Monday, November 21, 2011

From the LITTOF archives: Being thankful in good times and in bad

This post was originally published on November 24, 2009 at LITTOF when it was on ChicagoNow.
A perfectly brined turkey (if I do say so myself)

Ever notice how it's so much easier to be thankful during good times than bad?

Of course. That's so obvious it doesn't even need to be asked. Of course it's easier to be thankful when things are going well. But... is it possible to be thankful when they're not? And isn't perhaps more important?

The last year has been hard on most of America. It hasn't been easy. We've been challenged in so many different ways. People have lost their homes, their jobs, loved ones. Nothing is certain anymore. Everything is changing. Long held beliefs have been shattered. It's... well, it's not been easy.

But, we're still thankful, aren't we? Shouldn't we be? Especially now when times are toughest? YES, YES, YES!

It's Thanksgiving week and I'm deeply thankful for so many things in my life. We actually celebrated Thanksgiving early here at the Walker household with four dear friends who flew up from L.A. It was such a wonderful weekend. It's so easy to be thankful for everything right now because things are really looking up for us. We have a beautiful place to live, we have unbelievably supportive family and friends, we made it through the most challenging two years of our marriage more stronger and more in love than ever, we have a new and improved outlook on life, the list goes on...
Early Thanksgiving in Friday Harbor 2009: Bob Walker, Brian Polak, Cece Tio, Steph Walker, Pablo Neruda, Jami Brandli and Michael Shutt

Times for us are good right now. And it's so easy to be thankful. But it was when times were bad that it was even more important.


Lately people have been asking us, "How the heck did you end up on that island?!" Just a year ago we were deeply entrenched in Los Angeles fighting with every fiber of our being to hold on to the life we had created. So how did we get from there to here? How did we get from that life to this?

There are a couple of answers to that question. One is the nuts and bolts.

-Bob lost his job
-We had no back-up plan
-Couldn't sell the house fast enough
-Economy tanked
-Housing values crashed
-Fell too far behind too fast
-Bank wouldn't modify our mortgage
-New combined salaries fell far short
-Started "Love in the time of foreclosure"
-Came days away from a foreclosure
-Sold the house in a short sale
-Got an offer from a LITTOF reader to live in a house on an island rent-free for two years
And here we are. All of that is true. But it doesn't explain everything. It's the space between that tells the rest of the story. That space was filled with our determination. Our promise to each other to flourish as opposed to flounder. To work as a team and communicate versus hide and blame each other. To become better people and turn the proverbial lemons into lemonade.

And how we managed that was by being thankful.

Being thankful especially when thing were looking most grim. When we were clear that this could very well be the end of us. That we could sink with the house and everything in it. When we felt like total failures and were helpless in the face of insurmountable circumstances... we were thankful.

When times were toughest is when we started actively practicing the art of being thankful. Each night before going to sleep we would try to remember to express at least one thing we were thankful for. On the worst days that one thing might be: "I'm thankful to be alive." Other days, it came easier and we would fall asleep while listing off the things for which we were thankful.

If I was in a depressed mood, Bob would say:

"Name one thing you're thankful for right now."

And I would answer. Sometimes reluctantly. But simply by sharing what I was thankful for I was essentially lifting myself out of my depression. No matter how bad things got, our lives were still filled with blessings. Even on the day we got our notice of default. Or when foreclosure notices were plastered on our garage door. We were always thankful for each other. And so much more...

Thankful for the unconditional love and support of our families and friends
Thankful for our health
Thankful for our resourcefulness.
Thankful for our education and upbringing
Thankful for the opportunity to grow
Thankful for the chance to set our priorities straight
Thankful for the opportunity to learn such important lessons so young
The more we grounded ourselves in the long list of things for which to be thankful, the easier it was to embrace the opportunity in the moment. With so many blessings in our lives, how is it possible to feel like victims? I believe it's not. And that's why we never did.

Today I am thankful for all the same things and more...

I'm thankful for everything I've learned
I'm thankful for having been courageous enough to take a leap of faith
I'm thankful for a wonderful place to live
I'm thankful to the owners of this house for trusting us and giving us such a gift
I'm thankful to have the opportunity to restart my life
I'm thankful for the ability to express myself through writing
I'm thankful for the courage to start this blog
I'm thankful for LITTOF readers and the support you've given me over the last ten months
I'm thankful for the gift and beauty of simplicity

I am honestly thankful for everything we went through in the last year. Because I now know without a shadow of a doubt that what makes me happy (and I'm happier now than I've ever been in my entire life) is love, family, friends, community and the adventure of living.

I don't miss the house. Because, I guess, it was never about the house. The house now represents an old model for happiness. My new model has nothing to do with anything material. And for that, I'm thankful.

Cece and Brian working hard and putting the kitchen to good use.

What about you? Do you practice the art of being thankful? 
What about during hard times? And for what are you most thankful?

Happy Thanksgiving!

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