How to Give Thanks, From a Chronic Complainer

In my opinion, 2021 was just as hard, if not harder, than 2020. We hit the one-year anniversary of the pandemic this past March, and I had a small spiral of discouragement. For me, a self-proclaimed slow learner, 2021 was when it became apparent that the pandemic wasn’t something to push through, but something to learn to live with. That’s been a hard lesson for me this year, if I’m being honest.

In this week of thankfulness (thanks Grace Bible Church, where Sunday’s sermon was on being a thanks-giver, not a thanks-keeper), I have had to face my allergy to gratitude head-on. So what if my daily routine has been shot to shreds? So what if I have had to learn new ways to work, communicate, work out, socialize?

Who are we as humans if we can’t adapt, survive, regroup, strategize?

Obviously, the fallout from the pandemic is nothing to scoff at: people have lost jobs, dreams, retirement, education, businesses, livelihoods, even lives. But for those of us who have luckily avoided a lot of the REALLY hard difficulties (me), I’m here to shout that maybe we need a different lens through which to view the last 20+ months.

What are you thankful for?

This question is for those of us in the States, who celebrate Thanksgiving by taking a minute to eat turkey and wonderful sides with family and friends. While we make jokes about spending time with annoying family, starting the day drinking early, avoiding certain topics of conversation, or liking memes about Turkey Day, are we (me) missing the point of what we truly have to be thankful for?

Just level setting: I’m the first to call something out for what it is. In my life, I’ve rarely worn rose-colored glasses. I like to keep it real; to say what others are thinking. But staring down a second Thanksgiving mid- (almost post-?) pandemic, there are certain things that jump out to this chronic complainer to be grateful for, and I want to share here.

I’m thankful for grocery stores. For early store hours, for variety, for the effort they make in providing organic produce (how privileged am I if I dare complain that there aren’t enough organic options?), for the fact that they put out frozen turkeys early with instructions on when to start the thawing process.

I’m thankful for schools that teach about the Pilgrims, about their first Thanksgiving and winter in the New World. My ungrateful children need to know how important it was that those pioneers took a huge risk, encountered an entirely new climate, and learned how to cultivate new crops (holding for now on the devastating impact to the Native Americans, but it will be discussed in the future).

I’m thankful for a slower pace. As someone who has struggled with work-life balance over the years, the pandemic was a force for good for me in this aspect. Stay home. No friends or events to distract. Things have started to hint at speeding back up, but a lot of us are hesitating, because we’ve tasted a simpler time and seen the good there.

I’m thankful for masks. Yep. Call me a sheep, but because people were mandated to wear masks, my child with a serious heart defect not only went back to school in person, but she did not get sick once. Not once. No RSV, no strep, no flu, no COVID. Neither did her brothers. It was the healthiest school year I’ve seen as a mom since 2011.

I’m thankful for creativity. For adaptability, for those who pushed further when facing weird, difficult odds. I was in NYC recently for work, and it was a wonder to see all the restaurants that built pop-out spaces for dining al fresco. Resilience is the word that comes to mind when I think of all the people and businesses who pivoted as we encountered a new normal. It even reminds me of how America reacted to WWII, how our grandparents and great grandparents figured out their new normal as the country went to war and those left behind had to keep things going.

On a lighter note, I’m thankful for Microsoft Teams: video chat at my fingertips. I’m thankful for booze delivery. For the ability to drop off my kids at school and not have to rush off to an office. For the ability to take a meal to a new mom while sitting on a work call. To welcome new team members from all over the world; the talent pool has widened astronomically. To be able to drop off a medication at school at a moment’s notice.

Even more, I’m thankful for a job. For our neighborhood of friends. For friends who stay close via text. For getting to see daily progress in my backyard garden. For mid-morning runs along neighborhood streets. For time to take out a library book. To be able to pick up my kids after school and actually have afternoons with them.

This chronic complainer (I’m so over WFH) is trying to heed Paul’s instruction from 1 Thessalonians, even though I wonder what he would say if he was living in current times:

“Rejoice always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances.”

Give thanks in all circumstances; not FOR all circumstances. Be grateful that we’re still here, figuring it out, looking for the good in situations. Finding the hope. That’s what I’m pushing for this Thanksgiving season, and what I’m seeing is that there really is so much to be thankful for, despite everything the pandemic has thrown our way.

Whitney is originally from central Illinois but moved to Texas for love. After enjoying being a single twenty-something in Dallas, she settled down in 2010 and married her college sweetheart (the guy who got her here). She has two sons and a daughter. Whitney works for a major retailer in digital marketing creative, where she has been since 2009. She loves Dallas—the amazing friends she has met here, the Tex Mex, the bluebonnets, the arts and culture, the mild winters, and having lots of family, including her in-laws, one of her sisters, and her favorite uncle, nearby. Her passions include reading, sports, (daydreaming about) traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

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