My friends sat around the table rolling their eyes at me when I suggested we do that classic Thanksgiving thing. I knew full well that my beautifully sarcastic friends would sass me and then participate. I know that some find it cliche, like some worn out tradition your granny insists you do in exchange for your turkey, but gathering and taking the time to ponder and articulate what fills us with gratitude is one of the most beautiful things I can think of to do on a holiday, and it’s what makes Thanksgiving my most favourite. Fall is a time of harvest, and isn’t it true that though we toil much, we have plenty and much to celebrate?
They nominated me to go first.
I heard myself saying that I was thankful for everything I had gone through in the last year or two, because though much of it was neither comfortable nor pleasant, I have found myself in a place of calm in the midst of what feels like yet another time of transition. In the past I may have described this very season as one of tumult. But here I am, breathing deep, feeling a sense of trust in whatever or whomever will hold me up, though I don’t know what I will face or how I will get through. I feel a deep, deep sense of dread about the winter. I feel afraid that I am not fulfilling my potential as a human being. I am afraid of living paycheque to paycheque until I’m 86 and they have to push me out of the wheelchair to send me to work. On some level I think I may have lost faith in the concept of romantic love.
But somehow, I feel safe and calm, a far cry from the twitchy rage-filled Natalie I felt like 6 months ago, hand hovering over a detonator, feeling unable to stop myself from blowing up my life. What happened? A few things I guess. I went to the mountains a lot. I did things that scared me so much I felt nauseous. And I did some of them by myself. I gained trust in myself. I think you naturally start out nervous and calculated, but without realizing it, the body gains a familiarity, a confidence, and an intelligence of its own. Suddenly the brain thinking “What if?” gives way to the body knowing “I can.” But the mountains are pretty flipping humbling, both in their majesty and because they demand respect for variables of danger. It’s a healthy paradox. I am fierce and I am humbled.
What else happened? … Yoga. I have a goddess of a yoga teacher who week after week says that our breath stays consistent in the discomfort of the pose. Muscles start burning, everything is working, and the brain wants to just give in, but the body is actually strong, and if we stick with it and breathe, we can surprise ourselves. “The breath stays consistent in the discomfort of the pose.” Maybe it just sounds like yoga jargon, but I kid you not, I think this has changed my life. Practicing this regularly, it has permeated parts of my life outside of yoga. Shit goes wrong, or people are awful, or something doesn’t go how I want it to, or I’m terrified for some reason and somehow my breath is even, my jaw is relaxed, and that boiling flight or fight feeling has become more rare. It still happens, but my body knows now, I don’t even have to tell it … “The breath stays consistent in the discomfort.”
I have fought for relationships that felt poisoned and soiled, taken two steps forward, one step back, and seen the power of persistence and love.
I have walked away from others for the sake of dignity and self-respect.
I have found a softness and joy with my family, and leaned on them in all kinds of moments.
I am … going to be ok, no matter what.
I am … thankful, even though I’m actually still terrified.
I am … breathing …