I AM GRATEFUL FOR
A WILD TIME
I had a wild Thanksgiving in more ways than one. Upon my return from Fresno to San Bernardino by bus and train this evening, I was stuck at the train station
waiting for a ride from a friend who was totally lost. The station is closed on Sunday evening and is located in the “best” part of town. Yet another friend called while I feared for my life to let me know they were thinking about me!! How wonderful as the shots rang out!!
On Thanksgiving day itself, I was able to be with family, both little ones and big ones. We ate, we laughed, we ate, we laughed. We text and sent pics back and forth with family members who were gathering in other parts of the state.
Then I went window shopping with my sister and niece at Midnight of Black Friday only to catch the 24 hour flu. Didn’t even have to use my credit card. Got it for free. Nothing like the 24 hour flu on a stomach full of turkey, pumpkin pie, whipped cream, stuffing, gravy. Oh Please! Yes, I know. It’s making me sick all over again thinking about it!
I got to see the movie St. Ralph for the upteenth time. Got to go shopping at Big Five with my Brother in law, Joe, for all kinds of raffle goodies for his softball league Christmas party. I had breakfast with Candy and Jim, and Candy made some kind of Danish pancake balls. I can’t spell them, but I sure ate them.
Because I was sick, I was not able to see my two oldest sisters who are not in good health. I did not want to be responsible for their demise, nor did they want me to be responsible for their demise. I missed seeing them, holding them, and telling them in person I love them.
I did get to be with my two youngest sister. in sickness and in health. We laughed and cried, laughed and cried some more. We spent time looking at family secrets, trying to figure them out, the seemingly unsolvable mysteries behind our family secrets. Yes, we did that over Thanksgiving! I think that was part of why I got sick! The old saying, you’re as sick as your secrets! How we wish we could bring our secrets into the fresh of air and sanity.
So all in all, I HAD A GREAT THANKSGIVING. I HOPE YOU DID AS WELL.
BUT THAT'S NOT ALL. I want to share some personal thoughts about this Thanksgiving, and how it was a tad or a lot different for me than ever before.
First of all, there is genealogy. Our family has always thought that the Bradley branch of our family tree had its roots in Ireland, and that the immigration occurred recently, perhaps in the nineteenth century. However, there was also some talk about a connection between the Bradleys and Robert Fulton, who invented the steam engine, which if anyone would have thought about it, would indicate that our “modern” heritage is more rooted in America than Ireland.
Well, thanks to my son, David, this part of the mysteries of our family have been solved. Through painstaking research on ancestry.com, David has traced the Bradley branch of our family not to Ireland, but to Massachusetts around the time of the Pilgrims, and then prior to Massachusetts, to England.
So here is a brief summary of how the Bradley branch of our family began, in this country, some four hundred years ago.
John Bradley, who was born in England in 1578 (and died in Massachusetts in 1642), married Katherine Bexwicke who was born in England in1596, (and died in Massachusetts in 1633). John and Katherine gave birth, in Dorchester, Suffolk, Massachusetts, to their first born, Nathan Bradley in 1631. Nathan died in 1701. These are my relatives, my great great......grandfather and grandmother.
WOW. They very well may have participated in that legendary first Thanksgiving. If nothing else, they were alive and perhaps in this country at the time. Pretty incomprehensible to even ponder it. I usually think of the Pilgrims and or the folks of that era as characters in a story with whom I have little connection. But to realize I am actually related to them by blood. Whoa!
You know, the Pilgrims and others like them, are the people to whom we can all be grateful, for taking the risks of coming across on “ships,” not luxury liners, to begin a country in which we have the privilege of living today. As much as one might argue whether or not we are free and whether or not we are democratic, when you look at other countries, we are VERY free and have no clue what it is like NOT to be free. If you read, here on hubpages, about Sylvia’s good friend http://hubpages.com/hub/A-lost-Friend you will realize YES, we DO live in a free country. How grateful we can be for those first settlers!
DON'T FORGET OUR NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE
And while acknowledging and honoring the pilgrims and other early settlers, I do not want to forget that part of our American heritage that has been excruciatingly wounded, the heritage given to us by our Native American brothers and sisters, whom we tried our best to annihilate.
Perhaps, we are just now beginning to appreciate all that they have to offer us including a profound spirituality, which is anything but pagan, as so often we were taught as Christian children. Those Christian folks in the past, and even those today who continue to hold to some pretty ignorant and impoverished views of Native American spirituality might do well to examine not only their faith but the practices in their life that are so destructive to the earth and to the precious balance of life.
And interestingly enough, that first Thanksgiving is highlighted by the two cultures and their respective spiritualities, coming together TO GIVE THANKS. And to whom? To their common God.
So I feel connected to Thanksgiving this year like never before. It is literally in my heritage, in my blood!
WHAT AM I GRATEFUL FOR?
This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the experience of being loved. I do not know why it has taken me so many years to experience what, in the best of worlds, one is supposed to have experienced by the time we are nine months old. Yes, nine months.
Of course, it is not a perfect world. And in discussing this lately with many people, including many other professionals, the reality is there are many of us walking around today who have yet to experience being loved. It is that precious experience of looking into another person’s face and eyes and seeing there unmistakably a kind of energy, a kind of affection, which at first may appear puzzling, but when you ask the person, “what is that look?” they respond with, “I love you.” I think, in the past, whenever I saw that look, I dismissed it, I avoided it, I certainly never asked, “what is that look?” It is the same look a parent is somehow suppose to know to offer their infant child.
But for us now, as adults, I’m not talking about having this experience of being loved with one of your children or grandchildren. I am talking about having this profound experience with another adult, man or woman.
And perhaps it is a miracle that I was open to the experience at this late stage of my life, but I am grateful that I was. It has transformed all of my other relationships. It made it possible for me to walk up to my sister last night as she was preparing dinner and rub her shoulders to let her know how much I love her. It has made it possible for me to be openly compassionate, to the extent of sharing tears, with a great number of people with whom I might ordinarily be quite reserved and perhaps a tad cold and distant. There is a level of caring that has risen inside my heart and soul, and for which I take no credit.
No, I am no Mother Theresa. I have lots of loved ones who will vouch for that. A part of me still remains an a**hole. And I have lots of loved ones who will vouch for that!
But I am different today because I chose to be open to the people in my life who love me and not only love me, but unconditionally love me. That unconditional part is a real trip. I sometimes wonder what it was that moved you to love me, but I realize the question is more what took me so long to notice and to take in your love.
Being open to this experience has qualitatively changed my relationships with all the people I serve. For example, when the “thuggy” teens I work with push me to a place of feeling powerless, I can take a deep breath and shift back into seeing them as being as afraid to be loved as I have been. The moment then shifts from power struggle to reassuring them that they deserve to be loved as much as anyone else. As you might guess, they tend not to believe that.
When that moment of power struggle hits, I stop the momentum, and we get something to eat or drink. We return to love–NURTURANCE--at its most basic level, and the power struggle ceases, and metaphorically, they are eating out of my hand or I am feeding them, if you will.
In my training of foster parents, I now invite them to not only care for children, but to LOVE them. Check out this blog from a few months back. http://hubpages.com/hub/CARETAKERS-AND-HELPERS-PART-2
This experience of being loved reminds me almost painfully of a comment my youngest sister made to me about twelve years ago. “You’re just afraid of being loved,” she said. I was stunned when she said it, but I took it in and have continued to mull it over in my heart ever since.
Twelve years later, I realize the truth of her comment, perhaps less that I was afraid and more that I just did not know the experience, and maybe in a sense, the not knowing left me, for all practical purposes, afraid. And perhaps my fear of being loved lead me down a a very destructive path in recent years which I have to take responsibility for as embarrassing and as shameful as it might be.
And so I am forever indebted to you for loving me and saving me from certain death long before I intended to die. And I am also grateful to you for being the inspiration to my recent poetry about love and especially about God’s love for each and every one of us. Those of you who have gifted me with your love have been more than muses to me.
So that is the biggie, as we say. The rest of what I am grateful for is important but perhaps gravy in a way, perhaps just what follows when we finally get it that we are lovable and loved and can then begin being loving ourselves.
So in addition to the biggie, I am grateful for having an abundance of everything else I need. It is easy for me to say I don’t have an abundance, but I find myself acting “as if” which at some point makes it all real. Life is very different when you live in abundance, even if living as if! It is much happier than living in scarcity or living as if you have only scarcity.
At this moment, for example, I have sufficient funds in my bank account. Dollar wise not very much, but an abundance nevertheless and sufficient.
I am grateful for my room in Bob’s house, not where I was expecting to be, but it’s become my “home” for the time being, a place where I get up very early each morning to walk, to pray, to meditate, and to begin a new day. My room is a place from which I travel a short distance to a wonderful morning attitude adjustment meeting and afterwards the liturgical celebration of the Eucharist. By 8 a. m. each morning, I am about as blessed as anyone can be!
And I am grateful to Bob for being SO patient about the rent that trickles in over the course of the month and sometimes more than the month.
I am grateful for my best buds, Dan, Bruce, and Andrew who continue to walk by my side no matter how crazy I get. I am grateful for Rosemary who supports my teaching at Valley College and who stands on her head to be sure that my handouts are ready and the cold classroom is at least opened!
I am grateful for my friends who have supported me remaining sober and also looking at all the ways in my life that I continue to “drink” not alcohol, but other addictive “stuff” like food and stress and worry.
I am grateful to Dianna who insisted I move out and begin being accountable. I am grateful to my son, David, who sometimes is a pretty good Dad (to me) as well as an awesome son. I am grateful to his wife, Neff and her parents for having always welcomed me into their family and especially now treating me so gently at a time in my life when the pain could be, well sometimes is, overwhelming.
I am grateful to my sisters, including Candy, who invite me daily to LIVE. They are a big part of my finally getting it that I am lovable and perhaps for the first time in my life have been able to enjoy their admiration for their brother (me!) which is so awesome and so sweet.
I am grateful to all of you here on hubpages who have supported my blogs. I love to write, literally love to write and my passion is being fulfilled with each stroke of the keyboard, knowing that you will not only take the time to read, but also comment and encourage me to continue. Some of you have given me almost unbelievable complements which is a sharp contrast to those who have tried to dissuade me by implying that I am seeking fame and I should just give it up, and I should stop kidding myself and recognize that I am only a Salieri, not a Mozart. The latter feedback has been painful beyond comprehension especially since it has been from people I thought really loved me, and perhaps they do, but somehow they do not grasp the destructiveness of their “insights.”
I want to conclude my 100th blog by going back to that look, that look in a person’s face and eyes that says “I love you.” It is the same look that God has for us, but for whatever reason, we seem to miss it when God is looking at us that way. Probably because we think God is somewhere out there, up there, beyond there, and consequently miss God’s look in the faces of so many people who are literally in our faces, as the saying goes. Perhaps especially we miss God’s look in the faces of all the people we consciously or unconsciously judge are not good enough or who do not measure up to our personal standards, people who have perhaps yearned for a life time for us to love them back. And each and everyone of us has those people in our lives, who, for whatever reason, we cannot, do not, or will not love. They are often estranged children, estranged relatives, and estranged lovers. The complexities of why we cannot love them are not easy to untangle, but it is still worthwhile acknowledging that just maybe it is here we find that face of God. It is a mystery, perhaps a sad mystery, and worth a hub of its own.