Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is, I think, a holiday that doesn’t get enough love. Even those who like it are more focused on the abundance of food they'll get to indulge in, and then their minds shift quickly to holiday shopping. Like with Valentine’s Day, those who dislike the holiday tend to spout some bitter dictum about how we don’t need just one day to show our love – or in this case, gratitude – and that those who use the holiday as an excuse to do so are missing the point.

But I would argue that they are the ones missing the point. We don’t live our lives oblivious to those we love, or ignorant of the things that bless us. But taking a day to pause our busy lives and focus on those things can bring us fulfillment that, in our stressful world, we often forget to seek. It is important to feel fulfilled; it's restorative.

I couldn't have survived Proteach without you!
So in honor of finally having a break in schedule - a time when training is paused, school is out, and I can rest and reflect - I present a post on gratitude.

So often, the thing that causes me the most stress is a thing worth being thankful for. I am truly grateful that I have a career that makes a difference. One of the purest joys in life is watching a student's face light up as a connection is made, new understanding is reached, and they can say, "This makes sense now!"

I am grateful that after a long day of work, I can come home to a secure home with electricity, A/C, a comfortable bed, and a stocked fridge. So many go without these simple necessities.
More than I deserve.

It seems like such a trivial thing, but I am so grateful for the freedom to set my own schedule, travel to see friends, plan my weekends as I want them, and pursue hobbies that make me happy.

I am grateful for the freedom to practice my religion as I see fit, and to have authority and control over my choices regarding my health.

Words cannot express my gratitude for my friends. Their kind words and actions, their lively discussions and debates, their vigor and energy add to my life abundantly. They challenge me, keep my brain sharp, commiserate, comfort, and bring me laughter that reduces me to tears and hiccups. They are a group of sharp-witted, intelligent, loyal people who I could not live without.
Distance is meaningless.

My family has given me support in all ways that they can, from the very basic needs of a child to the complex and demanding needs of an adult. My parents have encouraged me, been strict when necessary, led by example, and allowed me to follow my own paths and make my own mistakes. For their continued love, support, listening ears, and friendship I am forever indebted. 

My siblings have forced me to be my own self, to find a way to stand out from between their own bright personalities. Their presence in my life grounds me and connects me to a past that I can appreciate because it has made me who I am today. My brother's easy ability to shrug off the opinions of others and to let his own intelligence shine has been a constant beacon for me to follow; my sister's amiable nature and truly magnetic disposition have made her the perfect lifetime friend, confidant, and soul mate.

Up early in cold & wind...just to cheer me on!
I am grateful for a husband who strengthens who I am and whose values mirror mine. I am grateful for our disagreements, through which we grow, and I am grateful for the depth of understanding and willingness to listen that keeps our relationship strong. I am especially grateful for his support of my quirks and idiosyncrasies. I am grateful that he takes an interest in the things I love, and that if he's not running races with me, he's there cheering me on. I am grateful for the hour-long leg massage post-Half that completely eradicated my knee pain and reaffirmed my confidence in being able to run long distances without persistent injuries. I am grateful that he puts up with so much from me - constant messes, awful TV, ridiculous YouTube videos, muddled priorities - and still wonders aloud how he could ever deserve me. I am grateful for a love that demands equality, fairness, and respect from us both. 
And now, because this would be incomplete without a mention of the thing that, lately, keeps me sane and whole...

I am grateful for a sport that makes me feel strong and humble all at once. A sport that allows me to challenge myself in my own way. A sport that, even in failure, allows me to succeed. 

I am grateful to myself for meeting this goal of learning to run, and for dedicating time to myself despite my stressful, busy days. When I first decided I wanted to run, it was M who outfitted me with all the accessories and encouraged me to keep going - another thing to thank him for. 

From the first Half to the last mile.
Running has brought me friendships so strong, complex, and meaningful that I cannot doubt the bond itself is strengthened through the sport. Relationships that could have been surface-level have been made irreplaceable because of running. Even casual friendships, like those started through work or fractured by distance, take on a level of respect, openness, and connectivity that would often be lost if the love of running weren't involved.

I am grateful to the running community for the camaraderie and healthy competition it constantly provides. I am grateful for this amazing outlet for stress, anger, disappointment, and fear. I am grateful for the bad runs that remind me I have far to go, that I am a work in progress. I am grateful for the strong runs that rebuild my confidence and remind me of how far I've come. I am grateful for health in my mental and physical life. I am grateful for my body, which is strong and capable. I am grateful for my aching muscles, because they remind me of what I've accomplished. I am grateful for my mind, which is kept clear and sharp because of the reflective time running provides.

I am grateful for where my life is. Running and daily life are so intertwined these days that my gratitude for life and my appreciation of running must go hand-in-hand. Running has made me strong, mentally flexible, and has proven to me that there are only limits where I choose to set them.

Truly, there is so much, and I am so humbled by my good fortune. I hope everyone has a relaxing, fulfilling, and enlightening holiday.