Although Thanksgiving appears to be a uniquely American holiday, the mood now all over the world feels hectic, festive, familyish, planning ahead to the end of the year – and it sometimes can feel dark. Very few holidays are not based in some way on seasonal or pagan rituals – whether they are secular, as is Thanksgiving, or religious. In northern climates (in days long ago), this might be the last time you could see families and friends till spring. In agricultural civilizations, it’s the celebration of the end of harvest. It’s okay to feast now; by February there may be very little left. Nowadays we don’t have that worry; instead the anxiety has crept inwards, and emerges as family-related issues: passionate reunions, guilt, or nostalgia. This time of year can be fraught with tension, excitement, friendliness, food, warmth, light, depression, and so on.
I thought instead of writing anything more about this week’s writing practice, I’d lean on Jelaluddin Rumi for a poem*.
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Fun Writing Practice – “Thank You”
One thing I know about this time of year: most of us are too busy to write anything coherent.
So, try this: the last thing at night before you turn off your light or first thing in the morning before you turn it on, write a list titled “Thank you.” Albert Einstein once said that if there were only two words you need to know in the language those are the words.
Thank you for …. it’s another way of counting blessings. Be surreal though, too, in this exercise. Surprise yourself. Thank yourself for things that you think you’re not grateful for; like a leaky faucet (that brings mindfulness) or an angry telephone call (that let’s your own anger flow out, instead of being pent up inside). These are all unseen guests from beyond – don’t assume you already know why an annoyance or sadness has come into your life. Greet them all – welcome them all in, at this thanksgiving time.
- the dried corn stalks in the fields
- cobalt blue glass
- tiling your kitchen with Islamic tiles
- taking off your shoes when entering
- a big bear hug
- saying goodbye and closing the door
- the kindness of strangers
*Translated by the splendid Coleman Barks.
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