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Kicking this year in the teeth, one gratitude at a time

By Terresa Wellborn

Raise your hand if you’d like to kick this past year in the teeth.

Sure, I’d like to know what Trump eats for breakfast, motives for the Las Vegas mass shooter, why so-and-so is getting a divorce, and other ugly truths hidden under digital sofa cushions online, but the more I step away, the more peace I find. Never before have I been so grateful for small things: pajama days, warm peanut butter cookies, yoga class with friends.

During this month of thanksgiving, these are the days to remember gratitude. Here are a few of mine:

  • Surviving.

My family and I survived nine tornadoes when we lived in Texas. Those who died weren’t so lucky.

Our town was spared, our lives left whole. The perspective we gained? Invaluable.

“Life is pain, highness. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.”

-William Goldman, The Princess Bride

Texas didn’t let us down gently. After the tornadoes, we suffered baseballsizedhail (with pictures to prove it), persistent chiggers, reoccurring kidney stones, panic disorders, depression, extended family strife, and a generalized lack-of-center. All of which irrevocably changed us, brought us closer to empathy and the knowledge that life is pain. But pain is only pain. You can eventually stare it down, survive it.

  • Time.

I have created space and time in my life to be. I have returned to self. At present, instead of choosing 101 Very Interesting Jobs & Projects, I‘ve whittled them down to a few.

“In all this chaos and misery I follow my own rhythm, I am thankful that I can still immerse myself in the things that matter to me. It is not that I am cutting myself off from all the suffering around me, nor is it a dulling of the senses. I take everything in and store it away, but I go my own way.”

Etty Hillesum

  • Home & Family.

We’ve lived in five different homes in the past two years. Multiple floor plans morph in my memory: 1915 Craftsman bungalow wood floors, baby blue carpet from our sprawling Dallas home, our current cottage kissing the mountainsred-tiled gingerbread with an abundant yard.

Every home we’ve lived in has had at least one thing we adore (I’m learning to ignore the warts and roll with it). And we’ve realized we love more deeply what we can no longer hold…our dear neighbors now states away, old schoolmates (we knew every face), our pergola with wild-blooming wisteria that for us was a backyard glade.

We are learning to call wherever we live: home.

The one thing which we seek with insatiable desire is to forget ourselves, to be surprised out of our propriety, to lose our sempiternal memory and to do something without knowing how or why; in short to draw a new circle. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. The way of life is wonderful. It is by abandonment.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I know abandonment dearly. When we leave what we love and start again, draw a new circle, we find friends, family, home again. Not unchanged; more. Abandonment and abundance. We are proof of this, that the pain, the loss, and yes, the eventual gratitude, is all poetry.

If it is all poetry, and not just one’s own accomplishment, that carries one from this green and mortal world – that lifts the latch and gives a glimpse into a greater paradise – then perhaps one has the sensibility: a gratitude apart from authorship, a fervor and desire beyond the margins of the self.”

Mary Oliver

For that I am striving.


What are you grateful for?

About Terresa Wellborn

Terresa Wellborn has been published in BYU Studies, Dialogue, and several anthologies including Fire in the Pasture, Monsters and Mormons, and Dove Song: Heavenly Mother in Mormon Poetry. She has a BA degree in English Literature and a MLIS degree in Library and Information Science. Her joys include her four children, books, and chocolate babka. She reads faster than she hikes, runs faster than she writes, and has often been mistaken for Miss Frizzle. When not on a mountaintop, she prefers to dwell in possibility.

3 thoughts on “Kicking this year in the teeth, one gratitude at a time”

  1. Thank you for your words and thoughts. I really love the quotes you've added too. I'm totally with you. 2017 has been a year of unprecedented struggle, for me, virtually all my loved ones, and the world at large. Thankfully, paired with this struggle has been God's grace. I have witnessed miracles again and again. I have felt strength and peace beyond my own. The scriptural account in 2 Kings 6 comes to mind. The mountain was full of chariots and horses around Elisha, heavenly help that was invisible to the natural eye. I know that we are helped, lifted, guided, and even carried at times.

    I really appreciate the perspective you share, especially with all that has come along your way. I really love the line you wrote: "But pain is just pain. You can eventually stare it down, survive it."

  2. This year really has been one for the books! Thanks for this ray of hope that it is possible to seek peace in the storm. Wonderfully written and the quotes are great.

  3. 2016 was the hardest year of my life and I really felt I deserved a break this year, but a break wasn't in the cards. At the end of last year, I was grateful just to have gotten through the year. This year, I am grateful for being pushed to push myself into doing things I never have had the courage to do before. I am hoping that next year I will be able to express my gratitude for the payoff of that courage, but if not that I will be grateful for having tried.


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