Write down everything for which you are grateful. (Or discuss it with your loved ones or friends.) Then, explain how these joys may not have come into your life. Doing so squeezes out and identifies those to whom you owe much. None of us are self made. Not a one. Trust me, you’ll feel better.
Cognitive researchers conduct the following experiment: One group does as I just asked you to do, while the other only wrote about what they were grateful for. Several weeks later, the researchers asked both groups to complete questionnaires designed to gauge their overall mental health, outlook and self-regard. Guess what? The group that reflected upon how they got to be where they are scored higher.
No. 2: Make another list
This time list or discuss three workers who do something just the way you like it done. Because lawyers are all too human, we often are unable to divorce others’ functions in our world from their humanity. We notice them only when they are missing in action: the barista who knows how we like our coffee; the assistant who formats the brief just right; the bartender mixing the perfect martini.
Nancy Henry (a poet and a lawyer) nails this sentiment in her poem, "People Who Take Care." She writes, “People who take care of people/get paid less than anybody/people who take care of people/are not worth much/except to people who are/sick, old, helpless, and poor/people who take care of people/are not important to most other people/. . . unless they don't show up.”
Do me a Thanksgiving Day favor? If you do not know the names of your three, find out. Spend a moment to give a hand to heart "thanks," not a rote and automatic one, and find out a little about how they learned how to do what they do so well.
Doing so matters. A lot. It makes a hard world a more bearable one, as the poet W. S. Merwin describes in “Thanks.” He writes, "[W]e are saying thank you faster and faster/with nobody listening we are saying thank you/we are saying thank you and waving/dark though it is."
No. 3: Read a poem (or two)
Life is about the journey, not the destination. Thanksgiving reminds us of this fundamental truth, and poetry illuminates it. Sit down and read — go ahead, do it out loud, after saying grace — "Ithaka" from Constantine P. Cavafy: “As you set out for Ithaka/hope the voyage is a long one/full of adventure, full of discovery./ . . . Keep Ithaka always in your mind./Arriving there is what you are destined for./But do not hurry the journey at all./Better if it lasts for years,/so you are old by the time you reach the island,/wealthy with all you have gained on the way. . ."
Or as W. H. Auden wrote in his poem "Atlantis,” a tribute to "Ithaka," "Stagger onward rejoicing." Isn't that the truth? So, stagger on, rejoicing this Thanksgiving. The rest is gravy.