Gratitude

November 27, 2013 § 15 Comments

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Nesting

“If you want to be surrounded by angels in your lifetime, then teach.” – Rolf Gates

I wasn’t going to write a Thanksgiving post, especially after Kitch reminded me that tis the season when “bloggers around the nation will begin storming the Interwebs with gratitude posts.” Usually during the holidays, I try to lay low, as some of you know. As Anne Lamott says, “It’s hard enough to keep your balance and and sense of humor during the rest of the year. But the next 30 days are Grad School.”

I really wanted to stay in hiding this week because last Friday I got my hair cut and highlighted to camouflage the gray hairs that are sneaking their way in. “Lowlights too?” the woman asked, and I told her sure, which turned out to be a terrible idea as was the decision to get my lip waxed. By the time I walked out of the salon, my hair had violet streaks in it and the next day, my lip broke out so badly, it now looks like I have a communicable disease on my face.

A few weeks ago, I downloaded Bon Appetit’s Thanksgiving app, thinking that I was going to win at Thanksgiving for a change. My parents are here and I am making my first Thanksgiving dinner since I was 29 and single. Back then, the wine mattered more than the turkey (which turned out bloody in the middle and burned on the wings). Now, I am anxious about attempting to recreate the magic that Thanksgiving was when I was young. My mother made it all look so easy. On Tuesday I made cranberry sauce and felt ahead of the game until I checked my Bon Appetit app. According to that calendar, I was supposed to have already made two pie crusts, par-baked my stuffing, and whipped up a roux for the gravy. It appeared that already, I was losing at this.

On Monday and Tuesday I teach two yoga classes each day, which I love, but still find daunting. Before each class, I worry that I will forget the flow, that I will not be helpful, that I will be wasting someone’s time. Yesterday evening I walked into class self-conscious about my face and my hair and slightly dismayed about my lack of Thanksgiving prowess. But as usual, the students changed my mood around, in the way that they always show up and do their best. During the spinal twists at the end of class, I read some of my favorite words of Katrina Kenison’s which I rediscovered yesterday on Claudia’s blog (and recopied below.)

After class, a young Marine stayed as he sometimes does to ask questions. Usually he asks me about poses I can’t do. Last week, he jumped up on the ballet barre and pushed himself into plank. “Can you teach me to do a handstand on this barre?” he asked.

“Um, no,” I said. “I’m still working on handstand on the floor.”

“My roommate and I,” he said in his slow drawl, “We’re in a competition to see who can do the coolest yoga shit.” Then he jumped up into a headstand and I almost had a heart attack.

When he came back to his feet I convinced him that maybe handstand was a better idea and I showed him some things to do on the wall. As he went up and down, he told me that what had brought him to yoga in the first place was a chiropractor who told him his lower back was so injured he might have to leave the Corps. “That dude was an idiot,” Carter told me. Then he explained that his spine was compressed from wearing a 50 pound flak jacket for so long. “Yoga is working though,” he said. “Look,” and he bent over and touched his toes. “I couldn’t do this a few months ago.”

Last night, instead of asking me to show him how to do a one-armed handstand or more “crazy yoga shit,” he told me he really liked what I read. He spread out his hands and looked up. “That part about feeling the earth and looking up at the sky?” He smiled with the lopsided grin and mischievous eyes that most 24-year old boys have but that older men tend to lose.

“What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” I asked as I powered down the sound system and locked up the headset.

“I’m going home,” he said. “Me and my roommate are going back to Kentucky.” He told me that his grandfather is terminally ill with ALS and his mom is going to bring Thanksgiving to him. “My grandfather is so great,” Carter said. “Since he’s been sick, he’s raised all this awareness about ALS and it’s going to be a special Thanksgiving. Plus,” he added, “I’ve been deployed for the last two Thanksgivings and Christmases, so just being home is pretty awesome.”

We wished each other a Happy Thanksgiving and then Carter stuck his head back in. “Hey,” he said, “My buddy and I are going to that crazy yoga class I told you about back home. We’ll be doing some sick poses.”

“Excellent,” I said, thinking that it was kind of perfect that a Marine would be drawn to yoga as another way to compete. There are so many ways to get to the mountain.

I got the mop to sweep, and as Carter walked away – his step jaunty under his ridiculous haircut – I felt the surprising lightness of gratitude, which knocked me off-guard for a moment. All week I had been trying so hard to cultivate gratitude, to dredge it up, and now, here it was. If you had told me a year ago that I would be grateful to be here, smack dap in the middle of the South, on a Marine base for God’s sake, sweeping the floor with my purple hair, I wouldn’t have believed you. But life can turn on a dime, can’t it?

From Katrina Kenison’s blog, November 20, 2012:
For gratitude, as we all know, is not a given but rather a way of being to be cultivated. It doesn’t come packaged like the Stouffer’s stuffing mix nor is it ensured by the name of the holiday. No, real “thanksgiving” requires us to pause long enough to feel the earth beneath our feet, to gaze up into the spaciousness of the sky above, and to stop and take a good, long, loving look at the precious faces sitting across from us at the dinner table.

Life can turn on a dime. Not one of us knows, ever, what fate has in store, or what challenges await just around the bend. But I do know this: nothing lasts. Life is an interplay of light and shadow, blessings and losses, moments to be endured and moments I would give anything to live again. I will never get them back, of course, can never re-do the moments I missed or the ones I still regret, any more than I can recapture the moments I desperately wanted to hold onto forever. I can only remind myself to stay awake, to pay attention, and to say my prayer of thanks for the only thing that really matters: this life, here, now.

~ Katrina Kenisone

§ 15 Responses to Gratitude

  • Alana says:

    I bet you look great with purple hair.

    Thank you for making me laugh and cry yet again. Happy Thanksgiving Pamela. Enjoy it.

  • I love this and you. Your words help me feel more endeared to being human and endeared to the humans around me.

  • Carol Frazey says:

    Hi Pam, I LOVE your writing! Your true essence, spirit, and love come through. I’m grateful that we’re in contact again.

    I read your last post about your husband’s next deployment location and was in tears about the wonderful way that you see things.

    Good luck with your Thanksgiving meal. I just started mine today, so you are way ahead of the game. My sister and her family live here and my in-laws are here for half the year, so we’ll all be together.

    Hopefully we can see each other in person in the years to come. I’d love for you to teach me some crazy yoga shit! With Love, Carol

  • Oh, oh, oh, Pam. I am crying. Those words of Katrina’s, and these of yours, well, they’re perfect today. Here we go into grad school. Thank GOD I have you as my study partner. xoxox

  • Wolf Pascoe says:

    “Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time.” — Annie Dillard

    Pretty good Thanksgiving post, by the way.

  • kasey says:

    Such a wonderful way to begin my day! Thank you, Pam. I’ll carry these thoughts with me in throughout the coming days. XXOOO

  • As always, Pam, your words go straight to my heart. I’m so glad you DID decide to write about gratitude. Being grateful even when your hair is purple, your lip is weird, and there’s a broom in your hand is really what it’s all about — just the reminder I needed myself. Thank you for setting my words alongside yours. You inspired me to reflect and say thank you, too.

  • And by the way, I’m pretty sure that downloading that Thanksgiving app would have driven me right around the bend last week. I pulled a 2007 November Bon Appetit off my cellar shelf, dusted it off, and had at it. Worked fine.

  • You definitely had me laughing and feeling moved all in one post. One time I went chocolate brown with my hair but the hairstylist took it too far and I was the new owner of Morticia black hair. No, it wasn’t purple…but it was intense and took forever to recover from.

    On a Yoga note…Isn’t it wonderful to inspire that which is beyond the “crazy yoga shit”?

  • shawley says:

    :) I like your words. I read yours and Kristin Armstrong’s Mile Markers (runners world) — similar…. :) Happy 2014 –

  • I don’t know how I missed this but I’m glad to find it today. I needed it today and it is not even Thanksgiving. I’m nearing the end of “grad school” month and it has been wonderful but balance has been elusive at times. I am grateful for your words and the image of the young Marine and your purple hair. By the way, the woman who has been doing my hair for nearly eight years now has become a friend. We allow each other one mistake a year. Once that meant going home with violet-hued nearly black hair. Another time it meant one side of my “do” was two inches shorter than the other. Somehow we survived and it just makes me more grateful for the times it comes out great.

  • Kerri Warner says:

    Hi Pamela,

    I love your posts; I love your writing. Thank you for sharing both!

    You’ve written about your teacher training with Rolf Gates. I am considering a teacher training myself and would love to speak to someone who has had a positive experience. I’m most interested in Rolf Gates or one through Yoga Works. I would have loved to do one through Unity Woods, but like you, I no longer live in northern VA.  I wonder if you’d be willing to have a 15 minute conversation with me on this?

    Many thanks, Kerri Warner    

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