faux turkey in a microwave - author provided image

The state of mind that we call gratitude is not inborn, but it is something we can learn from the holidays. On Thanksgiving, when we feel gratitude, we feel full and complete for lots of reasons. It is a state of mind where we feel like we have everything we need and more than we deserve. I have been fortunate to have been taught gratitude and to learn that the holidays provide a peak moment to recharge that gratitude.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays since we all learned to take time to think about the things that we have to be grateful for in our lives. As a “family” person and “foody” who enjoys staying up all night baking pies, I think seasonal traditions are pure heaven.  This will be the 18th year I have participated in the Manchester Road Race on Thanksgiving morning with my friends and family. I am grateful to still be healthy enough to celebrate this cherished holiday tradition. Later, there is the wonder of sitting around by the fire watching football games and old movies after we eat dinner that brings peace.

Every year on Thanksgiving weekend my husband and I volunteer at the CT Young People’s conference, where over 800 spirited teenagers celebrate their sustained recovery. I will receive a coin and celebrate my 9th year in addiction recovery on November 30th, and Ken will celebrate 25 years that same weekend. I feel grateful for my recovery, life, home, friends and family, and for the spirit of hope, service and unity I experience at this event every year. The atmosphere is charged, and the “recovery countdown” demonstrates lives saved and is a miracle that inspires gratitude for the work we do.

Thanksgiving weekend also signals the official start of the Christmas season when our shopping, decorating, making gifts and listening to Christmas music begin.  My family says I act, like Martha Stewart on cocaine, this time of year. I do love making and giving gifts-this year everyone is getting knitted scarfs and Terrariums-an idea Holley, a colleague of mine, gave me. Even in the tough financial years, holiday shopping brings a reason for joy because it creates a field of resonance with other shoppers over sales on Black Friday. I also love NY City shopping and the Union Square Farmers Market this time of year. Getting a bargain and pleasing people with presents bought or made is all about gratitude.

Our work at PRA provides many opportunities every day, especially at the holiday time, to serve and make a difference in other people’s lives in many ways.  Every week for a month PRA employees are donating to not-for-profit organizations, collecting clothing, food, pet supplies, money, even donating blood, to give to those in need. Donations are organized as a competition and the spirit of giving across the PRA Divisions is amazing. I find all of PRA’s holiday traditions uplifting. I love the “State of the Firm”, the “Yankee Swap”, Party at Pam’s, and of course the holiday bonus-something that not every employer gives!  I feel grateful for the people I work with and work for.

We live in a culture that expects “instant everything”, even “microwave spirituality”.  As I get older I have truly realized the ever present reality is that we need to take time to even feel grateful for our “annual” pains as well as our joys over the holidays. Feeling grateful for our years experiences and lessons learned is actually a way of responding to life. As we say in 12- step programs, adopting an “attitude of gratitude” is about healing and celebrating life and that actually brings more abundance than focusing on scarcity.

Gratitude is not the result of things that happen to us, it is something we cook up inside us and share with others. You can expect immediate enlightenment and that more things will come your way to feel grateful for if you take a small amount of time over the holidays to feel grateful as you eat that turkey dinner. The recipe I suggest includes, getting out that cheesy Christmas music early, watching ‘A Christmas Story’, or ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, burning some pine scented candles, giving to others and thinking about all the goodness in your life!