I woke this morning in weirdness. There won’t be the smells of turkey or pumpkin pie floating through my house. Echoes of the traditional, nuclear family banter and noise will not echo. They never do. My life is not typical. My husband works a first responder job and is off answering the call for the next 24 to 48 hours. My siblings are scattered around the country. I chose not to have children. Parents and in-laws…what a fine mess we have made. A long series of events had led me here. None of these are statements of judgment. It just is this way.
All of these things, on most other days, are taken in stride and I understand, to the best of my knowledge, their reasons and realities.
But today is Thanksgiving, and the Norman Rockwell painting image prevails. (And I haven’t, in actual reality, endured that promised painting with biological parents and siblings around a table since I was 13, so it is kind of amusing that it still calls to me like some sort of haunting. Some ghost.)
Until. Until I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook post, where I laid, in bed, because I was choosing not to engage the day, just yet. Because I was planning on a secret wallowing, even as I visited other family, and am welcomed at friends-who-are-family’s tables.
Wallow officially cancelled.
“Dear Ones –
Some of you may remember these words (“SONO GRATA”) from EAT PRAY LOVE. It means: I AM GRATEFUL in Italian.
I learned these words twelve years ago in Rome, during that memorable Thanksgiving dinner I shared with my friend Luca Spaghetti and his tribe. I think of these words every year at this time, and it always makes me smile.
I love Thanksgiving, because it’s all about SONO GRATA.
That said, I’m tribeless on the holiday this year. I’m still on the road for BIG MAGIC. (Two and a half months in!) So won’t be seeing my friends and family this Thanksgiving. Today I’m in Dublin, tomorrow I’m in Frankfurt, and yesterday I was in London — where I took this selfie yesterday morning, in a car on the way to the airport, stuck in traffic, wrung out, and tired as hell. But even then I realized: SONO GRATA.
I AM GRATEFUL.
One of the things I’m most grateful for in life is that I know how to be grateful!
I haven’t figured everything out, but I’ve figured out this: A constant practice of gratitude is pretty much where it’s at. And the reason I’m not crazy with homesickness today is because gratitude is my ultimate home. Gratitude is my comfort and my shelter and my ever-loyal companion. If I can remember to carry my gratitude with me everywhere I go, then I am ALWAYS at home. With gratitude in my heart, I am never in the wrong place, never with the wrong people, never disoriented, jacked-up, or confused. With gratitude, nothing is every missing. With gratitude, everything stays cool and everything is always perfect — even when it might appear not to be.
How did I learn that?
Oh, the same way I learn everything — the hard way.
I learned my gratitude by having practiced its opposite (ingratitude) for so many sad years. And after years of nothing ever being quite good enough, life finally taught me this — that without gratitude, nothing is EVER gonna be quite good enough. No place will ever be the right place, nothing will ever happen the right time, no reward is ever enough, all the people around you are always the wrong people, the room is always too hot or too cold, somebody else is always having a better time than you, somebody else always has a better car than you, or a better job, or a better marriage, or better hair, or a better destiny in general..and life is basically THE SUCK. I know this from painful experience, and it’s terrible.
I never want to live in the House of Ingratitude again — in that cold and tiny shack, built upon a foundation of bottomless lack. (The Lack-Shack?) Thank God I am living in better quarters these days. The Mansion of Gratitude. (The Grati-Coop? Help me on this one, you guys…) That’s the finest digs in town.
So therefore, today I can say with all happiness: SONO GRATA.
Blessings and love — and thank you all for the friendly fellowship you all offer me here day after day.
I am grateful for you all, and I hope that — wherever you are, and whoever you are with — you have a light heart beating in your chest, and a sly smile on your face.
And see you tonight, my beloved Dublin! We’ll share space, and share hearts. It’s gonna be beautiful.
I put part of the saying on my kitchen chalkboard.
I am going to go upstairs, and put on some makeup. I’m going to visit the parts of my family that are still intact, I am going to make phone calls to the siblings, and I am going to join the glow of the party that has already started, and is including me.