warmed with heat or cooled with air conditioning.
Another curiosity question – have you stopped recently to think about how much you take for granted? How many people can’t afford a computer to read this on – how many are paralyzed or without hands to hold it – sight to read it – or even those who are on oxygen and not free to take a nice, easy, deep breath?
I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve been guilty of that very thing more than once in my life – taking for granted these seemingly simple fortunes that have been bestowed upon me by the Powers that be.
Maybe I complained about a door that leaked in my house, not stopping to be grateful for the roof I had over my head. Or I got upset when my cat threw up (almost always on the carpet instead of the tile) instead of picking him up and hugging him and being grateful that he was still with me and a part of my life.
We’re all human. It’s so easy to get caught up in our little lives and think that the sun rises and sets only on us and on our “problems.”
Yet, as we get older, don’t you find that we become more reflective? More aware that life really is short and that it’s really pretty silly and pretty wasteful to “sweat the small stuff”?
And as I look back and realize the many blessings I’ve taken for granted or that occurred without so much as a conscious “thank you” mumbled out into the Universe, I still know that like so many of you, I think back about many of those things on this Thanksgiving day with gratitude and, often, with amazement.
I suppose it’s human nature that, after a while, and after leading a life of “plentitude” that many less fortunate people in this world cannot even imagine, one comes to “expect” it. It becomes the norm – just another day of waking in a warm bed, eating a hearty breakfast and spending time with loved ones. It’s “the American way,” right?
Don’t we Americans take so much for granted?
I was born into this world an American and I was also born, and remain today, an only child. “Spoiled,” many would say, just by the very nature of being an only child. Perhaps that’s true of most only children, but as I look back over my childhood and even my adulthood, I can honestly say that I’m not spoiled.
You know, nix that. I am spoiled. Most Americans are. What I mean to say is that I don’t act spoiled. I’m not bragging, mind you. I have too many faults to list here, but acting spoiled just isn’t one of them. I can say that I’ve never expected to have things handed to me nor did I accept any thing that was handed to me without gratitude.
One I’ll Never Forget
For example, when I turned sixteen, like many kids of that age, I was thrilled to finally be able to drive. What freedom! Mom and Dad would let me borrow our one family car whenever they weren’t using it, and I was thrilled beyond belief to have it! Dotty, as she was affectionately called, was a bright orange 1974 Datsun B210 two door sedan, and when I drove her around our little town, I was hot poop.
For three years, before I went off to college, Dotty was available for me to go to school events or to go visit friends or go run an errand when necessary. I loved to drive, and still do. Then, when I went off to college, the ability to come and go became much more limited.
My school of choice was about an hour from where I lived, so Mom and Dad would drive me to school each year and that’s where I would stay until they came to pick me up – whether that was for a brief visit or for summer break, when they would load up all my stuff and haul it back home.
So while I was at college, I had no car… no way of getting off campus other than the bus or a friend who happened to have a car. That’s just the way it was and I seriously never gave it a second thought. I never even thought about having my own car. I just knew that wasn’t going to happen until I was out of school and had my own job.
Then my junior year rolled around and one Saturday, Mom and Dad came to visit to take me out for breakfast. I always looked forward to seeing them and was blabbing a mile a minute as we walked into the parking lot to get in the car. As I walked toward our little orange Datsun, Dad said, “Where are you going? This one’s ours.”
He was standing by the car next to the Dotty mobile, a gray Honda, and Mom was on the passenger side. I was so confused. Then it sunk in – “Cool! You got a new car!” I said as I walked over to take a look.
Then the confusion drifted back and I turned to point at the little orange pumpkin and asked, “But what’s Dotty doing here?”
That’s when Dad walked over and handed me the keys to that beautiful 1974 neon Datsun, and I was totally blown away. I couldn’t believe it. I never expected it… and I’ll never forget it.
Ovarian Lottery Winner, Sure But…
The gratitude I felt that day was overwhelming. Sure I was grateful for having my own car, but I was also grateful for my parents – parents who raised me not to expect material things or to even focus on material things, for that matter.
Parents who were always working so hard to make my life wonderfully happy and to give me everything they possibly could.
Middle class parents who encouraged me to go to any college in the country that I wanted to and who never said a word when I chose a private school over two state schools I was accepted into.
So yes, my life has been extremely fortunate and blessed and yes, I realize that a part of that good fortune has to do with “winning the ovarian lottery” as my friend Matt likes to say, which means I was one of the lucky ones to be born in a country with such incredible freedoms and opportunities.
However, I know without a doubt, that the real ovarian lottery I won was being born to two wonderful and loving souls.
Sure I have “things” and my list of blessings grow longer with each passing day, but the top of the list, without a doubt, are those two beautiful people who gave me the most important gift of all – unconditional love – and my gratitude is overwhelming.
So although I feel I’ve done a fairly good job at showing gratitude throughout my life, I really strive, now, to think about it consciously every single day.
For a year, my friend Stephanie and I have made it a daily habit to speak outwardly to each other about at least one thing that we’re grateful for. We refer to it as “doing our gratefuls” and we often find that we have so many things to speak about that we have to limit it so we can get to work.
And yet isn’t it silly that even with doing our gratefuls each day, I still have to remind myself sometimes to get over the little things that bother me. And most things that happen in all our lives, the things that annoy us or seemingly complicate things, are really just that – little.
So now if my door leaks, I clean up the water and say a “thanks” for the roof over my head. My cat no longer throws up on my carpet because he has since passed, but I give thanks for the years he was with me and brightened my life.
It’s funny because they say that the more gratitude you show, the more things will come to you to be grateful for. I don’t know who “they” are, but they’re right. 2011 has been a very blessed year for both Stephanie and for me.
So on this day, and on the other 364 days of the year, why not throw a heartfelt “thank you” out into the Universe for those many blessings you, too, have received?
I think, like me, you’ll find that the gratefuls come back tenfold.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and to all your loved ones.
Photo credit – original photo modified in size and to include the Soulful Equine name and URL