It’s Thanksgiving in the United States. I’ve come to look upon it as a season of thanksgiving throughout the world, so I hope that, wherever you live, you enjoy this piece. This time of year, I’m genuinely thankful for the usual things: my loved ones, the food on my table, the roof over my head, but…
On the lighter side…what am I REALLY thankful for?
I’m thankful that I’m too sick to shop on Black Friday.
Standing in line in the middle of the night in a turkey-induced stupor so I can be among the first through the doors at 5 a.m.? No thanks. Trampling over others to get to stuff the very day after I’ve reflected on how thankful I am for what I already have? No thanks. And now I’ve heard that Black Friday is bleeding into Thanksgiving Day itself. A big no thanks.
I’m thankful for my DVR (aka TiVo).
I don’t recall ever buying anything just because it was advertised on TV. Now, with my DVR—digital video recorder—I’m an advertiser’s nightmare because I don’t have to watch commercials at all. Even if there’s a show I want to see at 6:00, instead of putting it on, I set my DVR to record it and then start watching at 6:15 so I can fast forward through the commercials. It’s become one of my missions in life not to watch ads on TV.
Oops. Did I say that I couldn’t remember buying anything just because it was advertised on TV? I’m pretty sure that a television commercial introduced me to my new best friend: the DVR.
I’m thankful for the gift of re-gifting.
My mother-in-law, bless her, had a habit that drove me up the wall (to use one her favorite expressions). She remembered every single gift she ever gave me. I’d watch her eyes scan the room when she’d visit: “Where’s that Lenox tea cup I gave you ten years ago?” (Hmm. How can I "break" the news to her that I broke it?) “Where’s that green sweater I knit for you?” (It never fit. I can’t remember—did I give it to someone or is it in the back of a drawer somewhere?) “Where’s the little beaded clutch I gave you in 1982?” (I haven’t the foggiest.) Once, I even caught her going through my closet—probably looking for that green sweater.
Re-gifting on "Seinfeld"
Because her behavior was such a source of stress for me, I made a vow that I would never ask after a gift I gave to my children, and I think I’ve made good on that promise. Then Seinfeld and company popularized this practice with the term “re-gifting.” Now when I give something to my family, I try to remember to add: “If this isn’t right for you, feel free to re-gift it.”
To me, re-gifting is a generosity practice times two. Not only is the giver of the gift being generous by welcoming its receiver to do whatever he or she wants to with it, but the receiver of the gift can re-gift it to someone who might like it more or who might really need it.
Recently, I was glad to see this tradition being passed onto our grandchildren. Several years ago, we gave our granddaughter, Malia, an American Girl doll. She loved it at the time, but has outgrown it. The younger sister of one of her friends fell in love with the doll, so Malia called us to ask if we’d be hurt if she gave it to this girl. Way to go Malia: a re-gifter in the making!
I’m thankful for the common cold.
Okay. I know this one sounds nutty, but stick with me. About ten years ago, I showed up for an acupuncture appointment with a cold, and the acupuncturist said to me: “This is a good sign. In Chinese medicine, we say that you have to be well enough to catch a cold.” Ever since she said that, I get hopeful whenever I have a cold. I can’t put my finger on why, but there’s some twisted logic to her thinking, even though it’s yet to work on this body.
Now, when I get a cold, along with sneezing and complaining about being “sick upon sick,” there’s always this thought in the back of my mind: “This is going to jolt my immune system back into good working order and, when I recover from the cold, I’ll recover from 12+ years of chronic illness.” Hey, a girl can hope!
I’m thankful that there’s almost always a Jane Austen or a Woody Allen movie on TV.
At the same time that I’m thankful, I hope no one thinks it would be a good idea to make a movie about a fictional meeting between the two of them. Scene One: Jane and Woody chatting in a drawing room…no, make that a psychiatrist’s office:
Jane: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. [Pride and Prejudice]
Woody: That reminds me of this guy who went to a psychiatrist and said, "Doc, my brother's crazy; he thinks he's a chicken." The doctor said, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" The guy said, "I would, but I need the eggs." That's how I feel about relationships. They’re totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, but we keep going through them because we need the eggs. [Annie Hall]
No, I’ll take my dose of Jane and my dose of Woody the way I take my pumpkin pie and ice cream: separately.
I’m thankful for ear plugs.
Yes, I’ve written in this space about the benefits of practicing mindfulness of sounds. But sometimes, mindfulness of no sounds is what I need, like when I turn off the lights to go to sleep and there’s a student party going on in the neighborhood (I live in a college town). Students like their music and they like it loud. With my trusty ear plugs, the world is quiet enough for me to get to sleep.
Before I turn out the lights and put those ear plugs in, the music can fill the house, making me feel as if I’ve taken up residence in a boom box. This used to bother me, but now I take my lead from the Thai Buddhist monk Ajahn Chah. In fact, this comment of his has been so helpful to me that I included it in my new book, How to Wake Up:
We think that noises, cars, voices, are distractions that come and bother us when we want to be quiet. But who is bothering whom? Actually we are the ones who go out and bother them. The sound is just following its own nature…Learn to see that it is not things that bother us, that we go out to bother them.
Now I think of the party as fulfilling its own nature—loudness! When I was in college, I went to loud parties all the time. And so, I don’t go out and bother that noise by getting upset…but I do put in those ear plugs when I turn the lights out.
How would I fare with Ajahn Chah’s comment if I couldn’t find my ear plugs? I’m extra extra thankful that I haven’t had to find out!
A happy thanksgiving season to my friends all over the world.
© 2013 Toni Bernhard www.tonibernhard.com
Thank you for reading my work. My most recent book is titled How to Wake Up: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow.
I'm also the author of the award-winning How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers.
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