It can be argued that, because Bethany Toews is an incredibly gifted writer, she is also an astute teacher. We argue absolutely yes. In this lesson, Bethany teaches us all how to say Thank You.
Last night I walked into a field and said thank you a bunch of times. The sky was an impossible purple, like a sublime neon sign. The clouds were a box of crayons. The crickets were singing their steady love song. The sun was slipping behind the horizon while the new moon was creating a sliver of reminder that it would return. I was crying and saying “Thank you.” Over and over. Out loud. To no one. To everyone. To everything.
“How to be who you are longing to be and not who you are afraid you will become?”
The labor of a day, and the tenderness of another romantic rejection had splayed me open. A raw and vibrant nerve. Too tired to be guarded. Ready to receive the splendor. I was overcome with the pure and simple awareness of how lucky I was. Lucky. Crushed. Here. On this planet. In this body.
Skin to feel the air as it was cooling. Feet to walk me to this place for witnessing it all. My long, strong legs attached and joining in the task. My hips, holding all my desires in their powerful place, ready to express, when the time is right. My belly, to take of the food what I need to function. Guts to communicate in feeling what is true. Lungs to breathe in the exhale of the trees. My heart, my fierce and gorgeous heart. Pumping, breaking, loving.
These shoulders holding onto the grace and length of my arms. Arms holding hands capable of a million things. Making sandwiches, tending gardens, touching the skin of another being. My throat, the bridge between what is heartfelt and what is said. My mouth, giving voice, singing songs, and on a lucky day, meeting the wanting mouth of another. Cheeks to lift into a smile. Ears to hear music and another’s honesty. Eyes, able to bear the unbearable beauty of the world. The sky exploding in so many colors. The stars starting to fill the night with their reminder of how great and small we are. This head, full of so many ideas, endlessly curious about what there is yet to be known or discovered.
This head waging its wars. This head telling me all manner of conflicting things. This head sometimes scaring the pants off of me, keeping me wide-eyed and worried in the middle of the night.
How to be who you are longing to be and not who you are afraid you will become? A wisp, a millisecond sometimes separating either outcome. So indecipherable you’ll spend so many of your days wondering which you’ve chosen. Within a day I can feel both no less than a dozen times. Convinced on either end, then swinging to the other. Alternating between a yay and a boo. A yes and an oops. There is merit in both I suppose. The distance you’ll cover between either point being the sum of your days. The story of your life.
What if we could learn to love it all? All our hopes and disappointments. Praising our heights reached as well as our marks missed. Seeing our so-called failings as successful attempts at stretching beyond what we were capable of the day before, even if we didn’t get there. That we try at all. That we love ourselves enough to keep going. That the very fact that we get out of bed in the morning speaks volumes about how we feel about life. That we’re willing to keep living it.
It’s hard work, this being human. Being even a little bit present for any and all of it. We are way too hard on ourselves. We celebrate too little and regret too much. What is working in your life right now? Name it. Make a list. Tell a friend. Tell a stranger. Share your grateful heart with the world.
Just the act of trying to name something you’re grateful for actually shepherds your brain out of defeated pasture. Even if you can’t come up with anything, just searching for a thankful thought brings you closer to peace. It’s true, scientist and mystics agree. Just try. Thank your fingers for not falling off. Thank your butt for providing you with a free cushion. Thank your shadow for acknowledging that you exist. Thank the bees for their honey, or the trees for their shade, or the earth for never tiring of holding you. Thank the plants for turning light into sugar. Thank your mother for pushing the day you were born. Her labor, be grateful for that, no matter how you may feel about her now. Be grateful that she performed a miracle.
Be grateful that there are miracles. That you are a miracle. Just like a shooting star is a rock lighting up as it kisses the earth’s atmosphere. Just like a rainbow is the lovechild of the sun and the rain. You are a miracle. Thank yourself for trying. I’m thankful for you. I think you’re doing a great job. I’m glad you’re here. When you start to list what’s cool about being here, it’s hard not to be glad you’re here, too.
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