Thankfulness and Learning to Listen

Technically, last weekend was Thanksgiving. I get that. I spent it with my friend, having a little mini-turkey dinner that was delicious and we had a great evening. This weekend, I will be spending with my family having a vegan/vegetarian turkey dinner. In neither circumstance will I be consuming red cabbage, even if it is a staple for most holiday dinners. Cabbage is gross. End of story.

Thanksgiving, as a “time of giving thanks”, makes me reflect on the last year. It’s the middle of October. My office place became remote due to COVID back in March. That’s seven months. For most of the other 34 years of my life, I’ve had a regular routine of getting up, getting ready for classes or work and heading out. Interacting with people.  Having access to a lot of coffee. At the end of the day, I would head home and engage in hobbies or lounge about. I would go to packed pubs and concerts and parties. I went shopping in stores without there being a limit on the number of customers.

I suppose I still drink coffee the way a pirate swills rum. Now though, I have to make it myself.

So things have been different this year. It has been different for literally every single person in the whole world, no matter where they are. Some people are in situations that have become unsafe or are experiencing circumstances that are challenging (beyond just having to make their own coffee).

Things were hard for me at the beginning of this, before the world started responding to COVID. I had just gotten back from my stint in the Calgary hospital and I was living alone in an apartment in a city that I was unfamiliar with. I was still fairly new to my job. I was trying to find a community and make friends. At that point, I was also on a new medication which was causing me to gain weight and because I am so extremely vain, that was really upsetting. Then COVID. It wasn’t just the first month or two. This was hard for me to suddenly be so physically alone until well, fairly recently.

So, what is there possibly to be thankful for, given the international circumstances?

I’m still employed at a job I enjoy, and I am thankful for that. I write more (because I write more than just this blog) and I am thankful for that. When it’s sunny, I’m thankful for that. There’s super little things too that I am more aware of. I’m thankful for when I do laundry and I go to sleep on clean sheets. That’s always been a weekly routine but now I’m just so much more aware of how great it is. I have time in my evenings to read, although the stacks of books I have awaiting me just keeps growing.

The friends that I had the Thanksgiving dinner with last weekend are absolutely amazing people and I am thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to be part of their bubble, even when at some points it has meant watching movies via zoom. I have a friend overseas who I seldom face-to-face chat with and I’ve actually probably done that more in the last seven months than I have in the decade I’ve known him. I call people more. I message people more. I am thankful for the connections that I have made and the ones that are strengthening. I’m thankful to my family, who has helped me in so many ways, whether with groceries, with bringing me delicious frozen meals and listening to me cry in the times that I just didn’t think things would get better.

I’m thankful for the medication I am on because it’s doing a great job controlling my seizures and other side-effects, even if I can’t fit into my jeans.

I think most importantly, I’m thankful for something I’ve learned to do better. While I’m learning to paint and I’m learning to lift weights, there is something more important. We have all been experiencing some degree of upset and change during this time. People are still talking. I am learning to listen better. I listen more to what people are saying when they are talking. Beyond just having a conversation, beyond just waiting for my turn to talk, or talking the whole time myself, I’m learning how to really listen. I’m still learning. People are saying things that are hidden behind their words. Whether they don’t know how to articulate it or they don’t feel comfortable doing so, these are messages they are trying to get across. I think that learning to listen better is something we should all be trying for, especially now.

Right now, today, tomorrow, for the rest of the year, for next year, let’s be thankful for small things that we have. Let’s listen to each other and really try to hear everything. We might not be able to change the safety of the world around us, but we can love and grow what is inside us.

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