“For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.”
– “A Prayer of Thanksgiving” by Ralph Waldo Emerson
From Life is a Gift: A Book for Thankful Hearts by Paraclete Press (author)
During this beautiful month of fall, which is centered around a holiday of gratitude, we remember to say thanks, gracias, merci, danke, mahalo, grazie, obrigado, spasibo, dakujem. And we call to mind all of our blessings.
What are you thankful for?
I have a long list. I hope you do too.
In my private sphere, I’m most thankful for the wonderful people in my life – family, friends, colleagues. Spending time with them is a joy beyond description and I make sure to do as much of that as I can.
I’m thankful for all the love in my life and amazed by the sometimes surprising ways that it shows up. Whether an “I love you” text from that special man or cold-nosed cat “kisses” just because.
In the top five of my personal list is also good health, learning, and being able to explore the world. I tend to take my good health for granted and so I’m reminded right now to appreciate that gift.
My love of learning has always been with me and there are only a few things that are more exciting to me than taking in new information, having those “ah-ha” moments when grappling with a new concept. Anyone who knows me knows that I resonate with Thomas Jefferson’s quote: “I cannot live without books.” And workshops, and classes, and seminars, oh my!
And so often what I learn about, I want to see in person and travel, therefore, is another thing I wouldn’t want to live without. Our gorgeous planet is an amazing place, as is the diversity of its people and I love experiencing as much of that as I can. Whether interacting with the Quechua peoples in Peru and learning how they dye their colorful fabrics, to listening to natives in southern Africa create music that is impossible to sit still to, as they drum around a fire pit in early evening. And falling asleep to the roar of lions outside our cabin (OK, trying to fall asleep!). Or seeing the statue of David in Florence, Italy. The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Red Square in Moscow. The British Museum in London. Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam. The Louvre in Paris and that city’s beauty and amazing food. The orcas swimming alongside the ship as we were sailing up the Inside Passage in Alaska.
Even that partial list fills me with gratitude for all that I have already seen and experienced, with more to come.
And then there are the little things, the everyday gifts: gorgeous weather, fall colors, a parking space on a busy shopping day, the giggle of a child, books (did I say that already??), good wine, great restaurants, pumpkin spice lattés, laughing out loud, the soft fur and purr of a Maine Coon cat, the quick acceleration of a car’s engine, the anticipation and preparation for the next trip.
My work as a psychotherapist for the past 23 years fills me with more gratitude than I can sometimes hold. Being with the hundreds of clients whom I have been able to help over those years and sharing their steps to wholeness – the courage, the persistence, the struggle that they experience and then the smiles when they learn to know and love who they really are! How do any of us even begin to take that in? I haven’t a clue. But I keep trying.
And I also keep trying to take in my clients’ gratitude for the work that we have done together. As I close my brick and mortar office practice and switch in “retirement” to online work, I have been on the receiving end of gratitude. And I’ve noticed my responses. I want to role model for my clients how to say a simple “thank you” when we receive gratitude. To do otherwise, to dismiss this gift, or minimize it, is tantamount to rejection.
As I work with clients through their various endings, I also want to hold onto a few of these beautiful memories:
The male client whom I’ve worked with for seven years and who for a major part of that time grappled with drugs and alcohol addiction and was in and out of relationships regularly. Now in his mid-40’s, clean and sober for 18 months, and working on a growing relationship, he decided that he wanted to continue our work together online because, “You saved my life,” he said, as we talked about this transition. “It was eminently worth saving,” I said. “I think so too,” he responded. I still tear up with joy as I relive this scene and his acknowledgement of his value.
“You changed my life,” was the message in an e-mail from a former client, also in her 40’s, who worked hard to find out who she was after growing up with a narcissistic mother and naturally marrying a man with that same personality disorder. “I just want you to know how much this work has meant to me,” she wrote, and said that she didn’t want me to exit without knowing that.
And one of my favorites, said just a week ago by a woman in her early 30’s who came to see me “one last time” before I closed my door: “You’re the inspiration for me going to grad school to become a psychotherapist,” she said and told me that she’d be starting classes in January. And then my memory of saying almost exactly that to MY former therapist, more than 30 years ago. The circle of life…
I’m even grateful for the harder clients whom I’ve worked with – the borderlines, the man who developed some psychotic features after he learned I was closing my practice – his way, I think, of saying that I couldn’t leave.
And the hardest of all – the ones who left therapy prematurely and whom I never heard from again. My hope is that I at least gave them another way to think about themselves and that they will do their work with someone.
I’ve been blessed during the 30 years that I’ve already been in this profession to know some beautiful and dedicated colleagues, both in Northern and Southern California. I’ve been a part of three group practices, and helped to create two of those. The professional organizations that I’ve contributed to and learned from – and just downright had a blast with – I’m also grateful for.
My decision to study with Dr. Dan Siegel for five years, flying down to Los Angeles once a month, was one of the best career decisions that I made. It was truly like sitting at the foot of a master, and also being introduced to so many creative and knowledgeable presenters at annual conferences at UCLA. And not to omit my peers in L.A., with whom I continue to stay in contact.
I expected that being in the mental health profession as a psychotherapist would require constant learning and that was one of its attractions. And that was, and still is, the case. To me the requirement of 36 CEU’s every two years to qualify for license renewal is humorous. I’m the proverbial knowledge sponge.
But what I didn’t expect was that I’d also be the teacher when it came to helping my colleagues reach the people who desperately need our help. That creating the Therapy Marketing Institute, along with my son, Sean, would give me an opportunity to not only learn more, but to share what I have learned. How good is that? And as Sean and I celebrate TMI’s first anniversary, I’m very grateful that we are doing this work together.
And the most important lesson that I’ve learned and want to share is that life and the world are filled with abundance. That there is more than enough of everything we need for the world’s people to create beautiful and fulfilling lives. It’s only when we think otherwise that we create otherwise.
Life is pretty simple really, as one of my favorite authors, Jodi Picoult, wrote in her newest novel, Leaving Time. She said humans make it more complicated than it has to be. There are three basic rules for living life, she wrote: “Don’t hurt yourself. Don’t hurt anyone else. Be happy.”
I would only add, be grateful. Speak your appreciations daily and often – to God, to the Universe, (however you conceive of that force), to the beautiful people you’ve chosen to walk this life with.
And I thank you for who you are, for the work you do, and for taking the time to read about gratitude.
Happy Thanksgiving and New Year!
What are you thankful for, personally and professionally? Be sure to share your questions, thoughts, and appreciations in the comment section below. We look forward to hearing from you!