“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” A.A. Milne
Greetings my dear Fellow Pilgrims and Pioneers of Life,
Don’t forget to set your scales back! Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day—the day when patriotic American families gather to feast on traditional foods, crab about referee calls in football, and give thanks for ALL THEY HAVE in preparation for storming the malls less than 24 hours later to trample their fellow Americans in the pursuit of MORE—spending money they don’t have on things they don’t need to give to people they are not even sure they like. (And so the Holly Daze begins…) As Seamsters, we know it as a day that is particularly hard on pants (and Turkeys, bless them!). Some of us will eat until we have enjoyed a polite bite of everything and have had “enough.” Some will eat until “full.” Some of us will eat until we hate ourselves and need to be cut out of our jeans—especially when we find out that there are three kinds of potatoes on the table and something called pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for later…. Come Cyber Monday, when the rest of you are cyber-clicking yourselves into debt until March, seamstresses everywhere will be receiving untold numbers of popped buttons, stressed out waistbands, and shattered pants that look like they’ve just barely survived Custard’s Last Stand (or Sit as the case may be).
But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s focus on the Thanks and the Giving part of the holiday first. As Prudence Thimbleton primly points out, “It’s not Happiness that brings Gratitude; it’s Gratitude that brings Happiness.” In the shop, we’ve been talking all month about things we are grateful for. We are thankful for a range of everything from thimbles to safety pins and customers who don’t call us every five minutes to see if their stuff is done yet, which it would be if we weren’t so interrupted by calls. (I am personally very grateful for this job!) We have been dealing with a flurry of customers who need special outfits to wear in front of their families during the holiday. Their motivations range from “not arriving naked” to deviously making envious sisters wish they had done weight-watchers all summer too. The people chat about their plans, or lack of plans, whether or not the grandchildren will make it back from Georgia and whatnot…
I listen carefully at my perch and from what I can tell, most people will be bringing along at least two Unplanned Guests. I know how that goes. I often entertain those guests too. One is there to make war. She is angry, defiant, and capable of torching more than the crème brulee if she needs to get attention. She is like a character from the Netflix series “The Norsemen” who arrives breathless, clad in animal skins, on a magnificent current of Righteous Ego and firmly held convictions—Certain Rights she needs to fight for, claim, or preserve. There is a knife in her sock and her Honor is at stake in every utterance and gesture she perceives from those around her. She is desperate to discuss unhelpful things in unhelpful ways. She feeds on the ideas that she deserves more, better, or something different. In a crowd of people, she is hollow, lonely, removed. She HATES to sit at the kids table. She is not there for the mashed potatoes and gravy. She is there to pick a bone. She is there to feed on every morsel of Un-lovingness she can glean, gathering evidence for her future case against you and all of humanity.
The other guest is the one you really want to sit with: She is the Angel of Serenity. She floats in on light and with just a smile, replenishes all that aches within you. She catches the pain of others with her deep, knowing eyes, and reflects back only love and sympathetic understanding. She is gentle. She takes all that makes us want to fight and cradles it in her Unconditional Love. Over and over again, she loves us Just As We Are. She is warm. She is tender. She is funny. She takes disasters and makes us laugh with new-found unity at the wonderful stories they become. She creates community. All the kids want her to sit at their table! She heals, where the other guest wounds. She serves, rather than severs. She replaces, restores, and revives where the other robs.
They are twin sisters, these two, in our dual nature as humans. In the heat of certain family gatherings—especially those kinds of families that Hallmark never puts on its festive cards—it takes incredible courage to choose which one of these guests within us we are going to feed. It’s hard, when one feels ambushed by a comment or a look, to take the Peaceful Angel’s soft hand, rather than the weapons offered by the Warrior. Weapons we all know far too well how to use—(We could have that certain sibling or nephew sobbing in the car, on her/his way home in minutes if we wanted!) Such power, such intensity is so alluring—intoxicating in its force, though weak at its root. The gentle choice is far less glamorous. It requires dropping deep, getting grounded, breathing soft full breaths, rather than rising up and spinning like a roman candle on the fourth of July. It requires holding ourselves instead of hitting another or the bottle. Every triggering moment will be this choice—which guest will you feed?
The inner warrior is the one we must hold with all the love we can muster in our hearts. She is angry because she is afraid and trying to protect her own softness. She will lead you to eat with a hunger you cannot satisfy, or to drink with a thirst you cannot quench, and shop like you have Croesus’ gold to spend, and it will never be enough. Then she will blame and torment you for not having filled her emptiness. She will be the one berating you when you are broke, exhausted, hung over, staring at a closet full of “nothing fits.” Only Loving her will bring her to submission. She can only survive because we have forgotten to love her. Loving her makes her small, contented, ready to sleep.
There is no question which choice will feel better in the long run. Our souls are not asking for more anger. No one will suffer more than you if you choose war, even though you might temporarily enjoy the glory of fighting. It will be the hollow sort of victory that has you limping for the rest of your life. Living takes courage. Holding ourselves peacefully in the midst of wine, combative relatives, and really good pumpkin pie takes an inner kind of parenting we cannot do without Gratitude. Gratitude gives us instant access to the love we are longing for. Even the smallest things can make us grateful and be the tiny handles by which we drag ourselves back towards the Light.
A beautiful girl was in the shop recently. She was complaining about the shape of her nose and the shape of her thighs and the thickness of her ankles. I wanted to wrap my arms around her and say, “Aw….Sweetheart, can your nose smell? Do you know the scent of a rose? Or puppy breath? Or fresh, sun-dried laundry right off the line? Can those thick little legs of yours run and swim and climb and dance?” What a GIFT to have a body! Sure, some of us have gotten into bodies, like bumper cars at a carnival, that don’t look quite like or work like some of the other bodies bouncing around out there—but we can still have fun. We can still enjoy a good ride. May we be grateful for our Bodies.
Some people in the shop struggle with their mental faculties. (Often, one of them is me!) They drop things off and forget to pick them up, or they pick them up and come back two days later forgetting they already came two days ago. They think we have coats we don’t. They call three times in a row. They can’t remember where they lost their shoes. We all get side-tracked, find it hard to focus, battle ADD and lack mindfulness. May we be grateful for our Minds.
Some people have been feeling alone, isolated, left-out. Others are nursing long-held bitterness over heart-shattering loss. Some are falling in love again anyway as little kindnesses lap away and melt the frozenness within. Some are being angels here on earth. May we be grateful for our Hearts.
May we be grateful for our Spirits which long for beauty and music and Connection and Community.
May we be grateful for Each Other—warts and warriors, bumpy-rumpy bumper cars and all. Life is the FEAST—we are each of us a unique and necessary flavor—some of us, like Prudence, are crab apples; some are kale; (I think I’m a brussel sprout), some are pure Maple syrup or honey; some are nuts or turkeys…we ALL are needed for our tartness and sweetness and comfort and substance. So let your better angels win today--your pants and seamstresses will thank you!
I am grateful for YOU, dear ones! More than you could ever imagine. Thank you for reading, thank you for subscribing, thank you for taking your precious time to comment or share.
With so much Love and Gratitude,